The BSG’s ‘motherland’ is the Isle of Wight, so what better place to spend the August bank holiday than on its beaches in the sun - during those ‘sunny intervals’, at least.
And this is exactly what we did, along with his mum and some of our great friends.
Steephill Cove in the south coast of the island is like a scene plucked from a Blyton-esque seaside adventure. Reached solely by a path or two (anything big comes down in a wheelbarrow apparently), there stands a small cluster of houses, beach huts and shacks. As you pick your way along the seafront around the lobster pots and gaily coloured buoys, small cafes and restaurants become distinct among the nooks and crannies in the weather-worn wood – it couldn’t be more quintessential had a film set-dresser gone wild on it.
At the café at the end, and out of the cool south-westerly wind that had, I discovered, acted as the burning sun’s accomplice that morning as I lolled idly in my deckchair, we feasted upon shocking pink prawns (to match our sunburn) and fresh crab baguettes. Completing the spread were doorstop slices of brown bread and butter, which would have been oh so Milly-Molly-Mandy if it hadn’t all been rather decadently washed down with a lovely sparkling wine. All very jolly, which absolutely has to be the right word, and although the allergic BSG had to make do with coronation chicken, there were no complaints from him.
It being a UK bank holiday, the weather then set in slightly, so we embarked on another mission, to be completed in May next year, at our wedding. We had been thinking for ages about putting our own stamp on the reception as we love making things, so sloe gin seemed the perfect answer. Ruby coloured and syrupy, it always strikes a festive note, and goes well with cake and cheese.
The BSG makes much of the island’s special ‘microclimate’, so when his 101-year old great aunt - still going strong and as sharp as Paxman – told us that sloes would be out and where to find them, I could well believe that she’d be right. As their location must remain secret for posterity I am stopping here, but needless to say Auntie Pad hasn’t lost her magic - the crop was abundant, and there is still a lot more for picking later on, if you know where to look. We soldiered through the bushes as they did their best to fight us off – ouch.
Once frozen overnight, pricked (sweet revenge), sugared and sloshed, those 5 kilos (!) of sloes are working their jewelled magic. As a bonus, we have found another use for them, once they are out of the bottle in a few months’ time. Flicking through a book on preserves, we came across a recipe for a sloe gin and juniper jelly – great with game apparently. It’s all feeling rather rich and autumn-y to me. Surely summer's not packed its bags just yet?