Wednesday, 21st September, 2022

[Day 919]

Today started of as a fairly gloomy day with a lot of low hanging cloud but rain did not seem to be particularly imminent. By the time we were were ready to collect our newspaper and go for a walk in the park, having exchanged news with our domestic help who calls around on a Wednesday, the sky had turned a brilliant blue and we had an hour or so of very pleasant sunshine. This was not to last and when we eventually returned home, the skies had clouded over again. In the park, we met as we often do with Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker who was still making progress across the Floria Keys, according to the app on his smart phone. We also chatted with several dog owners that we know reasonably well by sight and speculated whether the dogs were even more keen to meet with each other in the park than their human owners were. After we returned home, we raided the fridge to see what kind of a meal we could rustle up and eventually settled upon making a risotto with some low carb rice that we had in stock, some kippers for the protein element and enhanced by vegetable stock, fried onions, petis pois and grated cheese. This all went down very well, I am pleased to say and then I proudly displayed to our domestic help the 42+ bottles of last year’s damson gin that I had recently bottled as well as the 7.35 litres of damson gin that I have just prepared from this year’s harvest. There is no need to panic just yet but I will be eagerly collecting some thirty 220cl bottles which I will need before Christmas for this year’s bottling. I still have a few smaller Kilner jars of damson vodka which I will get round to bottling in the next week or so but in the meanwhile, I thought it might be quite a good idea to sample some of this year’s vintage. So I took a smallish bottle, as yet unlabelled, and we cracked it open to see how it tasted. Meg, our domestic help and I all shared a little tipple and I am delighted that the quality this year is probably as good as ever and may even have exceeded last year. Last year’s preparation had been slowing maturing for a year now, rather than the more conventional fifteen weeks, and this extra maturation time may account for the perceived superior quality. I normally have a bit of a panic on just before Christmas to ensure that I have adequate supplies to provide each of my Pilates class members and some of the staff at the physiotherapy centre a little surprise Chrismas present. This has become a regular event now over the years so I suppose the word ‘surprise’ is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the damson gin is given away to friends anyway, so the amount that I drink myself is fairly minimal but having established a tradition, it is a little hard to break.

This week is a fairly quiet week, socially but next week will be far busier for us. On Monday next, we will be making a one day visit to North Wales for the funeral of Meg’s Uncle Ken. However, we have a good meal booked for us in a country club that we know well from previous visits that will ensure that we arrive at the crematorium reasonably rested and well-fed. Aterwards there is a church service and a post funeral ‘bash’ in the Methodist hall near to the church. Then on Tuesday, I shall be going off (on my own) at the invitation of some friends who live in South Oxfordshire and have invited me down for the day and I will be travelling to them by train. We also have a visit to the dentist next week and also our COVID vaccine booster jab.

Today has been the day when all the businesses in the country have been waiting to see how the government are going to help them with thir escalating fuel bills. Provision has already been made for the ‘capping’ of energy bills for domestic consumers and from 1st October, business customers (including schools, hospitals, voluntary organisations) will have their bills set for 50% of the wholesale price with the government responsible for any further increases. This will hold for six months but a review will be held after three months to see if there are any particular sectors under extreme stress. I think the general view is that we must ‘wait and see’ as it is reported that the energy costs of some businesses has been increasing five-fold. I am not sure why the rates for businesses should have such a dramatic increase compared with domestic consumers but without some financial support from central government, we would have seen business closure on a massive scale. As it is, the costs for supporting the business commnity will run into tens of billions of pounds and may be at least half of the costs of the furlough scheme which paid the wages of workers in the economy during the pandemic. Meanwhile the value of the pound has fallen to a 37-year low which will stack up even more costs for future generations (or ourselves) to bear.