92. Life In The Time of Covid-19 (3)

As you can see from today’s title, my imagination is not up to scratch this morning. I have a few items to cover from previous posts before I see if I can get into gear. It’s also getting difficult finding appropriate photos at times now that I’m not going anywhere, not even to the shops. You’ll get a lot of flowers, trees and sheep / lambs in the next few months. First though, for those of you who read this because of the sub-title (something to do with boats if I remember that far back), there are some items on the Clipper website you might like to read.

On Qingdao, with George, was another Circumnavigator known as Frankie. He’s one of the Chinese Ambassadors and sailed the first Leg of the last race (2017/18). His story is worth reading and there is a video in the article which features a certain George Dawson a few times. Here’s the link: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/a-life-changing-story-new-video-showcasing-the-story-of-qingdao-ambassador-frankie

Medlar tree

Back in Subic Bay, we left two of the professional crew to look after the boats: Jeronimo, the skipper on Punta del Este, and Hugo, the mate (AQP) on Ha Long Bay. They are there for who knows how long as current planning is that the fleet will sail mid-February 2021 (nine months from now). Here’s how they occupy their time: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/life-looking-after-the-fleet-in-the-philippines

A year ago this week was Crew Allocation Day in Portsmouth. Blog posts 24 to 26 (on 8th, 18th and 19th May 2019) cover the details as they were at the time, if you want to go back that far. Alternatively, the Clipper website brings back a taste of the event. See if you can spot OBB in the photo that heads the article (but remember, no beards!). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/new-beginnings-reflections-on-crew-allocation

And before you ask, I can’t see them and I know roughly where they were.

…It’s now afternoon and I’ve thought of a Post title but it would mean going back and re-writing the first section so I’ll see if I can use it next time. Back in Post 90 (29th April) I tempted fate by showing a picture of our wisteria, which is about four years old, and referring to it as magnificent. Of course, that led to pictures of truly magnificent ones being sent to me. Thanks everyone, wait a few more years and we’ll be able to rival you! Maybe. Also in that post I referred to needing my five-a-day. One unkind soul (who shall remain nameless but has the initials JD) verbalised what you were all thinking: that I was saying I needed five spirits a day, as in the cocktail Bad Attitude. I’ve still not made that one as I was obviously talking about fruit and vegetables. Honestly, what do you think of me? (Don’t answer that). Luckily, as well as using the drinks in cocktails, one of OBB (again, nameless…) is using the rum in puddings (banana or pineapple) and the whisky in steak dishes, so the bottles are slowly emptying.

Foxglove

In the newspaper this week was an article telling us that cocktails and baking were no longer fashionable, we’ve been in lock-down so long and we’re bored with it all. We haven’t had a cocktail since the Bois de Rose in the last blog post, but I’m planning one or two for this weekend. We are rather spoilt for choice as the next two bottles are similar: bitters. These are used, like the absinthe, in tiny amounts as flavours rather than main ingredients. One is the classic Angostura bitters and the other a Hotel Chocolat cocoa bitters given to me by George one birthday some years ago. I think I’ve found a recipe that uses both. More next time. As both are over 40% alcohol I don’t think they will go off. Unlike (possibly) the Hobgoblin stout I gave JD the other night. When he read the label he discovered it was best before 2017. I told him, that’s not bad in this house. That’s not “you will be really ill after this date”. However, I did play safe after making a ginger cake. The tin of black treacle I used stated something along the lines of throw the tin away once it’s been open for three months. As it was closer to three years I thought for once I’d better play safe. (It was almost empty). I’ve looked up on the Tate & Lyle website why it is such specific wording and apparently for this and the golden syrup cans, pressure can build up and it may explode. I wish I’d left it (outside) now, it could have been exciting.

I’ve knitted a new item this week, as shown in the next photo. It’s doubled over so there’s a pocket for coffee filters, tissues or whatever you feel best. We can throw them away after use as I can knit more quite quickly, although the I-cord was a pain to make. Oddly enough, I have some coffee filters left over from a Spanish holiday long ago: they are priced in pre-Euro currency. I’m sure they can’t go off? No best before date anyway.

This photo also shows my latest hair style. It’s beginning to remind me of when I had long hair, as a little girl. I hated it, the brush was always tangling it up and it hurt. My mum used to use Vitapointe, I wondered if it’s still going so I checked. Amazingly, it is still available and is THE product for curly (frizzy) hair. I think I should get some and report back, although at its current length my hair is not yet tangling. https://www.makeupalley.com/product/showreview.asp/ItemId=142646/Vitapointe/Unlisted-Brand/Conditioner

All seven lambs

As is now “normal”, a picture of the lambs to end.

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.

Cheesecake

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).

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