Monday, 31st August, 2020

[Day 168]

Today, for whatever reason, Meg and I got off to rather a slow start and consequently only started our morning walk to the park at about 11.00. I had wasted quite a lot of time, though, trying to make a doctor’s appointment through one of the new fancy front-ends that no doubt are springing up all over the country. All seemed to be well until I clicked on ‘Make an appointment’ only to get the message to the effect that no online appointments were available for this GP’s practice. Whether this was a system glitch, or a Bank Holiday type hitch, who can say. There was a mass of information about COVID19 and what to do if you suspect you are a victim of the virus. But what you might have called ‘routine’ or ‘conventional’ illnesses seem to have completely disappeared. The GP waiting rooms in our practice used to be full to bursting but I now wonder if (on non-Bank Holiday times) the GP’s are sitting twiddling their fingers because patients cannot be seen ‘in the flesh’ and getting access through online systems seems problematic if my own experience is typical (which, of course, it may not be) When we eventually got to the park today, though, we met one of our ‘park regulars’ who had been looking out for us because she had a booklet which identified all of the trees in the park and she was going to let us have sight of it (As each tree has an ID number attached to its trunk, then the local authority must have a database and I wonder whether anyone has sought to access this in the past.)

I knew that today was going to be a heavy ‘damson processing’ day so the first task was to scour the local supermarkets for the cheapest and largest bottles of gin I could find (preferably 1.5-litre bottles). Fortunately, the three cheap supermarkets of Asda, Lidl and Aldi are all within spitting distance of each other. I started off in Asda where I purchased some 1.5-litre bottles of really cheap vodka, so I am going to experiment this year with a few bottles of damson vodka as well. Whilst there, I bought a catering pack of sugar which is going to be useful, plus a few bottles of Asda’s rock-bottom price gin. Then I made for Lidl but these seemed to be a dead loss for my purposes as they a lot of fancy gins but nothing to suit the likes of me who just want to but cheaply and in bulk. Finally, I went into Aldi where I used to shop regularly where I purchased 10-litre bottles of their cheapest gin. Incidentally, once I got these home my daughter-in-law expressed horror that you cannot go into a pharmacy or supermarket and buy more than two over-the-counter analgesics (for fear they might be used in an overdose situation) but you can buy 10 litres of gin (which would surely kill you) without any let or hindrance. Then I set to work with my preparations. The first task is to sterilise all of the kilner jars with a sterilising fluid (Boots ‘Baby sterilising fluid’) in my case. Then comes the most tedious and time-consuming part of the process. Each damson fruit has to stabbed about five times so that the fruit can release its essences into the gin. This is a very time-consuming process and I was hard at work most of the evening and only finished at about 10.45. The way I perform this task is to count out the fruit in 100’s so that I have a very accurate count of how much fruit I have. Then instead of constant weighing, I will put the correct number of fruits inside each jar and the requisite amount of sugar – these quantities I know from records I have kept in the past. Then it is just a case of topping up the fruit and sugar mixture with gin, giving it a good shake and then leaving it in a darkish place until about December when it will all got bottled into those little wine bottles or cordial bottles you see (which are suddenly worth their weight in gold). Then they just to have been given a shake once or twice a week to encourage the fruit to release its essences into the gin. Having got this task completed, my hands look a complete mess as they are heavily stained from handling so much fruit but no doubt they will improve over time!