Sunday, 12 October 2014

sighing for retirement

O take me from the busy crowd,
          I cannot bear the noise!
For Nature's voice is never loud;
          I seek for quiet joys.

We took the annual pilgrimage to the Trimley Marshes Blackthorn patch as Mrs Dave felt the call to make some Sloe gin. Now, we don't have a "secret Sloe patch of which (we) speak proudly and guard jealously" as John Wright writes in Hedgerow (River Cottage Handbook No 7) but we do have two regular patches that tend never to fail us.

One of the patches is over the river at Bawdsy. It's a tiny fenced off wild field but we've never been told off for entering and helping ourselves. The other is the Trimley one we went to yesterday.

As we walked along the track past the fields and marvelling at the rich Autumnal colours amongst the trees, we laughed about a previous trip a few years ago. We had done exactly the same thing but on a Sunday. The weather was okay but "threatening to wet" as Bill Caddick sings. By the time we had started to pick the Sloes the rain got heavier and heavier, eventually causing us to give up and trudge back to the car soaked. What made it so memorable was that an old lady in a car drove past (cars rarely traverse lanes) and stopped to give us a lift. She didn't mind that we dripped rivulets into her car's interior. Such is the kindness of strangers. As we remembered that time, spots of rain started to hit us occasionally. Mrs Dave took no chances and elected to wear her flimsy rain coat - of the 'pacamac' variety - but despite the clouds in the distance nothing much came of it. In fact, the sun broke through and the walk back to the car later was beautiful and quite warm.

We had a good haul of Sloes, we'd managed to time it just right and find plenty of juicy ones amongst
the dried and shrivelled fruits waiting around to rot. A trip to Lidl on Sunday to find some reasonably priced gin and next year's supply is secured. I'm not a fan of gin at all - it suggests golf clubs and weekend sailors to me - but Sloe Gin is another beast all together. I've found quite a few mentions of it in various recipes such as crumbles and gravy. It's a much more pleasant drink than normal gin and certainly comes into its own to sip as a postprandial tipple.

Near to the car park we stopped to look back over the fields and tracks that we have wandered across this past quarter of a century and admired the Stratocumulus clouds looming over the horizon. at least, I think that's they are. I'm sure someone will tell me differently. I'd left my phone at home updating so Mrs Dave took the picture above.

Bloody Apple had sent me an email saying that I had to update my phone to continue getting updates for Twitter - which I have continued to use although I'm not obsessed by it! Unfortunately that means that my iPhone screen now looks totally different and all modern. Obviously I can't use it properly and spend all my time trying to find things that were a doddle before. Welcome to the future, one where you're never allowed to stay still.

Whilst walking along the tracks yesterday we looked back over the past few months and hoped we'd made the right choices. Both of us going down to three days a week has meant a huge cut in income but we feel that the benefits outweigh the 'benefit' of earning full salaries but at the beck and call of our paymasters. The slight distancing from the everyday at school has meant a healthier outlook and the opportunity to feel more in control. We can afford to wander these lanes without guilt - the piles of marking are much smaller! This last point is a huge bonus for me now that I have dropped English teaching completely.

So, yes, we reasoned, we have made the right choice and we look forward to retiring from the classroom come August - well, July really - and can wander these lanes without any guilt whatsoever. Our days can be enjoyed away from crowds and noise and listen more intently to Nature's voice as John Clare wrote.

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