Saturday, 17th September, 2022

[Day 915]

Today was a much colder day but beautifully bright. As no rain threatened today, we took the opportunity to put a washing line’s worth of washing out to maximise on the opportunities provided by a bright September day. We collected our newspaper and then made our way into the park, a little later than usual. Then we got joined in the park by Seasoned World Traveller and we exchanged some gossip of the day. We never know quite what kind of topic we are going to end up but we got onto the topic of talking about job interviews we have had. We have both had the experience of attending job interviews that you know you are not going to get but go along for the experience. In circumstances like this, do you say what you really feel or do you try and preserve some semblance of being diplomatic. We have both had experiences of attending interviews when we knew that we would never succeed and have had the pleasure of walking out if we feel we have not been treated particularly well. Then it was home to a lunch of a beef mince stew, enhanced by onions and peppers plus a dollop of brown sauce which is a way in which I cheat slightly to get an enhanced flavour.

Now that I have all of the elements in place and it was a fine day, I decided immediately after lunch to pick the damsons. Looking at the records I have keep over the years, I have generally picked at about this time of year or sometimes a few days earlier, by date. It was just as well I picked today, though, because a few had already dropped off the trees but those remaining on the trees very quickly dropped into my hand. I like to count the number of fruits that I have picked because this is quite a reliable way of measuring out final quantities rather than weighing them out. I knew that last year I had picked about 550 fruits and I picked the same quantity this year which is about 10 Kilner jars worth which should give me about 7 litres worth of prepared gin/vodka. To help me keep count, I have a collection of 1p pieces which I transfer from one pocket to another after I have counted to a hundred. When ultimately bottled, this should give me about 30 bottles worth of small 220cl bottles which is the size I prefer when I eventually make presents of them all. This year, it only took me about an hour or perhaps a little longer to collect the fruit – needless to say, the ‘low hanging fruit’ is easy and quick to pick but then I use a long handled rake to pull down the taller branches within reach so that I can pick the more inaccessible fruits. The tedious task that lies ahead is to put about five gashes in each fruit to allow the gin/vodka to penetrate it but I have found over the years that one of those really old-fashioned tin openers that used to leave a really jagged edge on the tin is an excellent tool for making these gashes in the fruit. After this tedious ask which will take several hours, the actual preparation of the gin itself is a simple enough procedure.

This evening and I think tomorrow evening as well, the BBC have pulled off a master stroke which is a repeat showing of Paddington followed by Paddington 2. After the Queen had participated in a really humorous sketch featuring Paddington (bear), last Christmas, this is fondly remembered as the way in which The Queen shows that she had a tremendous sense of humour. So amongst many of the floral tributes, it is not unusual to find a ‘Paddington Bear’ complete with the words ‘Thank you, Ma’am’ which was one of the closing scenes of the sketch. Some even go as far as leaving a couple of marmalade sandwiches (again, part of the sketch and the whole Paddington story) in their little sealed bag. The authorities are having to gently point out that this is not a good idea as straightforward floral tributes in their thousand are compostable whereas Paddington Bears are not. I can imagine, though, this has proved to be a completely unplanned but innovative way in which young children brought up on Paddington and the recent sketch can make a connection with the death of the Queen and the funeral tributes.

The queue of people wishing to pay their last tribute to the Queen is now 13.5 hours long – this, itself, is down from a high of 24 hours earlier in the day. Most people are saying that their wait is well worth while. A common sentiment that I have heard expressed more than once is that of the Queen can reign for 70 years, what is a few hours of waiting in order to make a final farewell. Once in the queue, people seem to exchanging their life stories and making friendships that will endure. The normal ’rules’ that Londoners have (do not make eye contact with strangers, do not talk to other people on public transport and so on) seem to have been completely swept away and the queuing population has found the pleaure of actually talking to each other.