It’s that time of year again, the strawberry beds offer up the odd lusciously red but sad, sour, berry. The courgettes are having a final spurt. The tomatoes, apart from the odd couple of plants hanging on for a grim death are done. The soup leeks await their allotted fate, as do the late planted potatoes that will join them in the pot. The last of the excellent pepper and chili crop are coming to ripeness and the grapes (what few are left by the blackbirds from hell) are the last big job left to undertake. Consequently this will be the final “View From The Greenhouse” of 2022; those of you cheering at the back will no doubt be disappointed to know, with good luck and a following wind it’ll be back in 2023, but, until then I’m going to TRY and do some more memoir and a bit of fiction. With the consent of Swiss I’m going to offer up rewrites of those “Twenty Five” stories which have already been published on this august platform and fill in a couple of holes in the story line with several new chapters. I’ve struggled to get my head around some of it for a couple of years now but hope springs eternal. I doubt it’ll get me anywhere near a publisher, but, if I ever get it definitively “finished”, then it’ll live on the old Interweb forever (or, at least, until the button gets pushed or the asteroid arrives).
Not the greatest of pictures, but you can see where the blackbird is managing to perch on a branch and pick the juicy ones. I caught it unawares the other day and, although it’s quick, I gave it a fright. Sadly it flew into the greenhouse frame and damaged a leg, something which I really hadn’t intended, I just wanted it gone, but it’s still in here, chirping away as if it’s laughing at my futile human efforts to protect my produce. I’ll harvest what’s left tomorrow (Wednesday). TBF, there’s still a decent crop to go at, although not anything like the amount I had last year. Grape jelly to look forward too.
A solitary Cavolo Nero stands guard over the late potatoes, something which I’ve never planted before (I may have already previously mentioned this). This plant was virtually decimated by Cabbage White offspring, but I kept cleaning them off, knowing the butterflies would eventually die off and I might have a chance of saving it. I’ve put in a couple of sprout plants and another Cavolo in the hope of extending the growing season. Given the current price of food, so long as they grow on, I may have been wise before the event. A first for me, if so.
Although, as (again) previously mentioned, the tomatoes haven’t been collectively up to much I have managed to make several batches of soup. One with roasted peppers, sweet and deeply flavoured, one with peppers and chilies, spicy and very warming and this one, the old favourite, a blend of skinned and de-seeded tomatoes of several varieties, onion, a carrot and a couple of pounds of courgettes to bulk it out, with the added benefit of bringing a natural thickness to the finished product. It freezes really well and, with a couple of slices of toast, or even a cheese scone, makes a passable evening meal, if you like that sort of thing.
Rural life has both its compensations and its pitfalls (more of which later in the piece) My daughter sent me a somewhat garbled message telling me she’d taken a call from someone who had some damsons. She didn’t catch the name, but given the infinitesimal diameter of my social circle it didn’t take me more than a couple of calls to locate the source; Would I like a few ponds of ripe fruit, straight from the tree, bypassing the middle man and FOC? I didn’t take a great deal of convincing. I had a 2lb bag of jam sugar in the cupboard, although the damson can thicken nicely to a set using ordinary granulated (or so I’m told), so I set too making a pan of jam, having first nipped into town to buy myself five new 1lb jars, because, however many jars there are in the cupboard, there are never quite enough. I never make jam using the half and half (fruit to sugar method) and I never use as much water to start the process as any recipe suggests. Any road up, the final outcome, using 4lb of fruit, 2lb of jam jam sugar, 1lb of granulated sugar and three quarters of a pint of water produced five jars (and one large bowl for the fridge) of luscious, sharply sweet, deeply purple well set jam. I even managed to get most of the stones out, although one or two still lurk, waiting to crack the teeth of the unsuspecting.
Took the opportunity to visit Manchester for The Rugby League Premiership Final and meet up with my good pal (the innkeeper of The Firkin Fox https://going-postal.com/2019/10/a-short-postcard-from-the-firkin-fox/) and his son. They travelled up on Saturday morning, but I’d stayed overnight, having driven into the city centre from the north. The game itself was exciting enough, although the result wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but we had decent seats and were in The Rhino’s end, so it wasn’t a total washout. Copious amounts of beer were consumed throughout the day and the second curry of the weekend was partaken of later in the evening (Mowgli and Delhi Village) as is usual on such occasions. Both meals, I have to say, were very good, although it never ceases to surprise me just how expensive a meal in a city centre restaurant can be, maybe I ought to get out more, but at those prices, I couldn’t afford to. Another double edged sword. The journey into Manchester was an eye opener. Most of you will have seen the film “Black Hawk Down”, which offers a fictionalised portrait of the 1993 battle, which took place in Mogadishu, Somalia, between US Rangers and militia fighters loyal to the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. I mention Mogadishu because the road we took into Manchester could have been any one of a number of roads in the Somali capital. Lots of small shops, with roller shutters half closed, graffiti everywhere and a majority of the people on the street clearly of African origin. I have nothing against Africa, or Africans, for that matter, but I have to wonder, when they arrive here, with all the opportunities that living in Britain has to offer, why then do they insist on turning the streets they frequent into replicas of those they left behind?
