Well, lots done this last couple of weeks, but none of it to do much with poor old Murray. I bottled a demijohn of wine I made in April 2011 and am rather pleased: normally wine making is a summer job, both to gather the fruits and to have enough warmth to bring on fermentation, but I had just defrosted the freezer and removed various small tubs of blackcurrants, elderberries and other similar bits and bobs and we had some fine weather, so I decided to give it a go. The result is rather like cold mulled wine - distinctly spicy, very fruity and a bit sweet, but not too much.
'What do we live for, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn?' Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice may well have had us and our neighbour in mind. I suspect we give her great amusement with our various eccentricities and downright foolishness, but in turn she has on two separate occasions dropped hedgehogs over our wall. I hasten to explain there was no malice in this: she knows we would like one in our little walled garden, and she was protecting her over-inquisitive dog from the hedgehog. Her charity to the hedgehog is less easy to prove, as she slipped them over the wall on a shovel. The first vanished without our ever making its acquaintance: whether it crawled under a hedge and died or whether it took one look at the garden and decided to try its luck with the dog, I don't know. Hedgehogs are unexpectedly good climbers. The second, she explained, looked a bit sickly, but we met it last night and it is, in fact, braw, a sturdy, healthy-looking specimen. I hope it eats the slugs, and not either the frogs we've introduced to the pond or the worms in the wormery. We're waiting to see which cat comes in first with a spiked nose and a shocked expression, but perhaps I'm underestimating the street wisdom of both cats.
What with all this, and returning from Allotment Major with three large and heavy bags of veg, I'm thinking of writing a book called 'Keeping a Bee: Aspirations to Crofting in a City Allotment'. The allusion is, of course, to that famous line by Chic Murray, allegedly stolen from Punch: Chic Murray was staying in one of those notorious theatre tour guest houses, and when the landlady presented him with a minuscule pot of honey for his morning toast, he is supposed to have exclaimed 'Ah! I see you keep a bee!'.
The swallows are gathering on the telegraph wires already: I was surrounded by them and their peeping the other night as I stood at a village bus stop waiting for a bus that never appeared. A distinctly wistful experience (halleluiah, however, for the little pub across the road that cooked me haddock and chips and provided a loo!).