I can’t remember who started the conversation, but during an impromptu evening walk with a very good friend I commented that I would love to do this every morning, early. And so it was a plan was formed.
The next morning, at ten to six, I texted to say I was up and received a reply that so were they and we were on.
6.30 a.m. we were off on our walk, chatting rather loudly, I’m sorry if we woke you up with our laughter as we trotted up the town and round the Abbey Fields meeting many lovely dogs, admiring all of the birds and exclaiming loudly with wonder at the size of the fish as they jumped out of the water to catch flies in the early morning light. The ducks were still fast asleep.
It was then that I remembered that it was the Summer Solstice. The start of new beginnings and light and joy. The promise of the sun, no matter how hard the winter, that it will always return.
I felt comforted by this accidental happening, our new plans to land on such an auspicious day.
I think it bodes well especially after the grimness of the last six months, to have plans with good solid foundations for growth, exercise and health coupled hand in hand with laughter, fun and joy. And that is what is going to get me up in the early hours of the morning.
The first of the mange tout, how wonderful. The fact that they went with some left over curry is neither here nor there, (I just had to cook them this evening!) they were a first taste of the summer vegetables on the plot and were delicious.
At this time of year you either see weeds sprouting through with the beetroot and carrots or a perfectly manicured plot. We tend to favour a few weeds, mainly because I am a bit clumsy and it is very easy to accidentally remove seedlings, so I just hoe as close as I dare and pick the biggest offenders out by hand. I do try, but bending over for hours on end is not the best way to see the world. But it is tiring and unless we have a decent carrot crop this year, and not one riddled with carrot fly we shall not be bothering with them again and instead shall grow and plant a row of globe artichokes and buy some organic carrots locally instead. Although, I will miss that carroty flavour, there’s nothing like a fresh carrot, the flavour is so strong compared to shop bought.
But enough of my musings, what is happening on the plot. Well there is a lot of green, its always promising at this time of the year, before the bugs or fungus get a hold, and promising swathes of verdant there are.
And a bit of blue.
The blueberries are having a field day. We only have one tiny bush, it must measure less than a metre tall, but boy is it loaded with berries this year. It must have enjoyed the compost we put on it in the autumn, must remember to do that again.
All of the peas, beans and mange tout are doing well. The greenhouse is full of tomatoes and cucumbers flowering, we are eating our lettuce and spring onions nearly every day. The new potatoes have yet to flower but the plants are looking good. Pumpkins and courgettes seem to be doing okay. The beetroot is coming on nicely, all the brassicas are doing well.
We have a swathe of two varieties of corn on the cobs, which will do very nicely when they are ripe. There are never any wasted!
And a new one this year, Brokali Atlantis, an F1 of a combination of broccoli and kale, hence the spelling. Apparently it produces delicious sweet long tender shoots and is a combination of Chinese and European brocolli and has the potential for high yields. And from what I remember it has a reasonable germination rate. I know it is vigorous and is doing well, I may well crop a little after this bout or two of rain to see what we have.
Please excuse me whilst I immortalise my birthday flowers. Some were bought for me, some I bought myself, all apart from the beautiful flowers next to the roses are at least a week old and all are supermarket flowers, which I make no apology for, supermarket flowers have improved incredibly in the last twenty years or so, and they are so affordable. I remember watching a documentary about the huge auction houses that exist for flowers, it’s totally computerised and is a huge business, quite fascinating.
I love to keep fresh flowers in the house and if I had more space on the allotment I would grow a few, I’ve even been thinking of getting half a plot to do that. But until then, I’ll enjoy the seasons bounty through the eyes of the supermarkets buyers and growers.
We are very lucky in our town in that we have a large and lovely greengrocers that has an avid following, meaning the produce is always fresh. I needed a few bits for supper and tried to entice my resident chef to come for a walk with the carrot on the end of the stick being the greengrocers. It would also help with the carrying back, but he was having non of it, still being very comfortably clad in his Jim jams. Well it is lockdown, there are no rules. But all of a sudden he changed his mind and I was ever so pleased.
We walked through the park on the way up to the town bellowing at each other as the wind had picked up and I could barely hear him. But once we turned into a residential area the wind died down and the sun almost came out to play. We gaily chatted about shops that were there and shops that had disappeared as we trundled up the town.
Once at the greengrocers we quickly decided on our vegetables for supper, some warm and ripe plum tomatoes to be made into a salsa, a couple of good sized butternut squashes, I only needed one but it was two for a pound and some lovely looking flat peaches, which if given the chance I can eat three or four a day while they are in season. A few treats for Mum which included a box of large sticky dessert dates and we were on our way.
