Zombie Apocalypse

This post is prompted by a Mythogeography research project on ‘zombies’. He wants to write about the experiences people have when using a ‘tactic’ that he devised for Wrights & Sites’ ‘A Mis-Guide To Anywhere’ in 2006. His instructions: “I would ask you to take a walk on your own (where and at what time of day is up to you) for at least half an hour. I would like you to walk ‘as’ the last human survivor of a zombie apocalypse. Everyone is now a member of the living dead other than you. I don’t want you to act out this role (fleeing the zombies, etc.) but rather simply to walk and see and experience the world through the eyes and feelings of a survivor in that fiction. When you return from this walk I would like you to write and send me an account of how you experienced your walk, and how you experienced the terrain you walked through.”

My walk will take me from my home to the centre of Exeter. I am conscious as I prepare to leave the house at 3.20pm that I have never read a zombie book (not even a Jane Austen crossover), never seen a zombie film, and never met a zombie. I’m not even sure what a zombie is… The undead? A body which has been stripped of its mind, heart, and soul? Bandages covered in blood figure large in my mind’s eye, as do arms out-stretched, vacant eyes, and a certain amount of moaning. I have seen a number of dead bodies, and am always struck by how pale and waxen they are, and how empty and small. The person is no longer there. So I suppose any zombies I see today will be small and pale.

I have to say that even if it were true that I am the sole survivor of a zombie apocalypse, I am not unduly bothered. The day is fair, there are snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils in my front garden, and all manner of things shall be well.

The housing estate is quiet, but not unusually so. A few cars pass me as I start to walk. The drivers are largely bandage-free, though some have their arms outstretched and their eyes are staring a little. Most seem to be heading for the side of the road outside St Peter’s school. Mid-afternoon is of course schools out, and these are zombie parents picking up their zombie kids.

I join the flow of zombie kids streaming out of the school gates. I do not try to match their pace to pretend to be just another one of them; they do not feel threatening, and the flow in any case is not continuous but has formed into groups.

There are more cars parked beyond the school, each containing one zombie parent immersed in their own zombie online world. Although the day is bright, it is quite chill. But many of the zombie kids are only in short-sleeve shirts; ambient temperatures are apparently irrelevant to the undead. Five or six whizz past on their bikes, turning right in front of an oncoming car. They seem to have no regard for life or limb… because of course what are these to the undead?

At the bottom of the hill, I join the main road, and walk up into Heavitree. There is a lot of traffic, and I notice that despite the lack of heart, mind, and soul, zombies still seem to be able to drive safely. Perhaps they are simply following the car in front, and conforming to rules of the road learnt before the apocalypse took hold. In other words, perhaps zombies are inherently conservative.

At this point, I realise that I am treating my walk as a piece of observational research, with the objective of characterising the nature of a ‘zombie’. This is entirely in character for me!

So then, I have formed a hypothesis: that zombies are conservative. Perhaps the reverse is also true: that conservatives are inherently zombies. I would need to take a sample to test each, find the odds ratio, do the chi-squared test, etc etc. But then I remember that I am the last survivor of the apocalypse, which means that the sample size of ‘not zombie’ is a maximum of 1, and therefore and unfortunately not statistically significant.

Ah well. I refocus on my walk and its terrain. I jay-walk across the road: a tiny piece of defiance in a conformist world. There is a group of zombies heading for me, taking up the whole pavement. They barely make room for me to get past. I make a mental field note that zombies also appear to lack courtesy.

Now I see an zombie old lady walking her dog. The dog is white, so it’s hard to tell whether or not it too is undead. Stories often depict animals as sensitive to ghosts and evil spirits, but the dog doesn’t seem fazed to have an undead owner. I take this to indicate that it is indeed undead, and (extrapolating wildly) that pets have also been overtaken by the apocalypse.

More and more traffic passes: cars and buses and vans and taxis. A JCB passes me from behind, and a man on a bicycle smiles… no, wait… his autonomic nervous system twists his zombie face into a rictus.

The sun comes out, and I no longer care about anything other than its warmth on my face and the feel of my body walking. With a squint in my eyes and smile in my mouth, I am dead to the undead. And in this state of being I walk past the Magdalen Road shops, right into Denmark Road to the memorial to a burnt witch, and left up Barnfield Road.

