What a way to bring summer to a close!
The past three weekends have been amazing.
After more than 18 months of restrictions and lockdowns we opened up our garden and finally got friends and family together in one place.
1st: Came my youngest son’s 30th birthday party which he held in our garden (30, How did that happen?) – It was a far cry from the teenage parties of yesteryear! The thing about 30 year olds is, they are grown up and they willingly help tidy up afterwards.
2nd: Lisa’s 50th birthday party – also held in our garden with the same marquee, this time with a pizza van and a bar and a bigger guest list, naturally. Both events brought the sunshine with them and we could not have asked for better weather despite forecasts of showers and cloud. The pictures say it all.
3rd: An afternoon at a gin distillery ( need I say more?) Lisa was given the gift by her brother and off we went to Laverstoke Mill, on Sunday.
I was not too keen at first – I mean, I barely drink alcohol these days but I was intrigued because all those years ago, when the children were small, Dave worked at an engineering company then housed at Laverstoke Mill. An air of memory lane accompanied us.
“I should think the tour and the tasting would take about an hour, maybe an hour and a half,” Lisa guessed, as we arrived at 3.30pm. We nodded happily, we should be home by 6.00pm. The mill looked lovely in the sunlight and swans sailed by on the River Test. It was really quite idyllic.
Lisa was excited and fully invested in the experience. She handed over her visitor’s pass to the receptionist.
“There is a discovery tour of the distillery and grounds which takes about an hour and 25 minutes, then you have forty five minutes for complimentary cocktails and snacks before a masterclass which takes about an hour.’ The receptionist paused to make sure we had taken it all in. “So that’s 3 hours in all.”
We entered the waiting area.
I am not sure which one out of us three spoke first but the glances we shared said it all… 3 hours? How would we survive? Mindful that this was a birthday gift, we girded ourselves for whatever came next, as did several other people on the tour. Mutterings of, 3 hours?! Could be heard rumbling through the crowd.
As we looked around at our fellow ginsters, we couldn’t help wondering how many were here because they had been given the opportunity as a gift. They were the ones looking slightly shocked because, like us, they had done zero research into times and course content.
We had to laugh at ourselves and I was immediately reminded of the time Dave and I, newly engaged and on holiday, climbed aboard a small boat having read the advertisement board on the harbour wall, proclaiming, “Come and spend half an hour, gently sailing round the harbour,”
As we sat in the rickety, rocking boat, my stomach somersaulted into my throat. I swallowed hard. I could do half an hour, it was fine. The sea looked like a mill pond, albeit a mill pond into which a giant whale had just splashed.
Other passengers boarded and took up their positions on the little wooden seats. A little dog yapped excitedly as it jumped in beside us and wagged its tail as it wedged itself between the knees of its owner. I adjusted my Union Jack carrier bag (this was 1977 – Queen’s silver Jubilee) and sat back to enjoy the experience. The little boat headed out – and further out – the captain spoke into the tannoy,
“Welcome aboard the Lazy Jane, folks, thank you for joining us this afternoon as we sail around the bay. It will take the Lazy Jane about an hour and a half, though the weather is a bit choppy further round the cove so she may take a bit longer,” the Lazy Jane lurched sideways as if to prove a point and my stomach lurched with her. I stared at the sea, at the horizon, what should I be looking at to keep my equilibrium? And did he really say an hour and a half? What!? I threw Dave a panicked glance. He grabbed my hand as the wind whipped my hair. As I said, newly engaged.
Another lurch and I knew I was about to lose my breakfast.
In desperation, no fool throws up over the side of a boat in the wind, I bent my head into my Union Jack carrier bag.
The wind howled, and the little boat rose and plummeted on the waves. My fellow passengers smiled smugly at my inability to deal with things. I had now resorted to keeping my head virtually in the bag.
One man, wearing a hideous green T shirt, was particularly scathing, “Not used to sailing I see, no sealegs! Tut tut!” he chortled, indicating my hapless form and eliciting a frown from Dave, who called him something unmentionable beneath his breath and squeezed my arm. (My hands were now firmly attached to the Union Jack bag.)
The minutes went by slowly. Someone else groaned. I looked up as the man who had been so scathing about me, threw up over the side, not very successfully. After him, it seemed the entire boatload of passengers were leaning over the side and the piece de resistance came when the little dog threw up all over the man in the green T shirt.
An hour and forty five minutes later, the captain announced we could disembark. I looked up, dazed, and followed my fellow passengers onto dry land, all sporting an identical, glazed look. Even the Captain apologised.
“Sorry folks, it was more choppy than I bargained for when we set out – hope you enjoyed the experience anyway!
“Was he joking? Hard to tell, besides, I was too busy looking for a rubbish bin, which I found next to the blackboard announcing that all sailings were cancelled for the day.
I dropped the Union Jack bag into the bin and holding tightly onto Dave, made my way back to our apartment.
Recovery was fast if not instant.
Dave admitted he had felt a little queasy though had not actually had to empty the contents of his stomach into the ocean.
Thankfully, our experience at The Bombay Sapphire Distillery, bore little resemblance to that long ago boat trip.
The afternoon was warm and sunny…the tour expertly carried out, the cream tea and complimentary cocktails welcome and the master class, not a potentially boring exercise in how to distil gin but a wonderful, engaging and interactive lesson in how to make gin cocktails that taste amazing. Well, as a life long vodka drinker (I manage about one a month on average) I am now a convert. Three hours later, we emerged, smiling.
“Amazing! What a brilliant afternoon!” we agreed, as we made our way back to the car.
Funny how the things you are not looking forward to so much, often turn out to be the very things you enjoy the most eh?
Next time we will read the small print. Meanwhile, pass me that bottle, please!