90. We’re Busy Doing Nothing

I am so sorry, you’re probably thinking I’ve poisoned us both with all that old food and that’s why you didn’t get a cocktail recipe at the weekend. Fear not, I’ve just been remiss and neglected you all. And before JD tells me off for the title today, we are very busy. I just like the song, it’s sung by Bing Crosby in the 1949 film “A Connecticut Yankee in King’ Arthur’s Court” based (very loosely I suspect) on the book by Mark Twain. Sing along now…

Post 89 received a few comments that I should reference. “Shower caps” are available from Ikea, they look much more robust than the ones I’m using. https://www.ikea.com/ch/en/p/oevermaett-food-cover-set-of-2-silicone-light-blue-70461936/. I cannot agree regarding Hobnobs, I won’t tell you the remark that JD made but I’ll send the next packet straight through to Wiltshire! Finally, some boxes of wine do indeed hold 12 bottles but more and more I’m seeing boxes of six (unless my reputation has gone before me and they think that’s all I can handle). I was under the impression it was due to EU regulations and maximum weights, such as we had many years ago in our profession, before computer submissions became the norm.

So, what shall we get up to today?

Post 88 on 18th April, ELEVEN DAYS ago, left you waiting for a cocktail. Who guessed the magic ingredient? Not Aperol (which comes next in my alphabet) but Amaretto. You can find (non alcoholic) Amaretto biscuits as well as the drink, the word apparently means “little bitter” (I don’t speak Italian so didn’t know this). I’ve just found out, while doing my research, that 19th April was Disaronno Day last year so I’m on trend for this year! http://www.disaronno.com/en/news/disaronno-day-2019. This is the brand I like (others are available, maybe I should try them). It has a very distinctive shaped bottle which I’ve finished off (there was less than an inch in the bottom) and thrown away so no photo of it I’m afraid. Here’s a magnificent wisteria instead.

Bearded iris and wisteria

Amaretto is an almond flavoured liqueur (from almonds or apricot kernels) which I love (as well as the biscuits), especially after a good dinner in front of a roaring fire. However, there’s no excitement in that for you so what mixture did I come up with? After I’d dismissed the shots (see Post 86 on 7th April), I was left with nine possibilities, although there are many others on the internet. I’m not a fan of egg white or cream in cold drinks and the ones with tea seemed like a cheat from Prohibition. There were a few with just Amaretto and one other ingredient (lemon juice, Irish whiskey, tequila) which I didn’t like the sound of. This left me with three: Cosmic Bliss, Bad Attitude and Big Red Hooter. How to decide between three such wonderful sounding names? Let’s look at the constituents of each: the first has orange, lemon and lime juices; the second FIVE other spirits (gin, rum, tequila, triple sec and vodka) plus Grenadine, as well as three juices (cranberry, orange and pineapple); the third has merely tequila, Grenadine and pineapple juice. Decision made, I need my five a day and don’t have any pineapple juice. Cosmic Bliss it is! As I’m trying to see the Starlink (Elon Musk’s satellite train) when it passes overhead this is very appropriate as well.

Cosmic bliss!

The rest of the time has mostly been taken with routine tasks mentioned previously so of no interest. I’ve made lemon and cardamom drizzle cake as well as caraway seed cake. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m trying to use up the spices that we have in the cupboard, this is a great book to have as an inspiration for recipes. Author Dhruv Baker (what an apt name!) won MasterChef in 2010 on UK television (for anyone not au fait with such programmes, including me).

Adie has not eaten anything she should not have (to the best of our knowledge). The garden and lambs continue to grow. The vegetable seeds I ordered before I left London (see Post 84 dated 27th March) finally turned up so I’ve planted those as well as some old ones I found in the shed, we’ll see what comes up. The rain that has now arrived is most welcome. Also looking back at that Post, I see that I said I’d missed the daffodils. Not so, yesterday I came across these in the garden.

