88. California Dreaming

That’s as near as we’ll get, dreaming about it. I should, in normal life, now be on my way to Seattle. A crowd of us were due to fly early on 18th April to wave the boats in. Instead, we’re not waving at anyone unless it’s at a neighbour across the road. To quote the song, “All the leaves are brown”: no they’re not, it’s Spring. “And the sky is grey”: well yes it is. We’re having rain for the first time since I got home, quite enjoyable except that the temperature has plummeted about ten degrees. OK, maybe plummeted is an exaggeration but I’ve had to get out my jumpers.

Who you looking at?

Before we get any further, I think I should warn you that there will be no cocktails in this Post. I haven’t made any since last weekend (but I probably will tonight) so next time I’ll let you know the next mystery ingredient. (If you squint at the photo in Blog Post 86 from earlier this month you might just be able to make it out). There may not be flowers either. However, there is (look away now) a scary picture of me channelling my inner Struwwelpeter or shock-headed Peter (thankfully not the finger nails). I’m ahead of the curve in terms of letting my hair revert to its natural colouring, but I may need to give myself a buzz cut if this lockdown goes on for much longer, or ask John to do it for me. I used to say I wanted to do this and have it dyed green like a billiard table (odd child) so maybe now is my chance?

Yet another bad selfie

What am I going to talk about, you ask. What I did with my week? I could tell you about Strewwelpeter. He is the protagonist of a children’s book written in 1845 by a German author, Heinrich Hoffman and served as a warning to children who misbehaved. He was the inspiration for Edward Scissorhands. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/original-struwwelpeter-illustrations-childrens-moral-lesson-book

A cocktail (Corpse reviver no 9)

Now that I look back at my diary, we did have one more cocktail on Sunday night, not long after I finished the last update. Here’s a picture to prove it. Despite my disdain for off-putting names last time, this is called Corpse Reviver No 9, with Sambuca, Aquavit, Cointreau, Vermouth and lime juice. Possibly required after looking at my early morning selfie above. You wash the glass with the Sambuca then throw it away. Or drink it. Then add 30ml each of the other ingredients. I have some special ice cubes which I used here, see if you can work out what they relate to.

What do these ice cubes look like?

Am I going to have to find the previous eight for you? Time will tell. The second ingredient along the bar was thus Akavit, from Sweden (yes, I am so anal that they are in alphabetic order, to help you work out the next one). There are lots of aquavits / akavits available, the name can be translated as “water of life” and others are eau de vie and whisk(e)y.

On Easter Monday we got up and poor Adie was being sick. Later, we found John’s little bag of salted caramel Easter eggs was missing. I had bought these some time ago and given them to him to have on Unicef when Easter Sunday arrived. George says Qingdao ate theirs the day after they sailed. JD kept his and of course Easter on board never happened. We had a few but Adie had more. She somehow managed to leave a stream of silver foil wrappers in the garden, which was a bit of a give away (unless JD did this and tried to blame the dog?). As she was throwing up and the chocolates were not dark chocolate, probably not much chocolate at all once you’d taken the caramel and salt into consideration (and boy were they salty), there was no point taking her to the vet (who would make her throw up or pump her stomach).

I started to knit, not flowers as threatened in Post 87, but a jumper. I bought the yarn (alpaca) over a year ago and the pattern I had decided on at the time I now decided against, so that meant hours on the computer trying to find a pattern I like this year. You may get to see it one day. I also made a chocolate coffee cheesecake which you can see, decorated with redcurrants from the freezer.


Talking of currants, John decided to rearrange the flagstones in the fruit cage so he could move the currants (black, red and white) and stop them growing into the mesh every year. This is a demanding task and is taking place over a number of days. Here it is part way through. The cage is not to stop the birds (in fact, two bull finches were flying around inside it yesterday) but to stop Greta eating the raspberries as she then starts scratching. She also eats most of the alpine strawberries growing around the garden before I get the chance to pick them.

Black, red and white currant bushes

Two days after eating the chocolate eggs, Adie blotted her copy book once more. This time it was a few Macushield capsules and she gave herself away again, not by throwing up but by having bright yellow paws and muzzle. At least she should have good eyesight!

Me? Steal food?

The most exciting part of the week is about to be discussed. John wandered around to see what other jobs needed doing and came back to let me know that Kate’s three pregnant ewes had produced seven lambs. There is one set of triplets. They are a cross between Ryeland (mum) and Herdwick (dad) so we are excited to see what their fleece looks like (easily excited here). Ryelands are the very fluffy sheep (“teddy bears”) you get when you ask a child to draw a sheep, with a fine fleece that was used for clothing. Herdwick are the grey hardy sheep with white faces and quite a coarse fleece, often used for carpets. Herdwyck means sheep pasture in old Norse. https://www.herdy.co.uk/the-farming-year/all-about-herdwicks/ and Beatrix Potter kept a flock, as they are native to the Lake District and she was keen to preserve their heritage.

