Up over the green & gold of the wooded valley, washed with the descent of a million sunlit-sparkling raindrops, arched the shimmering iridescence of a beautiful rainbow.
I opened the door of our snug cottage for a better appreciation of its’ tapestry of transparent, luminous colour; & gasped at the sudden rush of frigidly clear air which greeted the groaning hinges. The forecasters were right: it would indeed seem the last day of summer has been replaced with the first day of autumn. Idris the Sweep must soon be summoned, to set the chimneys fair for winter fires….they’ll be needed ere long, I suspect. All in all, after the stubborn showers remaining over our little Welsh valley reluctantly dispersed, it proved a fine & sunny day; though my mood was not particularly similar as Nanuk chose this morning’s walk to pull like a train – or, I suppose, a sled dog really – for much of the way; further damaging my already fragile hand. This wasn’t helped by the unpleasant revelation that Tony couldn’t be sure when he’d be coming home, as his aircraft captain had contracted gastroenteritis & had been pronounced unfit to fly. Tony promised by way of consolation to visit Aleppo’s fine spice souk, & hunt out some goodies for me; but even that transpired to be impossible owing to erratic opening hours during Ramadan. Meanwhile the feed shed is almost out of hay, straw & sacks of poultry corn; thus it appeared my hand would have to further suffer if I was to move the heavy bales & bags from the barn.
A chink of light on the otherwise somewhat bleak horizon, was the promise that my wonderful, dear friend Michelle, would be coming to stay in early October for the Ffarm’s external Milk Recording check – & would hopefully bring with her our other Cotswold friends Aafkhe & Sandi, for a ‘girlie’ weekend as Tony would be away – so something to look forward to. Also, Michelle & husband Neil would be bringing the children to stay for a few days towards the end of that month; even better news.
The telephone rang again; this time it was a producer from ITV, Patrick, calling to tell me we’ve been selected to briefly participate in a forthcoming James Martin cookery programme on celebratory meals. I’ve been asked to cook a joint of our roast pork, for the camera; & to provide a batch of the Hay Tea ice cream for a studio sampling (poor Sylvia’s superior & delicious Sticky Chicken didn’t get a look-in; still, I’m sure she wouldn’t forgive me for broadcasting her ‘secret recipe’ to the world, on prime time TV!). So that’ll be next Friday….I’d better get my sleeves rolled up….!
I took the opportunity for a quick chat with Katherine (aka ‘Boo’), a fellow former RAF Officer who now runs a superb Bed & Breakfast on the outskirts of Newcastle Emlyn. Maes-y-Derw (Oak Park) Country House is their beautiful Edwardian property which boasts loads of fine original period features & is tastefully decorated & furnished with Carl & Boo’s collection of Campaign antiques & furniture. Boo – a former Catering Officer – is a fine chef to boot; & with the couple’s warm companionship, a visit there is always a particular pleasure. Boo & I concluded that, owing to the vagaries of this difficult season, we definitely need an imminent ‘business lunch meeting’ together, at one of the excellent branches of Ultracomida, to bolster our flagging spirits! Meanwhile we bemoaned the disappointing lack of sloes in the hedgerows, with the consolation we’d be forced into attempting alternative fruit gins – such as blackberry this year, instead….watch this space for a recipe & tipsy analysis of how it goes (hic!).
But the lack of hedgerow bounty, isn’t the only thing to bemoan, today; there are fresh concerns that the same meat-packing plant near Merthyr Tydfil that was earlier suspected of a case of FMD, may have it yet: because sheep from a farm in Surrey’s Protection Zone – which have now tragically tested positive, were apparently recently moved to the plant in Merthyr. Thus new worries abound that the disease may have already transcended the Welsh border…..anyway to us it seems foolhardy in the extreme that the nationwide ban on all livestock movements has already been lifted, so that animals can be taken to slaughter – no vehicle is impervious after all; & should the unthinkable happen – the unwitting transport of livestock as yet showing no clinical signs of FMD – it may yet lead to a catastrophically wide-scale spread of the disease. I dread switching on the radio these days, in case the news confirms our worst, helpless fears.
Supper was a simple affair, as the start of the season with its’ colder, comfort-food-requiring evenings, dictated: succulent little joints of plump chicken, roasted in the Rayburn with a smattering of sea salt & a sprinkling of herbs & pepper; fat, juicy mushrooms, lightly tossed in a pan of hot oil with scented herbs, dark honey, ruby-red wine, pepper, salt & fresh lemon juice before being mixed generously with tender grains of white rice; polished off with a goblet of robust red wine married to the piquant spiciness of Mountain Gorgonzola spread on thin, crisp water biscuits. So often, the easiest of meals are the tastiest, too…..food for thought, indeed.