Pheasant’s eye narcissi

George had his birthday last Friday. We were expecting to be celebrating in Seattle with a crowd of sailors. Instead George is still “on his tod” in London so we held a virtual party with his Godparents, a couple of friends and us. (If you’re not familiar with this saying, it’s Cockney rhyming slang for being alone. I didn’t know where it came from so looked it up. There was a US jockey called Tod Sloane at the end of the last century. Sloane = on your own). We tried to get together on WhatsApp but that only allows three people, so George had to set us up on Zoom, while the rest of us ran around turning on our computers. Lessons learnt: as well as not trying to WhatsApp too many people, do not leave your wine in a garage behind an electronic door. If there is a power cut you’re stumped! (I’m glad to say we do not have any electronic locks so we had plenty of champagne to toast George).

And finally, in case you want to know how the lambs are getting on, here’s two of them yesterday aged eleven days.

87. Happy Easter 2020

Rather a different Easter for everyone this year, not allowed out to visit church or friends and family. Who managed to get Easter eggs? I ordered some online but forgot to allow for our post being redirected still, so George has ended up with way too much chocolate for one person.

In addition to my cocktail experiments I’ll give a few photos of the garden to cheer you up. The header is of the supermoon we had the other night, so-called pink but not in colour. It refers to some US flowers that are pink in colour and blooming around now. I think I’ll call it my daffodil supermoon.

I have received comments about the size of our drinks bar. All I can say is, wait until you reach our advanced age. People give you bottles for Christmas, Easter, birthdays and any other event they can think of. When you go on holiday and taste the local speciality you enjoy it so much you bring bottles back, not thinking what it will taste like in dark dank Somerset. When shopping you might spot something that looks interesting (the plum and clementine gin we finished last week being a case in point). You cannot abide waste so don’t throw it away, especially as alcohol doesn’t go off. Finally (I think, there could be other reasons I’ve not thought of yet), we have the space.

Before I forget, I have been informed by JD that I got the race details wrong. I have all the dates and stops correct but I’ve put some of the Legs in the wrong place, a bit like Eric Morecambe playing Grieg’s piano concerto with “Mr Preview” (Andre Previn): all the notes but not necessarily in the right order. If you want to watch it and have a laugh here’s the link to the three minute sketch from 1971 on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMPEUcVyJsc. (I’ll sort out the race details when it happens).

To the garden. In a normal year I’d buy lots of bulbs and our industrious gardener would plant them up for me, so we’d have a wonderful display all year round.

As I wasn’t here when the bulb catalogues came out, nor intended to be here now, this is the view this year. I cannot even go to the garden centre and buy anything. I hope it’s not the same empty pots all year, it’s going to be very boring. Maybe I could move them around every month, or knit flowers now that I’m not knitting Unicef and Qingdao beanies? Hmmm.

Having depressed myself with the bareness, let’s return to the cocktails. You’ll remember that the first was Maiden’s Dream, which consists of equal quantities of absinthe and gin with a third of grenadine. The recipe said to make it in a long glass (highball or Collins for those of you who like to be precise). We decided that these three ingredients on their own were possibly a little bit too alcoholic so added ice and sparkling water. Here’s the result, I think it’s an acquired taste. A little aniseedy as you’d predict plus a little fruity. (JD asked if we had to keep taking selfies of us drinking so this is just the glass. Normal service will be resumed later).

Maiden’s Dream

Back to my flowers, normally (sorry, you’ll probably be getting this word a lot in the next few months) I’d have hundreds of tulips everywhere, and the pots above would have alternate colours, different each year depending on my mood when I bought the bulbs. You are advised to buy new bulbs each year as they are bred to not be as vigorous in subsequent years, so I put the old bulbs around the garden and see what comes up (literally). Here are a couple, I cannot remember the names but probably have a list if you need to know.

