Not Long to Go

Fig wine colour co-ordinating with a pumpkin and my maturing Sloe Gin.

It’s been a while since I posted a ‘first fifty’ blog and because it is nearing the end of the year the ‘firsts’ are starting to pile up.

Over the past few weeks the firsts have been;

Read Great Expectations
. I have read Dickens before but am amazed at the amount of people I have met recently who declare this to be their favourite all time book. It was beginning to get to me. In my classics bookcase I have a fine set of three leather bound compendiums my dad bought years ago and never read. Mark Twain (another who beckons), Arthur Conan Doyle and Dickens. There is no excuse.

The introduction to this version of Great Expectations claims, rather sniffily, that it was a block buster of its day. I can assure anyone who has never read it, that it is a fantastic page turner but it deserves the title of classic. The characters, particularly of Pip, are flawed with human traits and the mad Miss Haversham is every bit as nutty as I imagined she would be. Even the ending is left for the reader to decide. It may not be the best book I have read but it is certainly in the top twenty.

Make Fig Wine
. This year I planted a fig tree and in anticipation of that crop I bought a 500gram bag of figs from the health store. I was then flummoxed as to what to do with them, so I did what I always do with buckshee produce – I made wine. Fig wine was easy to make and cleared to produce a warm honey coloured liqueur with long legs. And the taste? Well it tastes a little strange – it tastes like honey and Greek yoghurt. I am sure it has some medicinal qualities too!

Go to the Bingo
. This is one I have been pining to do. When I was an unruly teenager I would occasionally go to the Sunday night bingo session in the Oakley Miner’s Welfare Club. I sat among all the old biddys and tried to win back some of my drinking money. I was hopeless because I was always too shy to call, but I hankered after these big colourful neon sparkled bingo halls just the same. What would they be like?

On Friday night my friend Fiona and I went to a Carlton Bingo(somewhere in Scotland). We signed up for our membership, paid our money and were given a pile of bingo books, each page containing about six separate grids to play off. It was daunting. The wee man at the microphone was kind enough to tell us what order the books were to play, then we were off. This must be the best trial for concentration I have ever had. The game starts with trying to fill one line. In no time someone calls. The next game is for two lines. This was new to me, they never had this in Oakley. It turned out to be the most difficult of all, so difficult that unlike my early days of silence, I called because I believed I had two lines filled up. I did have two lines filled up, I was certain and yet when the boy came and called my book number, ‘the computer said no’ I still needed 46. Fiona was buckled and my confidence was floored and my face scarlet. No one else seemed to mind. The next part of the game was for a full house. Neither Fiona nor I were near the mark on any of the games, but we did have fun for the first half, then the novelty ran out. We had arranged to meet Colin for a meal and had to leave before the end. The two ladies next to us were delighted to receive out remaining books. They were not fazed with the prospect of looking for numbers on twelve grids. I don’t know how they do it.

The Battle of Stiling Bridge in crayon. It wasn’t originally as messy as this, but the sheet has been kicking about in my handbag all weekend

Brass Rubbing.
This might sound daft but it is still a first. I remember when I was a kid this was trendy, if a little nerdy pastime; a bit like crocheting your own bikini. On Saturday I went to the Smith Institute in Stirling with the intention of visiting the Leonardo De Vinci exhibition, the only problem was it moved to Aberystwyth at the beginning of the month. The Smith Institute can still thrill no matter what the exhibits are. The replacement for Leo was the Fife Printmakers Workshop which, spookily, normally lives in the next street to my mother’s flat in Dunfermline. The rest of the time I spent revisiting the permanent exhibit of the history of Stirling, which is more comprehensive than the bridge battle and William Wallace. There are hands on activities one of which is a brass rubbing section. Pick up a piece of paper and a crayon and rub. It isn’t as easy as it sounds; I think the correct way is to tape the paper to the brass, without tape the paper slides around. Good fun though.

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