Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Miscellany of Plums

They are in season.  In our house (the one I’ve just moved to if you read the last blog) they have been appearing frequently in brown paper bags whose contents rapidly disappear.  Quite fond of them myself, but the other half, she loves them.  They are well nice cooked, as far as I remember.  But chez nous they get eaten much too fast for any such preparation to be hoped for.

She knows her plums.  She reckons Victoria Plums, the ones you most commonly find, are far from the best and recommends a list of other varieties – some of which she obtains and do indeed taste pretty good, if I get to have a sample before they are gone.  Like so many fruit, supermarkets - with their general tendency towards enforcing standardisation and 52 week a year supply - tend to import them.  My partner, however, is not alone in thinking that British is best.

All this set me wondering.  Just how many varieties are there?  An online search proved overwhelming.  Some of the names alone are enough to make your mouth water.  Coe’s Golden Drop, anyone?  How about Belle de Louvain or Blue de Belgique (obviously British from skin to stone)?  And oh, to try a Warwickshire Drooper or a Denniston’s Superb, a Golden Sphere or a Wallis’s Wonder.

Some of these names are redolent of history or legend, it seems: Monarch, Black Prince, The President, Guinevere, Avalon and Excaliber.  Others the names of those who presumably bred them: Angelina Burdett, Edwards, Kirkes Blue, Reeves Seedling, Marjorie’s Seedling or the particularly evocative Sanctus Herbertus.  Yet more imply richness and quality: Ruby, Opal, Denniston’s Superb, Early Prolific, Valour and Verity.  Surely we can’t go wrong with any of these.  A plum pilgimage across our land is called for.  Just as soon as we…  Oh.  Hello reality.

It is, of course, a similar situation with apples.  The story does not end with Coxes, Galas, Braeburns or Granny Smiths.  Far, far from it.  But I’ve already bandied one list of wonderful names.  Go look for yourself.  The danger is that whatever you find may just be in danger of being lost if we don’t seek out the richness of product that main suppliers deem un-economic.  I’ve long been guilty of buying the crap stuff myself, simply out of convenience.  Imports from New Zealand?  What was I thinking?  But my partner’s enthusiasms have re-kindled my interest.  You can’t break the pattern every time you buy – if it’s the only shelf available and you’re hungry, you gotta eat.  But try when you can.  Keep variety (and locally produced variety at that) alive.

Now where can I find a nice Violetta, I wonder…

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cardboard Boxes

The blog today is being written in a house where nearly everything is packed in cardboard boxes awaiting a house move.  I’m sitting in a room that was once my ‘office’, where I got most of my writing done, surrounded by near content-less furnishings, some dismantled, and I’m feeling vaguely ghostly.  A spirit haunting premises that were once laden with the imprint of me and are now in the process of reverting to anonymity.

The circumstances are essentially happy, there are no regrets about this move, but there’s a touch of the bittersweet too.  I came to live in Shaftesbury (a small town at the northern tip of the county of Dorset, for any readers unfamiliar with the UK) just over three years ago with a very different set of expectations to those I hold now.  Some emotional twists and turns awaited me, and some of the expectations were shattered.  Yet the town itself drew me into its social life and held a welcome.  I chose to stay here.

So the move is not from Shaftesbury, but to another house within the town that’s suitable for myself and partner to share.  We haven’t found it yet but getting out of our individual houses first is a part of the process.  And this one has done me well enough and been a good home – hence the feelings of which I write.

So up in an attic bedroom whose dormer window looks out to a fairly distant view of the first hills of Cranborne Chase, the boxes are piling up.  Although it was one of the house’s most attractive features I never made much use of it until more recent times.  The rest of the house was my main domain, the work space here, a smaller first floor bedroom and the ground floor.  Being mid-terrace it was cosy and economic to keep warm in winter.  I filled the walls with psychedelic and art nouveau-ish artworks and drapes, enjoyed my books and recorded music, shunted ‘Wilful Misunderstandings’ out into the world and made a start on novel.  All good stuff, and doubtless more to come in new circumstances.

But hey, you probably know what I’m saying.  End of a chapter and all that.  I’m not going to go on a my usual length.  There’s still plenty to be done before it all gets shifted on Thursday and the house will be emptied ready for some repairs to the rather crap chipboard flooring.  So this is just a wave and a hello.  Normal service to be resumed in two weeks time, more or less.

I leave you with, I hope, a video from YouTube of Loudon Wainwright III’s take on this whole moving thing.