Tulip A
Tulip B

Not quite the dazzling display I’m used to. Next year maybe…

As my Dream didn’t tally with the Maiden’s Dream (whoever she was), a couple of days later we decided to try Rimbaud’s Left Hand. Intriguing who thinks up these names. On your behalf (unless you studied French literature, in which case apologies for all the errors) I did a bit of research. I’m not a Wiki addict so tackled Britannica. Some years ago in the late 1990’s I bought possibly the last paper version, comprising 32 volumes (three being indices) and I’ve a special bookshelf for them, but these days I use the interweb. I’m sure nothing has changed from the paper version as he died in 1891. Arthur Rimbaud was a French poet: I find his poems rather difficult to comprehend, even when translated into English (and I guess more so in their native French as I never got beyond what were then ‘O’ levels and I think are now GCSE’s, at 16 years old). At the age of 27 he declared he’d given up on the idea of work and would dedicate his energy to being a poet. Good job George doesn’t read this blog, I’d not want to encourage his ideas!

There’s a lot of guff about visions and consciousness and (here we begin to come to the point) he underwent fasting and pain, drink (including absinthe) and drugs in order to experience hallucinations. He got involved with Verlaine (another French poet) and his wife in a menage a trois initially. Verlaine and Rimbaud had a tempestuous relationship, running off to London at one stage. At the end of their relationship, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in his LEFT HAND and was imprisoned for two years. Hence the name of the cocktail (why you’d want to name a drink after someone’s maimed hand I’m not sure but I’m only a scientist). The cocktail officially is equal parts Aperol, Benedictine, Absinthe, lemon juice and pineapple juice with some rose water dropped into the centre. As we didn’t have all of these I created Rimbaud’s Right Hand: Aperol, Drambuie, Absinthe, and double Tropical juice (mostly apple and orange when you read the ingredients but a little pineapple, mango and passion fruit). I did have the rose water so that’s OK. Here I am drinking it (in the correct Martini glass) in JD’s greenhouse. It was delicious. I’ll try it again once I’ve been through the rest of the bar.

What else have we been up to? Chatting to people, trimming dogs, cutting grass, piano practice, clearing out stuff we always said we’d do, all the usual things you do when confined to quarters. I’ll introduce the second cocktail ingredient next time. A bientot!

85. Is This The Real Life?

Or is it just fantasy?

Greta with a skirt of hair

Before we left for the Clipper Race, we had the dogs neutered to make life easier for the house sitters. Unfortunately, their coats go fluffy and Greta looks like a woodlouse from above. This was my first big job when I got home, trimming as much as I could in ten minute intervals to not stress them or me out.

Day 8. Friday 27th March (continued). Meanwhile, OBB in London went out and had takeaway fish and chips whilst I had parsnip soup. Such is life in the boondocks. I was able to have a long distance chat (shout) about local conditions with Kate and her family, who have sheep in the fields around our house. It would appear that most of Somerset is taking the situation very seriously, John might not be allowed out even to go shopping during the “over 70” hour. The sight of sheep on the hill was most welcoming (see header to this Post), as well as the birdsong in the morning. I am sure that if I was technologically more adept I could add sound to this blog, but sorry, you’ll have to go to https://www.birdsong.fm/ which I have just discovered: it plays birdsong 24/7, or the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/birdsong-radio/.

Furry Adie

Instead, in these drear days, try listening to John Finnemore’s Cabin Fever on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhTBp1DRfx4. It helps if you know the Radio 4 programme Cabin Pressure, with Benedict Cumberbatch before he was Sherlock. Another good site to make you smile is a week of Georgina’s Isolation Diaries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7p-owybihQ by comedienne (or is it comedian these days?) Anna Morris. Every day she gives you a different song to sing when you’re washing your hands. At bedtime, we found out that there were no Bonio biscuits left: calamity! The dogs have one every night as part of their routine. I know they should clean their teeth afterwards but they’ve not yet managed to wield the toothbrush.

