Wednesday, 6 June 2012

June 6th - A village Jubilee

Dear Nigel,

Two days after moving house and there is a chance to meet the rest of the village at the Jubilee Tea Party. I congratulate myself on finding the iron in and among our mountain of unopened boxes, and duly ironed tea party dresses for myself and the little ones. I needn't have bothered; the weather and the sudden drop in temperature made certain that most of the village were dressed in ripped barbours and leggings. It wasn't long before we too were head to foot in raincoats and my daughters' vintage dresses covered in as many stickers from the children's sports as they could plaster on.

The proceedings started with a traditional rendition of the national anthem. Only when it was nearly half way through did anyone realise that there wasn't an introduction and we were supposed to be singing. So there was a quick rewind of the tape and we started again.

I stood outside in the drizzle cheering on the children in their sports, who seemed oblivious to the cold and wet. At one point a field of cows got out and threatened to trample onto the playing field. But luckily they headed down the road instead. There were commemorative mugs to paint for the children in the back room, and then we headed into the village hall for the tea itself.

I had been under the impression that not many people seemed to have turned up for the celebrations - at least the audience for the sports was a bit sparse. But when we went in to the warmth of the hall suddenly a room full of people seemed to have nipped in on the quiet, having bi-passed both the children's sports and the national anthem, and were raucously tucking in to the banquet of cakes on offer. The Women's Institute appeared to have taken over, as they so often do on these occasions, and the teapots were flowing and  raffle ticket money extracted with the sort of intimidation the average loan shark would do well to emulate.Never had a cheap bottle of wine suddenly looked so enticing. Secretly we were all hoping for the Bagshaws farm meat voucher. Naturally it was the first to go.

You have been making gooseberries with mascarpone cream. One of my favourite fruits, it's season is so perilously short: three or four weeks according to you. I particularly love the 'edible' gooseberries - the fat pink hairy ones that you can't buy in the shops but catch occasionally in old gardens, and pluck and devour whole before anyone sees you. My mum rarely seemed to gather enough for a whole crumble...

The ordinary green cooking variety is best poached. You like it with 'a jug of yellow organic cream', while i prefer mine with thick plain yoghurt or mixed in to a fool. Your recipe for mascarpone cream appears to be similar - a kind of rich vanilla custard - and i may give it a go if i can find any fresh gooseberries anywhere : I've not seen any as yet.

For supper you are steaming sea bass with ginger and cucumber, and just a small amount of chinese spicing. I am rather heartened to see that as your kitchen doesn't have a large-enough steamer for this, you 'get by with a Chinese wicker basket suspended over a heavy casserole of boiling water'.

With best wishes from the cottage at the end of the world,


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