It occurs to me that although my thoughts have been revolving around zombies, my view of the world is little different from usual. I remember Anthony de Mello’s book Awareness, in which he writes about the need to Wake Up! from our sleep. I often despair at humanity’s sleep-walking tendencies, our acceptance of business as usual, consumerism, and inequality, and our head-in-the-bandages stance on issues like climate change. I suppose I think most of us are zombies most of the time, and a zombie apocalypse is unlikely to change things drastically.

Anyway, I avoid the temple of consumerism that is Princesshay, to enjoy the spring flowers in Southernhay instead. As I turn into Cathedral Close, I hear the squeals of zombie small children playing – I presume the squeals are not from terror of being sacrificed to Molech. And then I emerge onto Cathedral Green, where the dead and buried probably outnumber the living and the undead, and my walk comes to an end.

This evening I will watch the Lego Advert Movie, and ponder its allegorical meaning.


A Suburban Serenade

It happened! Possibly not one of the daftest ideas I’ve had, but must be one of the dafter ideas I’ve pursued.


Just before 3pm on a warm and muggy Sunday afternoon in September, the 12 members of Sine Nomine (one of the tenors couldn’t make it) drove to Elgar Close in east Exeter, wondering whether we would find any audience waiting for us. We did. And as we walked around the streets named after English composers, singing music by each on their street corner, we gathered more and more. A group of about 30-40 aged between 2 and 72 travelled with us all the way round, some responding to the leaflets through their doors, others walking past and spontaneously joining us. Many stopped what they were doing to listen, popping out of their front doors and garden gates, and appearing at windows.

As we sang and walked and sang, Sunday afternoon was happening around us: lawnmowers, cars apologetically making their way between choir and audience, planes overhead. Between corners, the audience and choir chatted about the music, the estate, being brought up in the area, or never having been to this bit of Exeter before. Not quite the Lord of Misrule and the overturning of all ordinary behaviour, but permission still given for conversation and overt curtain twitching.


One enthusiastic lady on the corner of Sullivan Road suggested we sing on her lawn, obviously determined to video us in front of her house. There were many cameras, and many photos and videos taken that we will never see, and memories we will never know.  I hope I retain many memories, but perhaps the one that stands out is of the lad of about 4 who came all the way round with his Mum and younger sister, and stood listening intently at every corner.

Then after the final notes of Britten’s “Hymn to St Cecilia” died away on the playing field at Britten Drive, we walked back to our cars and were waved off by some of the audience as we headed back to my house for tea and cake.

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Big thanks to Chris and Josie for getting the choir and music together, to all the members of the choir, to Councillors Henson and Leadbetter and Exeter City Council for supporting the venture financially, to the Council again for letting us gatecrash the Unexpected Exeter Festival and providing a bit of publicity, and of course to the audience!



The quite interesting-ness of pillar boxes

EX2 369 Exeter's only Edward VIII pillar box!

The caption for this photo I found on Flickr says this is the only Edward VIII pillar box in Exeter. Another photo says it is the only one in Devon. The box is just down the road from me in an estate built in 1936 to rehouse people from the Exeter slums. Edward VIII’s short reign – he came to the throne in January 1936 and abdicated in December 1936 – means that not many EVIIIR post boxes were made. (There are even fewer EVR boxes.) So far, so quite interesting.

But look up post boxes on the internet, and you stumble into a strange and fascinating place. There are websites dedicated to finding and photographing all the EVIIIR post boxes in the country. There is the Letter Box Study Group, the “the recognised definitive authority on the British letter box”, and its “Letter Box Study Group newsletter”, no better fodder for Have I Got News For You. It is the weird and wonderful world of the Great British Enthusiast, a place where interesting things in unlikely places become codified, classified, and nerdified. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here, for ye are passing through the gate of Hell where the interesting-ness of any subject is electronically extracted and transmogrified into tables of data and forum discussions! On the other hand, without the dedication of this nerdy few, who have counted EVIIIR boxes and noted their distribution and rarity, how would the many know that there might be something of quite interesting-ness at all?

Amusingly, when I posted about the box on Facebook, both of the responses I received were by private message rather than public comment, as though ashamed of their, or their friend’s, interest. So for any secret spotters out there, the pillar box code number is EX2 369, and the map shows its location.

