94. The Days Are Just Packed

If you look at the header (on the website) you’ll see this is a book title, of cartoons created by Bill Watterson. Although possibly considered books for children, they have a great deal of thought in them, as you’d expect when the two protagonists are called Calvin (a small boy with boundless imagination) and Hobbes (his toy tiger). I love them.

A short week this one, but life has been non-stop, even under lockdown. I was considering called this Post “The Birds” as we’ve had a wretched corvid trying to get through our windows. At 05.30. The first morning, I thought it was someone hammering on the door and could not work out what emergency would bring someone down to our place at that time of day. Once I woke up fully and realised it was someone hammering on the (first floor, west facing) window I sent JD to investigate. (Note to any American readers: the first floor is upstairs). He came back and told me it was a crow, which flew off when it saw him. An hour later it was at another window on the second floor (the attic). This hammering kept happening: it followed JD to the (south facing) bathroom then to the other end of the house on the ground floor. Scary. I’ve read something about crows being Messengers of the Gods or Harbingers of Doom or some such.

My mood was not lightened when JD said he didn’t think it was a crow, it had a yellow beak. Um, a blackbird was all I could think, a huge mutant blackbird. We do have Hinkley Point not far away after all. I know it’s not operational but who knows what experiments they are undertaking? Anyway, JD insisted that it was NOT a blackbird so I got the bird book out and looked at corvids and we settled on it being a rook. I’ve not been able to get a photo of it so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s a jigsaw I bought for the lockdown that I’ve just got around to, instead.

Andy Warhol’s “Flowers” jigsaw from the Tate

After the second disturbed morning action had to be taken. I’d read that hanging CDs would scare birds. I couldn’t hang them from anything so I stuck them on the window. There is a pear tree growing up that wall so we cut back the branches in case it was balancing on them. All that happened was that the next morning, The Bird showed its contempt all over the window. I’d also read that sticking clingfilm on the window would stop the reflection which was the cause of the attack. We couldn’t get access outside so improvised with a plastic lid. Here’s a shot of Day 3 (I think, lack of sleep means it could be Day 4). You can create the different stages in your mind’s eye.

How not to scare birds

This morning, still a hammering. I’m now sleeping through it but disturbed nonetheless. The latest action taken is in the next photo. I’m worried about the window glass, these are old windows so that glass is sometimes thinner than usual. You’ll have to wait until next time to know if this worked.

Will this tea towel work?

Enough bird talk. We had another visitor this week, a pal who had been out walking and was on her way home. Once again we kept a few feet apart but the dogs didn’t think this was necessary, this was one of their friends. Hugs all round for them. The next day, even more excitement, the window cleaners came! We’ve not seen them since before our Clipper adventure started last August. They had been off work for the main lockdown but were now able to clean the outside of the windows. This has had the downside of highlighting how mucky the windows are inside. Luckily, our cleaner is planning on coming back soon. She’s been bringing the odd food parcel for us on her way past but too early in the morning for us to catch up. We’ll need to devise a one-way system around the house to avoid meeting up.

SOME of my tomatoes

All the plants I potted on last week have survived both my rough handling and the lack of rain. Now, I may have got a bit carried away with the tomatoes, but in my defence, m’lud, I did not expect them all to germinate. My beetroot seeds certainly haven’t and I’ve always done really well with them. Thinking positively, we may be able to corner the UK market once imports stop, due either to Brexit (remember that?) or Covid-19.

Cocktails: last week we had Bitters as the topic. This week, it’s another bitter drink but only 25% as opposed to the 40% of the previous ones. The bottle size reflects this.

This week’s mystery ingredient: Campari!

In doing my research on this, for the first time I came across a reference to Covid-19. and what the company is doing to help. https://www.camparigroup.com/en/covid-19. The Campari group seem to be very active so go out and buy more! On entering the relevant part of the site I found that they also have Aperol in their stable (see Post 91 dated 9th May for that recipe). Campari, today’s drink, was created in 1860 using herbs and fruits in a secret recipe still in use today (I think I could cut-and-paste that phrase for many of our drink ingredients). The two classic cocktails utilising Campari are the Americano (no coffee involved) and the Negroni. Forget them. I went through my list and came up with a first pass selection of 18 possible cocktails. Tempted though I was with “Combustible Edison” (brandy, Campari and lemon juice) I decided not to tempt fate by encouraging you to play with fire. Literally. Think Christmas puddings and you’ll see where this is going. For those of you who do not have Christmas puddings, you are missing a real spectacle every year. Come back in six months and I’ll see if I can get a photo for you.

The first one I made is called Bitter Evan, I’m not sure why, but made it to remember friends we’ve not seen since the boats sailed from London. Mix 45 ml vodka with 15 ml Campari and top up with pink or red grapefruit juice. The first had some spiced vodka I’d made a couple of years ago, then as we had juice left, we had a second, with normal vodka. We managed to finish off the spiced vodka plus another bottle with about an inch at the bottom. At this rate we could finish off our bar by the end of the year. Here’s OBB enjoying their first glass.

Bitter Evan

I’d also put pomegranate juice on the shopping list. As JD managed to buy both juices, we’ve had two cocktails this weekend. The second was chosen because I thought the name reasonably appropriate, not quite quarantine but almost: Diva Quaranta. Mix 45 ml gin, 15 ml Campari, 30 ml pomegranate juice and 15 ml simple syrup (I used one I’d made a few weeks ago for another cocktail, with pear eau-de-vie, but I now cannot find that recipe, sorry). This was pretty strong so we only had one, while JD was preparing supper last night. Afterwards we managed to see the Crew Dragon fly (?) past in the night sky. If you’ve missed it, this is the first commercial manned space flight to the International Space Station, funded by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in conjunction with NASA. We watched the launch while eating and saw it pass us in the night sky a couple of hours later. Here’s an easy guide to it https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52840482.

Diva Quaranta

But, even more exciting than the cocktails and (maybe) Crew Dragon, I went out! On my own! In what is now the family car (formerly JD’s), as I don’t have one any longer. Thinking I’d be away for the year, I sold mine last August and haven’t driven since. When out I was not alert enough to take a photo so you’ll have to believe me when I say I drove into Castle Cary and went to the shops. I found out that you can now pay up to £45 using contact-less cards: last time I shopped it was £30. Both the car and I survived.

No lambs today, but here is a caterpillar I photographed. I thought it might be a Red Admiral as they are fluttering all over the plants but looking in my butterfly and moth book, it doesn’t appear to be. I’ll let you all see if you know before I reveal it.

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.