Sloely does it

© Spirits Beacon Wait til they’ve gorn black before tweeking from stems

Up in North London where slugs have had a bonza year but the voles seem few and far between, it’s been a mixed nosebag, too, for the early risers. Too late for Haylage, Hay’s been lumped rather than baled for some reason and mounds lounge carelessly for anyone to settle into for a read in the rising sun.*

Unlike Elderflowers whose pollen benefits from a full day’s sun before picking, elderberries, redcurrants and cherries are most succulent after a drench by dew and before the sun has winked, warming their fruity boughs.

A complete washout for Blackberries; have you noticed? Ush. No bramble jelly this year alas. However … and this is the point … sloes are having something of prodigal return to favour. Previous couple of years were somewhat lean. But, but, but: suddenly great fat blackthorn berries burst out in the joy of last week’s Indian Summer.

With so much gristle on our plates with narry a crust to mask the grinding nature of getting through the next six months, it is really heartening to be reminded that so long as we can just hang in there, there’s hope for better. We can and will get through the testing times ahead. Sloes can do it: so can we.

* But this morning was the start of what is going to be a long, long … long haul to careless, cheerful Spring 2022. Dank and howling, crackling leaves dropped by age, crispend by warmth are soggy markers, reminding one that if we are to persist through and vanquish what lies ahead, compassion is going to be a strong weapon in the armoury of endurance. Remember: each thing gives birth to itself. Kindness builds muscles for kindness.

South Georgia on my mind


The James Caird

HEAVE – the James Caird putting up resistance as Shackleton’s crew pulls. Picture taken by the ship’s photographer, Frank Hurley: images so cold and clear you can hear the ice crunch

In November we posted on Sir Ernest Shackleton and crew of the Endurance.

Today marks another, nautical milestone amid their adventures. In the James Caird, little more than a skiff, six of them left Elephant Island: no more than in three shakes of a lamb’s tail they made it across 800km of cold water to South Georgia.

There is much to say about the fact they sailed with minimal instrumentation. The Southern Ocean sounds large. It is large. Akin to finding a tadpole in Lake Huron, I wonder if what drove them on to landing ho was the utter impossibility of letting the side down?

Hold ya nerve. This rattles through my mind every time there seems some mighty ambition to be realized against all odds and occasional common sense. But you know what? It’s a corker of a maxim; strength of purpose builds strength of character; which, perhaps, helps keep our pecs up?