Sloes and slopes

“We have so much time and so little to do…Strike that, reverse it!”

Roald Dahl

I’ve had a complaint from my youngest daughter. Apparently I should have written a post in honour of her visit home at the end of August…how could I not have realised that? Since Alex has moved to Lonndonn she has, of course, completely disappeared from my consciousness. I never think about her at all and only remember her existence when she rings to tell us about her latest misfortunes: that someone on a crowded bus managed to make a hole in her brand new (knitted by me) cardigan; her feet are hurting and she needs us to sympathize/tell her what to do about it; some individual who deserved to be locked up in a cellar has interfered with one of the exhibits at her museum. And so on.

So it was a real treat to have her home for a few days. There were no assaults on her clothing or on any historical artefacts, and I’m pretty sure that her feet and other parts survived. We took a few trips – to Blaenafon (which she enjoyed as much as we had on our first visit last month), and also to Hay-on-Wye. My baby girl has always been a book nut and I think she’d have happily spent all day browsing the shelves but we had things to do and lunch to eat, so we dragged her and her purchases off to the River Café at Glasbury on the Wye.20170821_140353View from the terrace at the River Café, Glasbury

Sadly, Alex stayed for just a long weekend before she was back off to Lonndonn. I think – I hope – that the girls all appreciate the peace and quiet here, though sometimes they are bemused by country life. When you live in a place that has buses passing your door at least once a minute, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it’s a real shock to be told here that there’s no public transport on Sundays. Not to mention the fact that there’s no home delivery service for take-away food or that the only way you’re going to obtain filo pastry on Christmas Eve when your mother refuses to drive to the closest supermarket in the next town is to make it yourself.96 rhydypenau2.jpgAlex has always enjoyed a day out…

So August has bitten the dust and we’re into September, usually one of my favourite months; I like the fact that the children have gone back to school (even though none of them are mine) and I enjoy roaming the lanes to collect berries from various trees and bushes, looking forward to the yummy results. There’ve been plenty of blackberries, of course – we’ve already eaten enough crumble to sink into quicksand without trace, and there are still masses out there. And how can you ignore them?20170908_135907.jpg

The next best thing on the autumn free food list is the sloe. Well, I say food but we all know what I mean here: I’m talking about sloe gin, obviously. And although I’ve said ‘free’ we also all know that that’s only part of the story. I used to think that making sloe gin meant that you threw the sloes into a bucket with some sugar and possibly water, and that a magical transformation would take place. Maybe it would, I’ve no idea. My illusions were destroyed when I found out that you actually had to open your piggy bank and buy the gin in the first place. Nevertheless it’s a sacrifice worth making and so we wander the countryside, buckets in hand, looking like a pair of hobos. It can be a frustrating search sometimes but this year we struck lucky and managed to pick over five pounds in less than an hour and without moving more than a hundred yards.20170908_135749.jpg

Then we had to go out and buy the gin…20170911_180555.jpg

Winter supplies secured, we can turn our attention to other things. The heady days of summer (ha ha) have gone and it’s almost time to switch on the heating. We took advantage of a fine afternoon recently and tackled the walk up the slope of Ysgyryd Fawr (the Skirrid) outside Abergavenny. It’s not my favourite walk because for the first three-quarters of the distance it’s a continuous slog uphill through an uninspiring woodland. Then suddenly the path emerges from the trees and you are met with stunning views across Monmouthshire. You’re not there yet, though, so you trudge on further, across rocks and mud (which at least was hard and dry the day we were there – it would be a nightmare if it was slippery), around twists and umpteen bends to get to the top…oh, but wait. You still haven’t got there; there’s more climbing to be done and a ridge to travel before you finally collapse at the trig point. Ok, I exaggerate. It’s not too demanding but for some reason it fails to give me the thrill that other walks do and I think we probably won’t do this one again. Just as well I have some photographs for the album!skirrid 2 sept 2017At this point we almost thought we were at the top… 

skirrid 16 sept 2017From Ysgyryd Fawr towards the central Beacons

skirrid 8 sept 2017We definitely thought we were there…

skirrid 12 sept 2017Finally!

There was a horribly energetic man at the top who kindly took a picture of us. He was well past the first flush of youth and made us feel hopelessly unfit when he handed my phone back to me and then practically leapt up onto the trig point so that his mate could photograph him standing on top of it.

By the way I wasn’t joking about the heating – it’s been unseasonably cold recently and I’m not the only one to have complained. Katie’s been very lucky and escaped to warmer places. A weekend in Amsterdam was followed by a work trip to Rome, which in turn is being followed by a week in Corfu. Lizzie is about to decamp from Lonndonn to an exciting new life in Warwick, but more of that in a future post. For now we have other events to look forward to, including a trip to Pembrokeshire before the end of the month. I’ll try to rein in my rampant historian whilst I’m surrounded by castles and Tudors but I guarantee nothing!

Hwyl fawr x

PS my most reliable critic has pointed out that I’ve misspelt ‘London’. Maybe I should say here that it’s a family joke…this is the way the girls and I pronounce it: Lonn Donn, both syllables to rhyme with John xx


6 responses to “Sloes and slopes

  1. Oh, thank you Hazel. It’s surprising how well motivated we are here when our stomachs are involved! What will you do with your grapes?

  2. Fabulous! But now I feel sooooo guilty…. In my defence – it’s been so darned busy of late – but the blackberries and raspberries are still withering on their bushes this year…. what a waste, usually they’d have been turned into jam or whatever…. at least the birds have had a feast…. I really must do something with the ton of grapes in the greenhouse before it’s too late – I really would kick myself if they are left to rot…. You are an inspiration as ever – I will get my behind in gear….
    Lovely post as always X

  3. Brilliant – I read your posts and know what’s coming for us down the line – our girls sound very similar, I’m fairly sure this scenario will play out in much the same way once we make the move out west. I’ve made sloe gin this year for the first time and yes, it is the first year I’ve felt it wasn’t too big a luxury to actually buy the gin. Mind you I totally ignored the online advice to buy good gin, I went for cheap, couldn’t help being a tad suspicious that it was a gin supplier giving the advice…Ax

    • We went for cheap gin – from a shop whose name is an anagram of Dali…
      The situation became a little bizarre when we were approached by a young Polish woman who’d been behind us at the checkout and insisted we went to look into the boot of her car. It was full of bottles of Polish vodka that she’d bought in her homeland for 5€ per litre. I don’t know whether to feel miffed that she didn’t offer us any or relieved that our livers are intact 😛

    • Alex has always had an individual approach to fashion, as you may be able to tell! The park is Roath Park in Cardiff, which boasts a lake and lighthouse monument to Captain Scott

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