Sunday, 20th December, 2020

[Day 279]

We rather overslept this morning – or rather woke up at the normal time and then promptly went back to sleep again. Consequently, I had to rather race to throw my clothes on after a cat-lick wash in order to get the newspapers before our weekly dose of the Andrew Marr show. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary was interviewed about the latest lockdown measures and he appeared to be showing the strain of the last few months, weeks and days. He did announce that he got up at 5.00am this morning and was defending the government line that they were only informed about the transmittability of the new variant COVID-19 on Friday afternoon. But in a question of ‘Who knew what? When?’ there is a certain degree of dissimulation going on. It was pretty evident to many observers that London and the South East were experiencing rates of virus increase before the data about the transmutability of the COVID-19 was drawn to their attention, so as we have to come to expect by now it does look as the government was again ‘behind’ the curve rather than ‘ahead’ of it.

In the late morning, I started to prepare some of the bottles into which I am going to decant the damson gin which is ripe for bottling now, having been made over three months ago. Most of the bottles had already been cleaned up i.e. removed of labels but some had still be processed. I always remove all of the old labels and especially the glue that is often left behind. Some labels remove easily after a soaking in hot water whereas others are more problematic. The worst cases have to have my special treatment which is a dribble of boiling water to soften the glue, a bit of cream cleaner and some wire wool and then a lot of scrubbing – repeated several times. Then the bottles have to be sterilised – fortunately, this is quite easy using Boots sterilising fluid (used for babies bottles) and the bottle has to be filled with this diluted fluid for at least half an hour. Some of these preparations done, I then carried on to get our Sunday lunch (rather a light one this week as the family are having their Christmas meal tomorrow). Then I had a bit of a doze and a swift purview of the Sunday newspapers.

After lunch, the damson gin bottling started in earnest – although I do this every year, I still have to remind myself of the techniques I use. This year, everything worked quite smoothly. I used to some brand new dishcloths folded into about four to provide a good filtration medium. Then the liquor content of each Kilner jar has to be strained through the cloth into a wide-necked pyrex jar (this is the tricky part because you have to hold the straining jar on the one hand whilst pouring the Kilner jar with the other) One Kilner jar fills about 4-5 little 250cc bottles. The final real trick is to add the minutest quantity of concentrated almond oil essence into the top of each bottle but you only have to insert one or two drops no more into each bottle. Then the labels have to be prepared and I always have a few leftover from the year before but never quite enough so that is a quick trip into W H Smiths in the morning (I have a design I like to keep from one year to the next) I need about 4 bottles for friends down the road and five bottles for the Pilates class on Tuesday. The last-minute job tomorrow morning is to give them a quick wrap in Christmas paper ready for distribution – of leaving on the doorstep for those who are out.

The implications of the COVID-19 variant are still being assessed. and in some cases acted upon. The Health Secretary has admitted that the virus is ‘out of control’ in London and Southeast England. Many other European nations are rapidly putting bans of flight to and from the UK. Our screens showed some terrible scenes of train terminals jam-packed with people late on Saturday night as they ignored government advice and tried desperately to get out of the capital before the lockdown started at 12.00 midnight. As on commentator on the Andrew Marr show commented, these crowds of people, some of whom are probably incubating the virus, will be doing their bit to spread the virus right across the country. Another really worrying statistic is that some of the modelling suggests that the ‘R’ factor of the new strain might be 0.9 ‘extra’ to the underlying rate. As London had an R of about 1.1 then another 0.9 on top indicates why the government had to act, Christmas notwithstanding, to save the nation from a complete disaster.