Saturday, 29th August, 2020

[Day 166]

First. I must issue an apology to regular readers of this blog about the appalling number of typos and other errors that crept into last night’s blog. I was composing in on my iPad and these machines are not very good for the production of text (not having a mouse for a start) and all that I can say is that the normal spell-checking/grammatical check did not seem to function on the iPad as it does on my Mac back at home. Anyway, all of these infelicities were soon put right when sitting in front of a conventional desktop. Today was the day of our return but we had done a lot of the packing up last night. As it was, we set the alarm to get up about an hour earlier to give us time to get everything finished off and then we went down to breakfast somewhat earlier. So we had got all breakfasted and the car packed up and ready to leave at a few minutes to 10.00 am. We had mapped out a slightly different route to hit the M6 but we followed the road signs to the M6 and hit the M6 a junction further down than we had intended. We pulled in at Stafford services to have a drink of our own coffee (flask filled in the hotel at breakfast) and made a toilet visit but doing everything we could to minimise exposure to the virus (even to the extent of taking our own pack of wipes with us – or at least Meg did). We had an entertaining moment when we emerged from the exit because we didn’t quite recognise where we were and wondered if we would have to spend ages hunting for the car. We then retraced our steps and realised our mistake. There was an exit right next to the toilet area which we had taken, forgetting that we had entered at another entrance which was actually at an angle of 90º to the exit we had mistakenly taken. So we found the car with no difficulty!

We got home about 1.00 and had a light lunch of soup before starting one of the principal weekly jobs i.e. cutting of the lawns. Actually, with a reliable petrol mower, this is no problem at all and I have got it off to a fine art (40 minutes in the front), then a tea-break and then 20 minutes at the back. The job used to take somewhat longer when I used to cut my neighbour’s lawn for him but with excellent new neighbours, that is one chore less. As I cut the lawns, I surveyed the damson trees which seem absolutely laden with fruit. Actually, I am so relieved that the fruit has survived the tremendous gales of last week and tomorrow is the day when the great harvesting will commence. When you only do jobs once a year, you have to remember where your particular ‘gear’ is kept – Christmas is generally no problem because most families keep all of their Christmas clobber in one place. But with other jobs that you do one a year, one sometimes has to pick up the pieces. I know that prior to picking the fruit tomorrow I will need to (a) sterilise all my bottles and Kilner jars – for this, I use some Boots sterilising fluid used for babies bottles and the like (Time to find this: 2 minutes in the garage) Then, I need to consult my little hardback book in which I keep records of fruit gathered and recipes (Tine to find the book: 15 minutes!) On consulting my little hardback notebook, my record year seems to have been 2015 when I picked 1300 damsons whereas last year was absolutely terrible for unknown reasons and I only managed to pick 170. Why I count the damsons as I pick them is not just pure ritualism but to helps me to assess the kind of progress that I am making and also, more critically, to work out how much sugar and gin I need to buy. My little book tells me that 100-120 damsons are about 600 grams of fruit and this needs 1 litre of gin so I can work out how many litres of gin I need to buy. I generally go to Asda for this and will buy the biggest (i.e. 1.5 litre bottle) and the cheapest gin I can find. I must say, I always feel a little self-conscious about buying so much gin but the supermarket assistants never to seem to turn a hair. A progress report will follow tomorrow.