Friday, 16th September, 2022

[Day 914]

It was a beautiful and fine early autumn day but the temperature was certainly dropping by a degree or two and there was quite a sharp breeze. Last night, I completed the bottling of most of last year’s supply of damson gin and damson vodka but not having labelled the Kilner jars, I am not absolutely sure which was which. However, it was quite satisfying to get this job accomplished as it should have been done months ago. I add one or two drops (literally) of almond essence, leave the bottles inverted so that the almond oil diffuses and then store the bottles in a large cardboard tray in the garage. Once you get into gear, the bottling does not take too long but there is a fair amount of cleaning up of Kilner jars and general tidying up and putting away of equipment but all of this got done. As a finishing touch and to make sure that the bottles looked neatly stacked, I sorted them out to size, shape, type of screw cap and so on, only to realise that I now only had only the faintest idea of which was gin-based and which was vodka based. When we were in the park, the breeze started to intensify and I was conscious of the fact that if we had a stormy night, the low hanging fruit of the damson trees would be shaken loose and we would lose almost the entire crop. So I thought I had better go to my local Asda in search of really large bottles (1.5 litres worth) of really cheap gin. I was in luck and bought six 1.5 litre bottles (and 9 litres is just about what I have just bottled from last year’s crop) plus two big bags of sugar to supplement recently bought supplies and four of the largest Kilner jars which Asda often sell at this time of year. I had two large fabric shopping bags stuffed full of liquor and accompaniments so I thought I would avail myself of a shopping trolley and my car was parked about 200 yards away. All was well until I got to a point just beyond the supermarket when all of the wheels locked. Whether this is a special design feature or a complete coincidence, I really cannot say but I turned the trolley around and dragged it to the vicinity of the car so that I could load the precious cargo into the boot. Then the trolley got returned to the environs of the supermarket when the wheels magically unlocked themselves. I now have everything in place to process the next harvest which Meg and I inspected this afternoon and the damsons really are large and ready to fall, as well as being quite accessible. If the weather is fine in the morning, I may well have a picking tomorrow morning but I intend to leave some of the fruit on the trees if they will stay on the trees that long so that when our friends return from holiday on about next Tuesday, I will have a supply of damsons ready for them (as I promised) There is always a bit of a problem what to do with the ‘discarded’ fruit. I used a really large cooking vessel that we can occasionally deploy for large cook-ups and stewed the fruit for an hour or so with the modicum of sugar. Then to test it out, Meg and I treated ourselves to a dollop of the compôte, some vanilla icecream and some yogurt and the result was delicious. The cômpote was nowhere near as tart as I imagined that it might be so more – some obliging friends and relatives might even turn up some of my copious supplies (which I have now bottled) into a tart or a pie.

The incessant focus on the Royal funeral is getting to us both a little but, hopefully, after Monday it will all be over and we can get back to normal life – and politics. Whilst a lot of government activity is ‘de facto’ on hold until after the funeral, the new Chancellor of the Exchequeur has let it be known that he is considering lifting the ‘cap’ of banker’s bonuses. The rules, first adopted Europe-wide, put a cap on a bonus that limited the extent of the bonus to no more than 200% of the recipient’s salary – as though this wasn’t enough. The intention of the cap was to try to curb the reckless behaviour of bankers using weird financial instruments that brought about the financial crash that preceded the pandemic. The government reason that attracting international bankers will grow the economy and hence the tax take -but are not bankers of all people completely adept at siphoning off money into obscure tax havens so they are never taxed at the appropriate rate in any case? I wonder if the forthcoming funeral is just an excuse to bury bad news whilst the attention of the population is distracted. The government have only announced an intention so far and not implemented the lifting of the cap on banker’s bonuses but if this passes muster in the House of Commons, it will really show the population whose side the politicans are on.