Making Jam, Marking Time

Home to a flurry of activity.  I find a message from my friend Lis to say that their damson tree has gone into over-production and, as in previous years, we are welcome to go and gather some fruits from the lawn.  We have a small window of opportunity whilst they are at the house.  It is good to catch up with Lis and Charles, my unofficial twin, and I come away with 15 lbs of the small, ripe, deep purple plums.

But first I must make some rhubarb and ginger jam with the last picking of St V rhubarb.  When made it looks and tastes like marmalade, quite unlike the green low-sugar batch which I made in France with crystallised ginger and which had to be kept in the fridge.  I’ve already exhausted my small stock of preserving jars so beg and borrow jars from Lis, who even empties her fridge of jars with a spoonful of contents left in them to help me out!

I use 6lb of damsons to make 10lb of jam.  Finding myself slightly short of granulated sugar I make up the quantity with demerara and am amazed the taste pervades the finished product.  But it sets beautifully and I glow.  Not having made jam for a long time it is a satisfying feeling to know that I have a stock of jam to offer allcomers at St V with their morning baguettes.  The remaining damsons are combined with apples, onions, dried apricots and spices to make chutney.  This has always been a good standby (cheese platters at St V!) and by the time all my preserves are potted I can label them with my customised Fuchsias labels and range them along the Welsh dresser, feeling very provident.

At the weekend we go to dinner with Vikky and Udo and on Sunday to the Wings and Wheels air show at Dunsfold.  I am seriously impressed with the flight of the Vulcan and the show the Red Arrows put on is incredible.  Most memorable for me was to watch them process along the runway almost nose to tail for take-off.  Something civilian aircraft are not allowed to do.  On the ground they are small and elegant craft.  In the sky the precision of formation is breathtaking.

On Monday we are Grand Force and go to Hackney garden and put in a day of toil.  At least Nick does.  I nibble at the edges of the existing flower bed and tidy it up.  They start to dig a complementary flower bed on the opposite side of the steps, Dan, Nick and Charlotte.  I have ideas, I think a deep purple to black, and cream, and green-flowered selection of perennials would look good with some of the nearly black and cream tulips we have at Godalming.   I’m thinking dark helleborines and lime green ‘red hot pokers’, Euphorbia…….

On Tuesday we go up to London early evening for Kathy and Robert’s  Ruby celebration at the Oriental Club just off Oxford Street.  Our erstwhile neighbours who moved to Bristol nearly 20 years ago are throwing a dinner party which turns out to be delightful.  The setting is gracious and civilised, the meal is good, I find I have an engaging dinner companion and before we have to rush for our train Nick manages best part of a game of snooker, partnering Clive who flattened Nick at squash in their only ever game about 20 years ago.  I dare say we all look a bit older but we are all just the same people as we remember each other.

We get a train at 11.45, get home and at 4 a.m. a taxi comes to pick Nick up for Gatwick and his flight to Croatia.  I sleep blissfully on.

In the days that follow I visit my mother and get a lot of stuff done in the house, and garden.  I plant out the Primula which have given generously of themselves since the spring.  Some go into the fern garden, others in a long wooden planter at the front.  Also, because I will be having a visitor on Saturday evening, I weed our frontage and steps.  Carolyn Mary is coming to sleep overnight so Jane can pick us up at 3.15 for our 6 a.m. flight.  A trio of ladies bound for Croatia.  (I’m now the proud owner of a Netbook, a ‘baby’ as my friend Bas calls his.  But I’m not sure if I will get near the Internet to blog whilst I’m away, gloom….)

I am more than usually organised before a trip.  Factored into the countdown have been arrangements for Dan and Ems to borrow one of our cars because theirs died 100 miles short of Penzance.  They have gone to Prussia Cove and even hours in after their arrival,  their excitement at being at this very special Cornish haunt is evident from their Flickers and Twitters and Facebook posts.  The Porth en Alls estate seems unchanged, untouched by a need to upgrade, improve, modernise.  The Coastguard cottages look exactly the same as they did more than 20 years ago when we went as a family.  But they evidently have Wireless!