Today was rather dominated by the fact that half way through the morning, Meg had an optician’s appointment so whilst she was having her eyes tested, I availed myself of a wander through Poundland where I picked up some cut-price cleaning products. As it was a bit late for a park visit, we went home and had our elevenses at home for a change. Wednesday is the day our domestic help vists us and it was helpful that we could sort out Meg’s wardrobe for her Uncle Ken’s funeral which is in about ten days time. Whilst I was out on the road, I bumped into the wifely part of the Irish couple down the road and she managed to convey some good news to us about a health scare she had had recently. When we got home, we organised a sort of mélange of vegetables (onions, peppers, tomatoes, peas, mushrooms) to which mixture I added some sauce and the last of our chicken thighs which had been well and truly seared off. This made quite a tasty dish that turned out to be enormous but Meg managed practically all of hers and the rest of the mixture was gratefully received by our domestic help (who often relieves me of my excess food when I cook too much).
This afternoon was dominated by the solemn procession of the body of the late Queen carried on a gun carriage whilst her children walked behind it. Prince Andrew was, of course, present and had probably seen as much intense military conflict as anybody being a helicopter pilot during the Falklands war (if my memory serves me correctly) However, I have to say that he walked with a truly military bearing as he alone of the Royal Family was dressed in a morning coat as the Queen had stripped him of all of his military titles. However, he was still allowed to wear his military medals. The crowd was largely silent interrupted with occasional bursts of respectful applause. After the scenes of Diana’s funeral, I half expected some much more overt displays of public emotion but the crowd was largely silent. The procession ended with the Queen’s body borne aloft and placed upon the catafalque in Westminster Hall – as in Edinburgh, I had my heart in my mouth thinking about the soldiers who had to perform their tasks flawlessly, which they did. The commentator observed that even members of the military who have the concept of ‘stiff upper lip’ instilled into them exhibited the occasional tear or welling up. When Meghan came into view, joining Prince Harry, it appeared to ne that she had indeed been shedding some tears. I think all observers of the scene were struck by the solemnity and the poignancy of the whole occasion. As the Queen’s body will lie in state for four days, then members of the public are lining up to pay their respects. I have heard an estimate that the length of the queue is up to three miles long and official government advice is to expect a wait of up to 30 hours before your moment has come. People do seem to have come from various parts of the globe to pay their respects, catching flights at the last moment in order to get here on time. Actually, I do remember that on the occasion of Winston Churchill’s funeral, I was twenty years old and a young civil servant working in a ministry in central London. I went to the location (probably Westminster Hall) to view the coffin if only as it seemed the right thing to do. I mentioned this to my son and wondered if he would have done the same if he had been of my age and working in London at the time and he told me that he would. The service when the body of the Queen was received in Westminster Hall was beautifully chosen but I dare say that the plans have existed for years.
After lunch and watching the procession, I set to work in my long delayed bottling of the damson gin. This is slightly complicated until I get into my stride. It involves locating the bottles of the appropriate size and making sure that old labels have been removed after which the bottles have to be sterilised. After that, each Kilner jar of damson gin has to be decanted and filtered through some muslin clothes using a variety of vessels so that each small bottle is eventually filled. So far, I have managed about a third of the whole task and I suspect that the limiting factor may well be the bottles themselves. I do have some wine size bottles that I may have to use eventually and, of course, I can always store the excess in the original gin bottles that I bought when the damson gin was laid down about a year ago now. As is often the case, when the production line gets organised, these jobs can be done fairly quickly if all of the relevant supplies are in place to start with. Each little bottle will be ‘primed’ with a very few dropos of almond essence which is of the ‘tricks of the trade I have picked up over the years but one has to be careful to limit this to only 2-3 drops which is not always easy.