Tidy feet (untidy tail)

Day 9. Saturday 28th March. Got up late. Trimmed dogs’ feet. Spoke with a few pals. Wandered around reminding myself what was growing where. Noted that we have plenty of rhubarb so won’t starve. (But may get bored and vitamin deficient). Emergency supplies of milk, Bonio and the weekend FT brought over by Barry. Found out that the internet had gone down, very annoying. Realised that I had not missed all the daffodils, spring is later here than in London.

Day 10. Sunday 29th March. Still no internet so JD emailed our provider. Apparently a mast had come down so I need to be patient. Made spinach, garlic and ginger soup from items left in the fridge. Trimmed dogs’ tails. Found out that the kitchen radio has decided to play Classic FM only. I don’t mind this but it seems that after every piece of music there is a long ad about coronavirus and washing our hands and not going out and swinging a broom at people to make sure they are not too close. Or something like that.

At 5 pm I had a virtual cocktail party with Victoria. She made a yummy sounding “cupboard cocktail” from The Telegraph involving marmalade and a spirit of your choice. As I had been bequeathed some coconut water in the fridge, I found a cocktail that used that (rum, mint and coconut water). That plus the soup meant I had a rather limited eating programme today. Where are the Kit-Kats when you need them? The good news is that the clocks went forward so I only had to endure 23 hours of today.

Spinach soup anyone?

Day 11. Monday 30th March. I spoke with the chap who inserted our internet as it still was not working. I did the old trick of turning it off and on again: no response. He told me it was not reporting back to their system but the mast was no longer an issue so maybe the power was not working. I went to the barn where it comes into the property to find out that some idiot had turned it off. Turned it on and, behold, back in the technical world of the 21st century! I have to break it to you that there was only one person at home at that moment. Assuming that neither the dogs nor the cat have learnt how to turn things on and off, the idiot has to be me. Oops.

To celebrate having the internet I went onto all the major supermarket sites to see if I could order anything. Some of them (Tesco, Morrisons, Asda) had no delivery or click-and-collect slots as far as the horizon. (The click-and-collect would be no good as I’m without transport but I thought I could click then get a pal to collect on my behalf). The others (Sainsburys, Ocado, Waitrose) didn’t even let me onto the sites to see if they could help me. There are a few local farm shops around here that will deliver so I might have to go down that option.

Coconut Mojito (of sorts)

Day 12. Tuesday 31st March. Our house sitters emailed to say they would not be coming back. A great relief, I could finish off the spinach soup (and coconut water) without a guilty conscience. I started to go through the kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what items we had and what we would need to buy. Some rice, some pasta, a little flour, Weetabix amongst other foodstuffs. Enough for a few days. John’s logbook turned up so he prepared to come home and to go shopping on his way back. My last day of solitude.

Day 13. Wednesday April 1st. Despite going very carefully through the papers and BBC website, I could not find a single April Fool. Either life is too serious now or my sense of humour has fled. I chatted with a few more pals but did not trim any parts of the dogs today, we all had a break. In the middle of The Archers John arrived. I was told that Clipper would change him and so it proves. Prior to the Race he would never miss an episode, and had been known to drive around the block before arriving home if he needed extra time. I’m happy to report that his car was loaded with more clothes and equipment from London plus enough food to keep us going for a week or more, with a selection of things, not just rhubarb and spinach!

Honey, I’m Home!

I’m going to stop recording the day-by-day experience as it will become monotonous very quickly (got up late, trimmed dogs, phoned pals, made soup). Instead I’ll give you uplifting pictures of the countryside to cheer you up when you’re sitting on your own. wondering if you can really be bothered to watch your favourite box set again, or get out that jigsaw that you never managed to finish, or the jumper you started in 2001 when you were a size smaller and had different taste. You will come to appreciate that you really do want to live life like this, quiet and slow and satisfying. Or not. As the song says, it doesn’t really matter to me. (Of course it does, I rely on my audience, every one of you!)