Harvest time (29.2022)

You know who I keep thinking about? Barb from season one Stranger Things. I don’t know why, but I keep picturing her sitting by the pool while her friends are off upstairs. Sitting there feeling sad, feeling pissed off and (spoilers!) about to be eaten by a monster. Although she doesn’t know that.

We just started watching Season 4. I’m not a horror / creepy show fan so we have to balance every episode of Stranger Things with something nice and lovely like The Brokenwood Mysteries. Which yes, is also a police detective murder show, but it’s set in the idyllic but fictional New Zealand village of Brokenwood, so that takes the edge off all the murdering that goes on.

The great gooseberry harvest of 2022 is now over. We used red gooseberries to make jam and the green gooseberries to make chutney are we now have something like six jars of gooseberry jam and seven jars of chutney. The jam should last us a while but the chutney will largely be given away as gifts. After all we still have three jars of last year’s chutney in the cupboard.

Chutney in the making

Gooseberries are a pain – as in, they cause literal pain. The bushes are thorny so you stab your fingers and scratch your hands trying to pick the fruits. In previous years we have struggled to even get a harvest worth picking as the local wood pigeons descend on the bush when the fruit is almost ripe and strip it within a couple of days. This year we tried a better form of protection by wrapping the bushes in chicken wire – and it worked! I have kept back some of the red gooseberries in the freezer. Later in the year I’m going to make gooseberry and coconut cake. Anyone gagging at that idea? Tough, I like gooseberries in cake and I especially love coconut so I’m going to enjoy it.

(Apparently coconut is not a popular flavour in the UK. People are always talking about those multi pack chocolate boxes that appear at Christmas, how they wish there were no mini Bounty bars in the mix “because no one likes them”. Seriously! Bring them to me! I like them very much.)

Swimming might be my new running. I have been to the local pool twice in two weeks. I have even invested in new goggles because my old ones (I worked out they were 20+ years old) are no longer watertight. On my first visit I managed something like 40 laps of the 25m pool. This time I managed 44 laps – I counted properly this time. That’s the joy of swimming, the meditative nature of it. It’s all about counting and breathing. When I swim freestyle I count how many strokes between each breath. Backstroke I count strokes to know when I am about to reach the end of the pool. All that counting and breathing leaves not much space to think about anything else.

I swim in a 2-2 pattern: two lengths face down freestyle (some people call it “crawl”) and two lengths face up backstroke. This helps me keep tabs on distance – each set of 4 is 100 metres. Ten sets of 4 is one kilometre.

I enjoy swimming not just for the meditation of counting but also for the blue of the water, the sense of weightlessness, the way the light shines down and makes patterns in the pool, and the backstroke moments when I get to look up through the windows in the roof and see the sky. In fitness terms, maybe I need to do it more than once a week for it to have some effect, but even once a week is more swimming than I was doing before, and it works my arms and my legs and it’s not a heavy impact sport like running so I won’t get joint issues (but I can still get cramp).

My first trip to the pool I was enchanted by the whole being in water thing. “This is just like being at the seaside,” I thought, “but without the salt and sand.” On my second trip, with my eyes not longer tormented by chlorinated water from leaking goggles, I was better able to look around and notice the small bits of grubbiness. Remind me to always take my special ‘pool slippers’ with me in future, so I don’t have to walk around barefoot. And soap to wash off the pool water – despite the showers having soap dispensers, there is no soap available. I’m sure I will get more competent at packing all the necessary things the more often I go.

We are in our third and final week of Edinburgh fringe previews at our local comedy club. Last week, during the heatwave, we had comedy booked for three nights. Monday night was the worst. Second hottest night of the year, the air con that was brought in was not even touching the sides of the heat, and there was quite a crowd. Add to that, the headline act had dropped out so the MC managed to get two comedians in to fill the space of one, giving us three in total. Which means the gig ran late – after 11pm – and I’d been sitting on that hard chair for over three hours in a room so hot I wasn’t sure if I was going to faint or fall asleep. Either way, funny as the comedians were, I was very much in a “can we just get this over with so I can go home” mood.

Things which are making my life better right now:

* The Bus Times app. Coming home, I have a choice of two train stations and two bus routes. I can use the app to work out which station has the most conveniently timed bus and get off there to limit my bus waiting time. (Don’t roll your eyes at me. This is huge. It means the difference between waiting for 10 minutes or waiting for 2 minutes )

* The revamp of the square. I may have mentioned this earlier, but now I have photos. I’m going to miss this when we move to Canary Wharf.

This weeks big drama: our cat went missing for 24 hours. He didn’t come home to have his dinner on Wednesday night and he didn’t come home to have his breakfast on Thursday morning. For a beastie who loves his food, this was worrying.

I went to see our neighbour three doors down because sometimes the cat goes to visit her. She said she’d checked her garden but hadn’t seen him, but she also said that I was welcome to make a second check of her garden. I guess the distraught look on my face was enough to make her feel sorry for me. I went into the garden and called for the cat.

Much to my relief, I heard a definite plaintive meow from over the fence. Relieved and anxious I went around to the next door house and knocked on the door.

“Excuse me, can I please check your garden because I think my cat is in there and he’s been missing for a whole day?” (Said breathlessly without any punctuation.)

They let me in. Who wouldn’t let in a slightly crazed looking woman muttering something about a lost cat? The woman who lives there told me she thought she had heard a cat in the garden but she hadn’t seen anything. (Yes this is two doors down and I don’t know this person at all but remember – this is London. It’s perfectly acceptable to not know your neighbours.)

I’m in her garden calling the cat and a bush by the fence is calling back to me. I stick my head into the bush (I did say crazed) and see a mournful looking cat looking back at me.

I reach in to scoop him up but something is holding him back. His back legs are caught up in some vine, immobilising him. I’m gripping the cat with one arm and trying to rip the vine off his legs with the other. That vine was tough and took some breaking but eventually I broke it and the cat was released and with cat now secured in both arms, I took him home, where he tucked into breakfast and then drank a lot of water. A good appetite is a good sign; so I brushed him and let him sleep. His back legs were a little more wobbly than usual for a day or two but he seems back to normal now.

By normal I mean grumpy and demanding food any time someone opens a cupboard door or the refrigerator.

A happy ending for a lost cat. A less happy ending for Barb, and indeed for many characters in Stranger Things.

I’m kind of dreading watching it but I’ve been through three seasons of hell with these kids. You can’t just walk away and leave them.

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