Friday, 4th September, 2020

[Day 172]

The weather has turned colder this morning so we had to wrap up a little warmer as well as ensuring that we were not caught in a shower. In the park, we often have interesting conversations with dog-owners and today was no exception – today, it happened to be the lady owner of a magnificent looking golden retriever. I suspect that by now Meg and I have seen more varieties of dog than we have had hot dinners – this is largely because, I suspect, the dogs suspect that some little titbits might be on offer and come bounding up to greet us as we drink our coffee on the park benches. Earlier on today, I wondered how I could process the remaining 90 grams of damsons that I had left over from the damson gin/vodka bottling activities. I did a quick bout of research on the web and decided not to bother making jam but just make a compote of fruit. All I had to do was to add three-quarters a cup of graduated white sugar and then let it simmer for a few minutes. Then I emptied the mixture into two spare kilner jars once it had cooled and put a little greaseproof circle of paper in each one (I have seen other people do this in jam but I am not absolutely sure why). I gave one of these jars away to our domestic help who had a little taste of it and declared it to be absolutely delicious. For our evening meal, we decided to have some rice pudding and try out a little of the compote which we had to flavour it and I agree – it really was delicious! I suppose, though, that it will have to be eaten up fairly quickly as there is no preserving agent in it but that is no hardship. As I had explained to our near neighbour how laden the damson trees were this year, we spotted that she had gone ‘the long way round’ and entered the field at the back of our house and using the footpath (and fighting off the sheep) had taken her pick of what must have masses of fruit growing on the other side of the hedge. Food for free – a thought for our times.

As we seem to have been quite busy with damson-related activities, Meg and I were a little tired so allowed ourselves a restful afternoon. I occupies myself with the really exciting activity of removing the labels from some small 20cl bottles which I will eventually fill once the gin has matured. However, I do need to collect about 70-80 of these within the next few months so I am on the scrounge already.

I don’t normally comment on what is going on on the TV but tonight is rather an exception. As I am writing this blog, I am listening to Ravi Shankar’s daughter giving a stunning performance on the sitar as part of tonight’s promenade concert (but to an empty Albert Hall no doubt) When I was at university and going out with Meg, she and her flatmate had got some tickets to see Ravi Shankar himself and so she actually saw a performance of his ‘in the flesh’ as it were and, in the fullness of time. I wish now that I could have gone along as well. At the time, we were all enamoured with Joan Baez, a Mexican-American folk-singer (and one time ‘amante’ of Bob Dylan, who wrote ‘Diamonds and Rust’ as their relationship was ending) When Joan Baez came to Birmingham about two years ago we went to see her perform in one of her (many) farewell concerts. Whilst there, her road manager was selling off some very early recordings of Joan Baez and I purchased one of these in which, as a 17 year old, she is singing accompanied only by herself on her guitar a version of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ Many people will know the raucous Animals version of this but the Joan Baez rendition is something out of this world. She had the most incredibly clear diction – how many people realise that the whole song is about the song-writer’s sister caught up in prostitution in ‘The House of the Rising Sun‘. Enough reminiscences for one day!