I was going to have a little bit of a rant about the Party Conferences and the brouhaha surrounding the “mini budget” but, given the events of this morning (Monday) there hardly seems any point. It’s no secret that I had little faith (or trust) in Boris Johnson and the only reason I could possibly have chosen Liz Truss (had I had the option) as PM was purely because she isn’t Rishi Sunak. She is, of course, another in a long line of Globalist “neo-liberals”, but, as with all things political, I lived in hope that I was wrong and here was a woman who would put a government together which would have the well being of this nation and its peoples at the forefront of its policy making. My optimism hasn’t lasted long. I couldn’t see what was so wrong with the tax cuts, but then I’m neither expert or taxpayer (although HMRC keeps sending me demands). The majority of the wealthy cognoscenti (discounting opposition politicians) and “talking heads” who immediately got on their high horses don’t pay tax in the conventional way, they pay accountants to “minimise their exposure” whilst salting their £millions away in tax havens or investing them in other “tax efficient” schemes. One has to assume the only reason for so vociferously protesting the “injustice” is the continued desire to bring down the government, impose a “Progressive Alliance” and take us back into the EU. I watched from the sidelines with slight amusement, both the screeching hysteria of said “talking heads” and the mouth frothing ranting of Labour, Lib Dem and some “Conservative” politicians. I was heartened to hear that Ms Truss wasn’t for turning on this matter either. She and her chancellor believed it was the right thing to do for the economy and the country. For my part, whether it was the right thing or not wasn’t that important, she was standing up to all the doom mongers and naysayers, which I believed was exactly the right thing to do.
Turns out she wasn’t standing up to (or for) anyone. This naturally begs the question as to why the reduction in the top rate of tax in the first place; Did she collude with her chancellor to purposely introduce a policy which she knew would lead to sterling being shorted, allowing city wide boys to make a huge killing, within the short time it took for the currency markets to rally? Highly unlikely, but not totally implausible, given it’s alleged the chancellor is pally with every dodgy spiv and chancer in The City (including his old boss, Crispin Odey, who’s rumoured to have made a small fortune by shorting sterling following the tax reduction announcement) . Is she actively trying to make the country so ungovernable (at the behest of her *alleged WEF paymasters) that an early GE becomes a reality, a coalition of “Progressives” takes power and goes, cap in hand, on bended knee to the EU, begging to be allowed to rejoin? Because, and I’ve said it many times before, you may think “Brexit” is done but many powerful people will never rest until it’s undone. Did she simply, as inexperienced as she is, “misread the room” by introducing a raft of measures that were virtually cost neutral for the country, but would almost certainly feed the media and opposition beasts, who’ve had such a taste of Tory blood they’re rapaciously hungry for more? Quite possibly, although if that IS the case she should (and probably would) have stuck to her guns. After all, she has a large Parliamentary majority and would likely see off any back bench rebellion, unless she’s so terrified of the “talking heads” and so indecisively useless that government by populist opinion will be the norm for the next twenty months and the GE will be a massacre anyway. Whatever the case, any half sensible policy to do with energy, infrastructure, the “green” agenda, (heaven forbid) Covid or anything else that doesn’t involve further bloating the public sector and/or appeasing the “liberal” cognoscenti is doomed to failure before it has chance to get off the ground. The lady’s for turning, they all know this now and turn she will, until she ends up whirling like a Dervish.
Post Script; The sad little tragi-comedy that is my local pub has, I believe, entered its final act (again). Forget the fact it’s quite clear Admiral Taverns aren’t vetting (or even training) potential tenants, forget the fact that their (Admirals) beer pricing structure means a pint of premium lager, freely available six miles away for £4.20 sells (when the Charlie Cairoli impersonator can actually be bothered to get off his backside and try to pull a pint) for £6.20, forget the fact the till system is so complicated that even the landlord can’t work it, forget the fact the front of the establishment looks like an abandoned farmhouse. These things actually pale into insignificance when weighed against the fact the new tenant believes he’s taking the pub in the “right direction” and the only glitches he’s experiencing are “teething problems”. Forgive me for questioning his wisdom, but if putting untrained and unsupervised waifs and strays behind the bar, who do a shift, neck as much vodka as they can and disappear without trace; trying to sell beer that’s thicker in the glass than a London smog then saying “don’t worry, I’ll use it for the steak and ale pie”; leaving customers waiting for over an hour for food and getting shirty when they complain and promoting his “exciting new menu” with pictures from a restaurant which closed its doors seven years ago is “going in the right direction”, then I’m going the opposite way, the guy’s verging on delusional. It’s very sad. The potential is there and I did originally feel some sympathy for the landlord, but when the ultimate responsibility lies with a business which appears to be uninterested in how well its establishments are run and promoted, there’s little hope we’ll ever have a functioning local, unless someone comes along and picks up the freehold or the village buys it out as a community asset. Neither of these things are currently looking like be realistic options. I’ll be driving past it tonight, to get to another pub, I won’t be alone.
© Colin Cross 2022