Before I really get going, an inspirational quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe. “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” I do try to be the former, I’m guessing if you find me boring you’ll have signed off by now. Another one that’s not inspirational but true for all of us: “There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on”. All I can say on my behalf is thank goodness!
I didn’t mean to imply last time that we no longer have any dogs, Adie is still with us. Thank you for all your kind thoughts. And while I’m thanking people, thank you to all of you who got in touch after my blog post 144 regarding my post Covid issues. I omitted thanks to my pals who looked after me during my health scare. Victoria and Glyn who ran me back from hospital (I might have found the answer to the English hospital overcrowding crisis: just like Hotel California you can check in, by ambulance, but not leave). Barry and Jarrod who put me up (yet again) for a week to make sure I wasn’t alone if I had any more night time attacks. Rene and Val who came to stay when I was ‘allowed’ home and took me to Newport for my examinations. Anyone I’ve forgotten? I feel like I’m on a red carpet.
There are two very important things I’d forgotten to show you: all of JD’s pennants and one I received (not officially I’m sad to say, I’m not convinced that Clipper valued us supporters as much as we would have liked). You’ll see in the background a familiar figure. We had a family get-together to tell everyone about the Clipper trip and JD had to do it in full kit! I found out that while on board, people were so impressed with his cooking that he became known as Mary Berry of the Seas. I’m still waiting for him to bake me some bread. My efforts are so disappointing they could be used as building bricks for the foundations of a new house.
So, what have we been up to that’s kept me too busy for you over the last seven months? Looking at and learning about houses. No, we’re not moving. Certainly not after all that re-wiring and re-plumbing that’s been happening here, we’ve yet to work out the heating controls.
The first week JD was back, we took Holly, one of his crewmates from the USA, to Hampton Court for the day. Here they are looking over the wall and wondering where the sea is, no doubt.
We went to Glyndebourne and saw Don Pasquale. I would tell you the plot but it’s so convoluted I’d get lost. We had a birthday celebration at Balfour Winery, walking around the vineyard, tasting wines and having a wonderful meal overlooking the vines.
Before the sailing bug bit JD, we had considered planting a small vineyard, just enough to keep us in sparkling wine, you understand. We attended Plumpton College, passing both Vine Growing and Wine Making courses. However, not only was it too much like hard work, never being able to go away in case frost struck, we decided that having to wait for seven years until we could drink the first fruit of our labours was too long. If you’re tempted, the link is below.
I took JD out of his comfort zone in November to attend a retreat at the Piano Sanctuary in the grounds of Leiston Abbey. This is an ancient monument that was moved, stone by stone, in about 1363, away from the sea to protect it from destruction. There’s a photo as today’s header. I think I must have destroyed everyone’s comfort zone, as I cannot find a link to any more of these retreats. JD and I, as the only couple attending the weekend, had what was referred to as the Honeymoon Suite. Hmmm.
We attended a Royal Osteoporosis Society event at Leighton House, just re-opened to the public. If you find yourself in the area of Holland Park it’s worth going to gawp at the decorative walls and ceilings. Finally, just for a change, in December we went on board a ship, HQS Wellington, for a dinner organised by Commo (from the Unicef Clipper boat). A very worthwhile charity and some great photos on the website.
The most serious thing we’ve been doing, however, is attending lectures at the Reform Club every other Tuesday. This is ostensibly a Master of Arts course run by Buckingham University on ‘Country House Studies by Research’. There are ten lectures over the academic year plus a couple of field trips. (Apparently, this term was banned recently by the University of Southern California as it was considered racist. Not in the UK!). The MA can be taken over one or two years, or if you’re feeling really ambitious you can study for a PhD. Gosh, I can hear you all saying, Sam and John never stop! I have a small confession to make. If you read down the requirements you’ll find a section referring to Associate Students. That’s us: we go to the lectures, have drinks and dinner and talk to the lecturers but do not have to study! Win-win in my opinion. Although we are both sort of thinking what we might like to study further. Watch this space.
JD and I found ourselves reading similar books recently. Sort of. His was the select writings of Janet Anderson, a Labour MP who passed away last month, entitled Dear Queen. Janet Anderson was born exactly seven months after JD in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. When the Labour Government of Tony Blair was formed in 1997, she was made Vice-Chamberlain to HM Household. The book details the daily reports she had to write to the Queen while Parliament was sitting, detailing the activities of the day.
Mine, on the other hand, was a cozy mystery where the Queen and her corgis solves murder in the royal palaces, this one Buckingham Palace, entitled A Three Dog Problem, by Sophia Bennett. Looking at her website, she’s had an interesting life too. Those of you who are well-read will know that the title is a reference to Sherlock Holmes, who would smoke three pipes when he had hard problems to solve. I’ll read JD’s book but I very much doubt he’ll read mine!
As I didn’t give you a cocktail recipe last time, a faithful follower gave me one, in memory of Greta. I’ve not yet been able to make it as I need white peach puree but here’s the recipe for you. (I’m not sure if I’ll find a Genovese basil leaf either). Mix 50 ml aquavit, 15 ml Peach & Apricot Mix (white peach puree mixed with apricot brandy, proportions not specified), 15 ml lemon juice, a dash of sugar and three dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters. Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a large Genovese Basil leaf to melt in with the anise flavour. It says ‘Greta Garbo was a foxy and fiesty lady with both kick and warmth, sweetness and freshness’. Definitely worth trying.
Some time ago I said I was trying to find an ingredient for each letter of the alphabet but couldn’t find anything for H, U, X or Z. How about 4X Castlemaine beer? If not that, there’s Xtabentun, a Mexican anise-type liqueur. I’m still looking for the others. No pressure, people!
As I don’t want to leave you without a recommendation, I made what JD has said is the best ever cocktail (until the next one I suspect): bloody minty herby gin. Take blood orange juice, crème de menthe, Benedictine or some other herbal liqueur (I used Diktamo, see Post 141 of June 2022) and gin. Mix with ice and sup.
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You know that Sophie Bennet is the daughter of Ray and Marie Pett in Shepton Mallet, they lived opposite us in Leg Square.