We walked to Mum’s via the cemetery, some people think of cemeteries as glum places but I’ve always found them fascinating, there is just so much to see. Firstly we sat on my favourite bench and then we sat on Uncle Franks and Uncle Fred’s. We talked about names on gravestones and how unusual some of them were and if they were a character of a book what would they be like. We investigated a grave that had two gaily coloured windmills going ten to the dozen in the breeze, convinced it would be a child’s only to find it was a well loved grandma and grandad. We exclaimed with delight when we found longevity, the oldest being in their 107th year, and were saddened by when an all to brief a life had ended. Nearest to the entrance where the oldest gravestones are we admired the influences of Art Deco and Art Nouveau on the tombstones along with hints of Rennie Mackintosh engraved into big stone crosses. The use of the various coloured stones and marbles fascinated. We walked underneath the arches of ancient horse chestnuts, whilst we chatted and soon we passed through the beautifully ornate iron gates thickly coated with black paint having been painted so many times in over a hundred years and were back in the land of the living. A moment of precious time well spent.
My resident chef went off to start dinner whilst I spent a little precious time with my parents, a moment to remember.
Is there anything more satisfying than spotting the right piece to slot into a jigsaw puzzle. I don’t think so. You might notice that there are two pieces missing, that is because two Christmas’s ago one puppy dog called Rupert took a liking to the jigsaw pieces and munched a couple, so we had to put it away not realising that two had disappeared! So we never got the satisfaction of that final click as you put the last piece in, but it doesn’t matter. Hubby and I started this particular puzzle, hubby and son no.2 did large chunks and then son no.2 and I stayed up very late one night and had a marathon session on it, with much banter and laughter along the way. We left it in one piece to surprise hubby, I’m not sure if he was pleased or disappointed that he didn’t join in the fun. I’ve bought him a couple more jigsaws which includes one of London. Oh the joys of Lockdown!
To be honest I’d been dreading this birthday, not because of the year that I have become, but because of Lockdown. I thought it might just become another dreary day with nothing to do and nowhere to go and if I’m absolutely honest, I fear that my mental well being is not as good as it could be. I feel fragile and emotional and it doesn’t take much to tip me over the edge. There have been some really good sobbing sessions. I know that I am not the only one as many members of my close family and friends are also feeling the strain, so we just cling to the cliff face and hope we can all pull through.
So with trepidation afoot I woke at 4.00 a.m., which was not a great start. I tootled around the internet and at 8.30 a.m. I woke Chef, because Chef had said he was going to cook me a great breakfast. At 9.50 a.m. it arrived. I could have eaten a scabby cat at that point! I’d been awake for six hours. Apparently there were problems in the kitchen, which mostly pinpointed to a half awake Chef.
But when he presented me with this, Eggs Royale, a poached egg with smoked salmon, napped with a beautifully made hollandaise sauce on my own lightly toasted sourdough, all was forgiven. It was delicious.
The day then started gently, Son no.1 arrived (don’t worry he had still been isolating) and hubby had lit a fire as the weather has become cold and damp, and a little fire in the grate adds a warmth and cheerfulness to everybody. Son no.2 found a Christmas candle with a contraption that spins when the candle is lit and all of a sudden I could smell pine leaves and was looking around for the Christmas tree, such was the ambience of our mood.
The boys had sprawled and were eating junk food. Could I hear the sound of Christmas carols in the background, I think I could. There was even the smell of slow roasting meat coming from the kitchen that I’d popped into the oven a couple of hours previously.
Eventually we woke ourselves from our fug and went on down to the Abbey Fields for the now birthday tradition of feeding the ducks. We had such a great time. First a few family snapshots with my phone.
And then the feeding of the ducks.
Laughing uncontrollably as Son no.2 decides he’s going to take thousands of photographs…. It was so funny.
We then played pooh sticks on my favourite bridge, much to the cries of how can you have a favourite bridge, well you can. Then went on a little walk around.
And found two jackdaws nests and spotted a woodpecker. The jackdaws are doing really well, looks like there may well be several nests. You can just see a parent bird and a tiny beak poking out of the hole. I’m going to need my proper camera.
The brook with wild iris caught in sunshine.
A quick spot check on my parents to say Hi and then homeward bound.
At which point we were all starving. Fortunately I had planned a birthday menu that would yield maximum flavour with minimum input.
We started with ribs. These had been slow cooking for about five hours by this point and I finished them with a barbecue sauce.
They went down very well.
Next, pan fried salmon basted with a coriander and garlic butter served with lovely new potatoes and salad. It was perfection.
And to finish a homemade strawberry pavlova. A favourite over the years with the boys and today it made a comeback appearance and was lovely.
So from an unpromising lockdown position I have had the very best birthday of my life. There were cards and presents too of course, but these dim in comparison to the most loveliest of birthdays I think I have ever had. I feel so happy and content and loved. Has something good come out of Lockdown? Do we appreciate each other more? I think we might do.
I think this may well be the blue print for all of my birthdays, no more gallivanting around doing a day out or going to a posh restaurant in a city. Simple times spent with the ones I love and good but simple food is all I really want or need.
Remember the lillies a week or so ago, those small green buds, even I was worried that they would not bloom. So after a week or so, I resnipped their stems, fresh water and food and out they popped. Lillies give such good value for money don’t they and I love their perfume, it scents the whole room. The only downside, as I was reminded by my good friend Jenny, their toxicity to cats, lethal they can be. It’s always good to have a reminder to things like this.