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A lane of two halves: one year on

Last year, I did the first half of a walk down the 1800s route of Woodwater Lane. I managed the western half as far as the Retail Park, before giving up due to the rain.

Exactly one year later, I completed the journey. Not quite in the same way; I cycled it instead of walking, and as a result was much less immersed in the journey and took far fewer photos. Call it more of a reconnaisance trip.

What I found was that the Lane continues to be erased, bit by bit.

When I compared old with new maps a year ago, I could see that the route still existed, despite the centre being obliterated by the Rydon Lane ring road and the Retail Park. To the east, the Lane is overlain by Digby Drive, then opposite the Park & Ride takes a right turn into a footpath. The path emerges on to Clyst Halt Avenue, becomes a contraflow on the one-way bridge over the A379 spur, and where the sliproad bends continues to the west of the railway line. All this section may not be along the exact route of the old Lane, but comes very close.

The whole path from the bridge over the A379 to Old Rydon Lane is named on Google Maps as Old Rydon Close, even though the first part is not passible by motor vehicles. Where the footpath widens out, the Google Satellite image shows, on the other side of the railway line, a hedge running parallel to Old Rydon Lane and joining the end of a farm lane. The 1800s route ends at the junction of the farm lane with Old Rydon Lane.*

The hedge appears on the 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map too, but not on Google Maps or Open Street Map. What Open Street Map does show is a faint dotted red line across the railway line, which according to its key means a footway. So I thought it might be possible to cross the railway line, hug the hedge and nip down the farm lane. On the ground, however, I was confronted with a padlocked gate and a slightly cryptic Network Rail sign.


Perhaps they dedicated it to their mums

So I had to keep going down Old Rydon Close to Old Rydon Lane, which goes under the railway, and approach the end of the 1800s route from the other direction. But the farm lane wasn’t welcoming either.

Farm lane


That wasn’t quite that. Parallel to the lane, just the other side of the right-hand hedge, is the back entrance to the Exeter Chieftains’ rugby complex. So I cycled what I could and ogled what I couldn’t. What then of the hedge? Well, surprise surprise, it has been grubbed up, and the fields have been given over to growing turf, presumably for the rugby pitch. The hedge is no more, and Woodwater Lane is no more here, but it still possible to see where it used to run, given away by the different colours of the grass.


Once-was hedge: from the railway crossing by the white-gabled house to join the hedge on the left

Nor is that quite that. It looks as though Exeter is going to get a new IKEA store, which it needs about as much as an alcoholic needs a bottle of gin. According to the “Have your say” (so long as it’s “Yes”) booklet, the site will be by the A379, half store, half housing. The housing will replace the one-way sliproad, which is no longer needed anyway. However, it looks as though the path over the A379 and along the railway will be retained.

Incidentally, IKEA’s aerial shot of the site was taken after the hedge was grubbed up, and in the spring before the field had greened, but the line of the hedge is as clear as the day.

* Update: Oops, no it doesn’t quite. As this fabulous map clearly shows, the 1800s route keeps going a bit further beyond the current farm before it turns right. I should have good a little bit further down Old Rydon Lane.


Site-Specific Exercises

Last Thursday, I cycled over to West Town Farm near Ide for a workshop on Site-Specific Writing. The lovely Oriana from Resident Writers organised it with Christine from OrganicARTS, based at the Farm. OrganicARTS has done a lot of work with pottery using clay from the Farm, natural materials and dyes, and it has been an ambition to encourage writers too.

We convened in the workshop for introductions and a cup of tea. Then Chrstine led us on a tour of the Farm, while we chattered enthusiastically and incidentally followed Oriana’s instructions to notice places and things that touched us – whether veg patch, old railway cutting, shepherd’s hut, open fields, skeletons of buildings, henge of native trees, woodland, pigs afar off. Then Oriana brought us back to the workshop and gave us a tour not so much of the theory of site-specific work, but of some illustrative and inspiring examples. After a shared lunch (Bryce brought the most incredible vegan gluten-free chocolate brownies), she put us to work on a series of timed exercises.

