86. Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Remember me telling you about our garden produce in Post 85? Here’s the meal we had on April 2nd: rhubarb and ginger cocktail (R&G gin, lemon juice, R&G jam, shake with ice and decorate with a tiny stick of rhubarb), mackerel with rhubarb, then rhubarb and marmalade sponge pudding. Interestingly the original cocktail used marmalade instead of rhubarb and ginger jam so continuity across the meal.

Making the rhubarb and ginger sour

Going back to the original purpose of this blog for a moment. On April 1st, with no joking, Clipper published an updated schedule. The plan is to re-start the race from Subic Bay on 21st February 2021, with Leg 6 resuming and taking in Sanya (arrival on 25-26 February), Zhuhai (arriving 5-6 March) then Qingdao (arriving 19-21 March). This will be the new end of Leg 6 (instead of finishing at Zhuhai). Leg 7 will then be to Seattle (arriving 19-24 April) and Panama (27 May to 1 June). Leg 8 includes Bermuda (arrival 15-17 June) and Derry-Londonderry (8-12 July) then finishes in London on 24th July 2021. Those of you with long memories (or plans to travel to this stop) will notice that we have lost New York (very careless) and will finish roughly two weeks before (but one year after) the intended finish date of 8th August (2020). Obviously this is all subject to change but that’s the route and timing for now. I’m not making any plans until nearer the time.

And drinking it

Day 16. Saturday 4th April. Finally finished all our unpacking. Still to go round the house and replace all the blown light-bulbs. They seem to delight in keeping the light-bulb manufacturers in business. I have four boxes of spares: small bayonet, large bayonet, small screw and large screw. I still seem to always be missing the one that JD wants when we need a replacement. Made the marmalade sour on which the above cocktail was based, with plum and clementine gin. Having sorted all our spirit bottles, from absinthe to whisky (Scotch), I’ve decided to make this a cocktail blog for the time being. If I become increasingly incomprehensible you’ll understand I’m sure. I’m ignoring shots as they don’t last long enough. Looking back, I see that without realising it, this has been an underlying theme for some time.

Marmalade sour

Before I get onto the alcohol recipes, the bird life here is expanding, even if I cannot take photos. A long-tailed tit tried to fly through the (closed) window, offering a good view of its undercarriage. JD saw a charm of goldfinch (I think that’s the correct collective noun) in the orchard. As usual, we have constant buzzards mewling and being mobbed by the rooks. In addition, we are beginning to embrace modern technology, with JD resuming his physio with his personal trainer via the computer. He says it’s much better than being in a class and it saves about an hour travel time. Good job I “mended” the internet last week.

Absinthe to whisky (Scotch)

As well as unpacking, I’ve audited the kitchen under-sink cupboard and the freezer (after defrosting). I went onto the local council website and discovered that the recycling centres are closed, so reminded myself what I could recycle at the kerbside (not that we have kerbs in the wilderness). I told you this blog would become boring.

So, to the first bottle in our store: absinthe. You only use drops in most recipes so yes, thanks Chris, it is still the same bottle for my birthday xx (I forget the exact number) years ago! I did make Midori and absinthe sorbet not long after receiving the bottle, it didn’t freeze and tasted aniseedy and melony at the same time. Not bad but maybe not to be put on the favourites list.

For those of you who have never heard of it, absinthe can be a vivid green spirit classically made with wormwood. As with so many spirits, it started life as a medicinal product, curing malaria. It tastes of aniseed and when water is added goes cloudy. Its main association (to my mind) is with Toulouse-Lautrec, with his hollow walking stick full of absinthe, and the Belle Epoque in France in the late 1800’s. You prepared it for drinking with a special absinthe spoon, on which you placed a sugar cube and let water drip through into the glass of absinthe. According to an exhibition at The Tate, it was apparently known as “the Queen of poisons” and the name comes from Greek meaning undrinkable. https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-5-autumn-2005/drink-fuelled-nations-art

Are your salivary glands watering? It could be up to 80% alcohol, definitely lethal, and was said to cause hallucinations due to the presence of thujone, a chemical in wormwood (or maybe the alcohol content alone?). It had such a bad reputation that it was made illegal. I’m happy to say that mine is clear (no contaminants) and a mere 53%. If you want to try some, look here: https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/c/358/absinthe

Putting all that aside, I have a great app on my phone called Mixology so I consulted that for absinthe recipes. I chose ones where we have all the ingredients and shortlisted 14. NO, I’m not going to try them all. Well, not all at once. I then reduced the list further to those that used a reasonable amount of absinthe, not just a couple of drops. I dismissed two due to their names: Death in the Afternoon (although champagne and absinthe doesn’t sound too bad) and Corpse Reviver (gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, vermouth and absinthe). Not suitable under present circumstances. The names in general tell you something about absinthe: TNT, Hiroshima, Earthquake, Monkey Gland, Flying Fortress, Peep Show. I’ve decided to try two, purely because I like the innocuous-sounding names: Maiden’s Dream and Rimbaud’s Left Hand. No, checking the cupboard, Rimbaud will have to wait another day as I’m out of pineapple juice.

What, you want to know what it’s like before you rush out (or to the computer) to buy your own bottle? Tune in next time.

Proof that we also eat: rhubarb sponge

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!)