Autumn is upon us, misty mornings, shorter days and cool breezes from the west herald its arrival. In our tiny corner of North West England, little changes. Sheep get moved from field to field, taking advantage of the newly sprouted grass, where the hay has been harvested. Evidence of at least one fox is everywhere, but, unlike in cities, they remain mostly wary of human contact around here. Owls seem busier, House Martins swoop over the fields and crowd the telephone wires, buzzards train their young, rising high on the thermals and the bloody blackbirds seem, now the strawberries are all but done, to have taken a liking to my grapes!
There was one little piece of heartening news to stir the village stalwarts from their enforced torpor, The Herdwick Inn reopened on Thursday, not to a fanfare, as such, more to a lone bugle, playing mournfully two villages over, but the local is the local and, as such, should be deserving of my support. However, early impressions don’t fill me with the greatest optimism for the future. The new chap at the helm certainly talks a good game, especially where the future food side of the business is concerned, but the front of the building hadn’t been tidied up, nor had much been done to the interior, beyond the minimal of cosmetics. I decided (as did the rest of our Tuesday evening quorum) to give him the benefit of the doubt, I want him to make a real go of it, after all, but the fact he seemed so ill prepared, only had one (albeit a decent enough drop) beer on tap and didn’t have a single measure of any spirit behind the counter doesn’t bode too well. The jury’s out, but I hope, from the bottom of my heart, I’ve misjudged the situation and he manages to keep it going through the coming “kipper” months and on into 2023. Bottoms Up!
The grapes are almost there now and although I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to make wine I think I’m going to stick with a 50/50 split between juice and jelly. Last years jelly (it’s jam really) has just been finished, a spoonful in a bowl of nice salty porridge does the job as well as honey, for a fraction of the cost. I lowered the vine away from the glass by about a foot prior to any leaves forming, but if I’m to protect the fruit against the worst of the summer sun I think I need to bring it down a further foot and use a garden fleece to shade it during the hottest days. I blame the dried up (sultana like) fruits on botrytis, but I’m kidding myself, it’s my laziness at not looking after the vine as well as I might. Still, there’s always next year.
There’s a local veg box scheme which I subscribe too, although given how much I grow I often tend to end up with more than I need, especially in the summer and consequently I always seem to be making soup, of one type or another. Any road up, I got talking to one of the women who runs it and the conversation got round to summer gluts. She hadn’t realised I was a grower, she does deals with several small cultivators and was interested to know if I had an overabundance of anything, which she might be able to take to one of the local Farmers Markets. Me being me, I promised a box of peppers and chilies before they were ripe and had to give back word, then, when I had ripe fruits, I got the dates wrong by a week and missed the window of opportunity. Happily for me, she took this little lot to sell in her on line shop or use as part of the weekly delivery schedule. Knowing my luck, I’ll probably get a bagful back next Friday! The slight disappointment is the fact that none of the chilies has any real “heat” about them, which is kind of essential for the annual jam making. Methinks a dash of Tabasco may be in order.
The aubergine experiment is paying off, although what I’ll do with them is anyone’s guess. I don’t know a soul who actually likes eating them, although a “Brinjal” pickle makes a decent accompaniment to a home made curry with poppadoms on the side. The old jam pan looks like doing some heavy work this back end. The photograph, taken with my old Samsung telephone, is what I’m really proud of.
With autumn comes an extension of the time of plenty, this time in the shape of apples, which old Jacks trees have an abundance of and plums, which my own tree is groaning under the weight of. Sadly the tree, as heavy with fruit as it is, is suffering from canker and, as a consequence, many of the fruits, especially on old growth, rot on the bough, further harvest is lost to wasps and crows, who do me the questionable favour of clearing off the fruit in the top of the tree, saving me the trouble of getting the ladder out. Whatever, those fruits which are untainted by disease and still whole, having avoided the wasps are lovely eating, sweet, juicy and with just the hint of sourness you’d expect from a decent Victoria.
My medical situation is well documented, and I’m not going to bang on about it for now :-), but I got a letter recently from Northumbria Health, advising me that they wished to have a telephone consultation to discuss my current treatment regime. That’ll be a very short call, because I don’t have one, beyond being told there isn’t anything to be done! Any road up, following my experience in Bath https://going-postal.com/2022/05/bath-a-chance-encounter-long-covid/ I’ve started to look into herbalism (beyond nettles) and mindfulness (without going full “hippy”). I’m looking to grow and/or forage plants that have positive benefits for the body and I’m going to trust my own body to tell me when enough is enough. I hadn’t attempted a fell walk since Haystacks, when the physio told me I’d done “too much”. I took it to heart and decided my hill climbing days were over, but since then I’ve given it some thought and got back in the saddle, as it were. It hurts, and Black Crag is a bit of a baby at 1,060 feet, but I’ve done it now and it won’t be the last. I’ve said it before, but we set too much store by what medical professionals tell us, it’ll be something very serious to make me ever see the NHS as a solution rather than another aspect of the problem. I sometimes think I’ll never learn.
Some of what happens in this country is very “shabby” and it’s often the small things which raise the hackles a little. I see things in the “news”, or posted on “social media” and along with many other people (quite probably a majority of the nation) I get to wondering what it’s all about. We know things are bad, given the “Pandemic” and the kerfuffle in Ukraine, but we also know a modern “civilised” society should have a government (and public services) which put the best interests of the majority of citizens at the very heart of what they do and stands for. We should, given the resources available to us, be able to provide good, affordable and reliable energy to the whole population. Government got it wrong when it decided to put “Net Zero” at the top of the agenda without giving any real thought as to the cost or the timescale involved. Maybe it’s all part of the same plan to create a nation of paupers, beholden to the State, who own nothing and are happy. I’m not so sure, but whatever the thinking behind it, if there was indeed any thinking, the outcome is a potential disaster for everyone who wants to lead an ordinary, comfortable life. But, and here’s the rub, whilst all this is going on, and whilst we’re still unable to contain our borders, or stop young black men chopping lumps out of each other every weekend, or give our elderly a decent pension, or send Albanian “gangsters” straight back to Albania without passing go, the “cash strapped” NHS spends £millions on art and IRO £60K a day on translation services. Fire services across the UK, desperate to be “inclusive”, spend tens of thousands of pounds on rainbow flags and have even painted fire engines in rainbow colours. A chap called Vernon Everitt (as part of a cost cutting exercise) takes a £600k golden handshake from TfL, only to take up a three day a week post with Transport For Greater Manchester on a reputed £650 a day. We have no money, we’ve sent it all to Ukraine, or spent it on unattainable “Net Zero” targets, or on Big Pharma “vaccines”, or mountains of next to useless PPE, or setting up unused “Nightingale Hospitals”, but we can still find £millions to waste on pointless “virtue signalling” or, possibly worse, on the Public Sector/Quango/Media/Political Money Go Round. Sadly, I don’t see it changing any time soon, because it’s entrenched.
An extremely shabby state of affairs.
© Colin Cross 2022