I cannot decide which photos of the lambs I like best so there are a few scattered about this Post, I hope they brighten your weekend. (As I don’t eat lamb, there are no roast dinners)! I’ll try to get them as they grow up and leap into the air as only young lambs seem to do. These are all within 24 hours of them being born.

And now I’m off to make that cocktail I mentioned. I have sixteen recipes to choose from, I’ve not looked at all the ingredients to see how many I can actually make (or adapt). Ciao! (That’s a clue).

36. Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

I’m sure you’re all wondering how The Home Team are getting on with all this disruption to normal service. I’m glad to report that Mr & Mrs C, the House / Dog / Cat sitters, arrived a couple of weeks ago. They’ve come from California to see if they want to move to the UK permanently. We’ve been leaving them alone for a few days so that they can find out all the niggles in the house that we’ve forgotten to tell them about. We found out on their arrival that there’s one big local attraction we knew nothing about: LAWN BOWLS.

On their second day, Mr C had a call to go and play for the local team as someone had let them down. After less than a week here he was on the front page of our local paper, upsetting all the usual people who appear there! (I may organise a guest blog post on bowls if I run out of things to say or am away for a long time with no access to the interweb).

They have two small dogs with them, an old one to keep Greta company and a youngster who cannot keep still. I was a little concerned that Adie would resent a newcomer in her house, but after a few minutes of being invited to play they were running around the garden like they’d know each other since puppyhood. Blind Captain Catt (aka Polly) is not so impressed. She’s touched noses with the newcomers but has told us she’d rather sleep outside in this good weather thank you very much.

It’s been quite a few emotional weeks for me: last Pilates class, last piano class, last hair cut. I’ve got an exercise book and my roll up piano but it’s not really the same doing these things on your own. I’m not sure I’ll find such a good hairdresser anywhere in the world (how did you guess she’s a Follower?) so may come back with long grey locks. The Ancient Mariner look?

In the few weeks Mr and Mrs C have been here, they’ve got involved in more activities than we have in our almost 30 years. As well as the bowls, they are planning to go and see if they like bell-ringing and have discovered the local weekly markets. Their two hounds have very much made themselves at home, as you can see, and we have no concerns that the house will be empty and neglected for the next year.

We have now left home for the year, moving up to London when we’re not travelling (i.e. I will be in London between my travels, John and George both having one-way tickets on the race).

If you go back to the very first post in this blog, you’ll see John’s retirement greenhouse. Other than being used to grow Adie’s puppies and some impressive weeds it has lain empty until the day we left. Last weekend was our wedding anniversary and we went away to Cornwall for a few days. Our romantic break was not out of character, there were lots of nautical themed items in the hotel. It was a lovely place to stay and do nothing, although we had possibly not considered the fact that we’d be trying to finish off things at home prior to Clipper. We took our laptops so we could attend to urgent issues, but someone forgot to bring the cable for charging so was forced to relax!

Unbeknownst to me, John had researched some exotic plant places we could go to on the way back to buy some for the greenhouse. On the very last day we left home for the year, he was out planting them. It will be interesting to compare this shot with one when we return in a year.

Budding greenhouse

Also in this last week, he has sorted out my herbs. We did have herbs but spread around all over the place. I knew where they all were (mint by outside loo, sage in front garden, oregano elsewhere in front garden etc) but I’m not sure anyone else does. Or did, until now! Here is the fledgling herb plot, awaiting the actual herbs. I’m not sure if it will be planted whilst we’re away as I’ve not told anyone what I’d like there. Another blog post?

A very organised (empty) herb garden!

The day we left (Friday) the dogs were very out of sorts. To start with I’d sold my (their) car so that was missing. Then John’s car was full to the brim with things we thought we might need over the next year so there was obviously no room for two dogs as well. Normally they are at my feet and jumping around to see what’s going on. This time, they took to their beds in the kitchen and wouldn’t get out to wave us off. Once we’d gone, of course it was “nobody’s fed me today” and “can I have a play?” so no worries there either.

I’m in London on my own this week, MBB are down in Gosport on “prep week”. I’ve been wandering around the neighbourhood, once I’d unpacked everything. Remember I said in Post 34 that John wouldn’t be needing any “civvies” as he’d be living in Musto clobber? No-one told him, he’s brought suits and jumpers and shoes and (more to the point) filled up the wardrobe space I thought I’d have! Anyway, how refreshing to be able to walk to a coffee shop or decide I fancy eating a certain nationality for the evening and know the odds are that I’ll find a suitable restaurant. Maybe more exciting to me, I’ve found out that Penguin Random House are a few minute’s walk away. Maybe I could sneak in and find my 14 missing Penguins? (See the header to Post 3).

I’ll tell you about the Gosport activities next time, together with more Clipper website announcements. All the boats have now been branded so we know all the sponsors. Meanwhile, here’s possibly the last shot of us relaxing together before the off:

On the final note, there are now only just over 21 days before the off. Even more odd to think that in a year’s time it will be over, as they’re due back into London on August 8th 2020. Then what??