Thursday 15 July

I have been thinking about scourges of the past, and how people coped with them. Leaving aside the plague, and the Black Death, more recent killers have been leprosy, cholera, smallpox, TB, polio, diabetes. All of these diseases have now been by and large eliminated, or at least controlled. My generation all has scars from the smallpox vaccination, which was very unpleasant. No longer needed. So Covid has leapt up to take the lead position. However we now have a vaccination programme which seems to be very effective, and improved treatment for those who do develop the disease. So what are we all frightened of? The answer is, death, the last great taboo. I am fearful, of course I am. This has been true from the beginning of time. But so many taboos have now been lifted. Women do not need to fear an unwanted pregnancy, sexual orientation of any description is tolerated, we can openly discuss all kinds of topics which in the past would not have been acceptable. Except death. Many people have not made a will, or do not know how to react when someone near to them dies. In the pandemic the collective consciousness has had to face the reality that none of us is immortal. I can see that this is a hard lesson to learn.

Well to jollier topics. It’s amazing how the mind roams when picking raspberries or rhubarb. I have decided to make some rhubarb gin. Not the gin itself of course, that is ready made, but first the chopped rhubarb is infused with sugar for 24 hrs, then the gin marinades it for 4 weeks. A wonderful pink colour. Serve with elderflower tonic water and ice cubes: a very refreshing summer drink. Recipe on the internet, but I would advise reducing the amount of sugar unless you want a very sweet liqueur.

Horrendous floods in west Germany: what funny old weather we have been having. The management of water resources is one of the most critical issues of our time, but we do not seem to be making much progress. I am reading a book called The Lost Rivers of London: there are quite a lot, including one which is almost entirely underground in Coulsdon and Purley. But occasionally it bursts forth through the storm drains. It is The Bourne, which flows into the Wandle, which flows into the Thames. We have walked along quite a bit of the Wandle: huge efforts have been made to clean it up and fish are returning.

The 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata. I used to play this: it is a very relaxing piece and more difficult than it sounds. Barenboim is of course the maestro. I like his shirt collar, though it looks very uncomfortable.

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