One of the art works about to lift off from West Town Farm

One of the art works about to lift off from West Town Farm

There were about fifteen of us, with an impressive range of experience and genre. I felt a little – well, being on a beef farm, I think the word has to be – cowed. But it really didn’t matter. The whole day was so laid back, and the slightly ramshackle workshop with its patina of clay so welcoming to informality, that sharing of our attempts was surprisingly unthreatening. So here are mine.

Exercise 1

Think of three characteristics you have, or things you believe in or stand for. How could they be represented by things at the Farm? The exercises were all very flexible. Stories could be poems. Three could be one.

Make connections

There is no sign now of the old railway line except a cutting, but it is still linking places and sparking connections…

I am under the sea, looking up to the surface far above. The ferns are the fronds of seaweed drifting in the current. All around are the rocks, the earth – a sea bed of sediment laid down, compressed, pummelled, churned and turned. Fallen trees are the masts of long-drowned tall ships, now encrusted with lichen corals, barnacle-strong mosses and waving ivy anemones. There is treasure set among the mast roots.

Attentive to the common-place

Bramble shoots hang from the old railway bridge over the cutting. Year-by-year they add feet of growth until eventually they will reach the bottom of the cutting and root themselves and spawn. Rapunzel is letting down her thorny tresses, up which we can climb to ambiguous adventures.

Slightly eccentric

I want to dig into the woodchip pile and snuggle amongst the warmth of composting mulch.

Exercise 2

Imagine your niece or nephew has never been to a farm. Tell them a short story to describe the farm.

Once upon a time, because that’s how the old stories lost in the mist and mizzle always begin… once upon a time, there was a Town in the West. There were shops and houses in the Town, surrounded by tarmac and concrete and barren lawn, and the shops and the houses were filled with stuff. The roads around them were straight and smooth, and filled with cars and lined with signs telling the cars what to do. And on the northwest of the Town, there were highrises, tall and grey.

But in this Town in the West there lived a Talking Head, which spoke of oases and rivers, fields and trees, daisies and berries. And as it spoke the Town began to change. The highrises began to put out branches, and their sides became grooved and knotty. The branches put out leaves and buds and flowers. And the specks of air pollution became bees and hoverflies and pollinated the flowers. And as the trees put their roots down into the water supply system, the fruit started to swell and ripen, and the people laughing climbed to pick it.

The cars abandoned by the people became cows and sheep and pigs. The roads cracked and curved, and the central reservation and the streetlights and signs all blossomed into hedgerows. And the cows and sheep and pigs all grazed on the hedgerows and the tarmac, which had become grass and wild flower meadows. The sodium lamps burst into sprays of elderflower, and the blue signs to the M5 became speedwell and borage in the hedgerows; and the red stop signs and traffic lights became red campion and foxgloves, and later haws and rose hips; and the green A-road signs and traffic lights became the many-hued greens of may and rowan and ash and spindle and hazel and alder and willow.

And as the Head continued to talk, the shops and houses started to spread themselves wide and long, and all the stuff in them began to take root and grow. The stuff in the buildings with cellars became parsnips and carrots and potatoes, and the stuff in the bungalows became cabbages and chard and pumpkins, and the stuff in the terraced town houses became rows of runner beans and tomatoes climbing high. And the barren lawns grew into fields of grain waving their heads in the breeze.

And the people spent their days looking after the farm that used to be the Town in the West, and celebrating a place that was no longer a grey desert, but bursting with life and growth gifted by the Talking Head.

Idea for story sparked by Talking Heads “(Nothing But) Flowers”

Exercise 3

Write a lyrical recipe, or an ode to a vegetable.

It’s best to drawn a veil over this one!

Exercise 4

Write a story or poem about a place on the farm that moved you. Or write about how you found the day, the group, the farm, site-specific writing.

Time out from my routine. Morning writings interrupted. But this is writing too – inspiring people, new perspectives, stretching exercises. And a challenge: can I find an environment becomes a place provoking words, while surrounded by a group chattering away? There are many stories here, from many sources, but must I be alone to listen to the stories of the land?

To native trees whispering of delving deep and reaching high, of fellings and fallings and rebirth. To bardic birds, singing of territorial battles and courtship, and daily meals hard hunted, and the fierce joy of it all. To wildflowers, writing with light and colour, and eager pollinators humming and whirring as they sup from jewelled cups. To the human remains, the steam lane become green lane become cathedral, arched with trunks and fallen spars and ancient-to-modern brickworks.

And did I listen properly through the others’ words, and give them their due?

The Way Home

I’d not cycled to Ide before, and I discovered a new-to-me old lane in Exeter. My route lay along the familiar stretch down Woodwater Lane, beside Wonford Playing Fields and down to the river. A modern arched footbridge took me across the river, a swing bridge across the canal, and an older brick bridge across the railway. Barad-dûr, the incinerator under construction, stands guard at this entrance to the Marsh Barton Trading Estate, where I always cycle at peril from the criminal negligence of white van SMIDSYs.

I tried a new route; instead of going straight ahead and through Alphington, I turned right immediately, then left and past Sainsbury’s, where there’s a section of cycle path. I still didn’t manage to suss the A377 Alphington Road / Cowick Lane / B3123 Church Road junction, though, and this time I was aiming for my new old lane. Ball Farm Road runs roughly parallel to the A30, and it took me to the footbridge over the A30 and Ide Road. A corkscrew up, over, and a corkscrew back down delivered me into the heart of Ide. Now was possibly the most dangerous part of the journey. Country lanes are not busy but there are a disproportionate number of accidents as motorists drive too fast. Anyway, it was still beautiful, and not too steep, and I arrived safely.

But the best was left to last. After a day in the countryside, the ride back through the country lanes acted as a gentle reimmersion into the weavings of nature through and around the urban and suburban landscape.


Pilgrim at Wonford Brook

I intended to spend the morning re-reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but instead spent the morning reading around it. I did find some very interesting articles, such as

An Invitation from Silence: Annie Dillard’s Use of the Mystical Concepts of Via positiva and Via Negativa
Author(s): B. Jill Carroll
Source: Mystics Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 1 (March 1993), pp. 26-33
Published by: Penn State University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717151


Backpacking with the Saints: The Risk Taking Character of Wilderness Reading
Belden C. Lane
Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, Volume 8, Number 1, Spring 2008, pp. 23-43 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/scs.0.0009

but that wasn’t really the point.

So after lunch, I allowed the sun to call me out for a walk down by my very own Tinker Creek that is Wonford Brook. It is the sort of stream that is best heard but not seen, constrained to an aging rectilinear channel where it flows past Wonford Playing Fields by variously concrete, wire baskets of stones and wishful thinking. Some of it is getting decidedly undercut, and the gap between the concrete lip and water-level shows what a difference 12 days (12 days!) without rain makes.

In many places, the wire fence that should be preventing access to the bank has been trodden underfoot, and there are a few tentative paths through the narrow line of straggly trees and scrub. Where the water bubbles over a few stones or a concrete lip in the bed, and there’s a view downstream through overhanging branches sheltering little brown birds flitting from bank to bank, it almost feels like a proper stream. But then it’s difficult not to notice the plastic bags snagged in the scrub and the (preferably unidentifiable) litter in the stream, not to mention the drowned tyre and most of an exhaust system.

The paths in Ludwell Valley Park have dried off just in time for the City Council to spread pristine stone chips in what were the worst spots by the gates. But there are still a couple of pools of water in low-lying fields near the brook. A slow circumambulation turned up no frog spawn, one winged insect, one pied wagtail walking on water, and a fine male mallard turning its head through the blue and violet spectrum to keep me in view before making its escape. I had hoped for at least a little frogspawn as a recompense for the cold weather. Ah well.

Because although it is sunny, there is a stiff-ish breeze from the north east, and there is a chill in the air. The largest deciduous trees have obviously decided that discretion is the better part of valour and aren’t going to come into leaf until spring has made assurances, but it takes only a couple of scraggy scots pines to provide a decent sound effect of wind roaring in the branches overhead.

At the lower levels, some brave pussy willow is out. The cherries are in bud, the hazels in catkin and the hawthorn is grudgingly coming into leaf. The blackthorn remains determinedly black and the young oaks are bare but for last year’s raggety leaves. It is left to the pennywort to provide most of the fresh spring green, and the role of impact colour falls to what I consider unusually profuse galaxies of celandine and a few escapee primroses, primulas and narcissi in the hedgerows.

On my way back through suburbia, the magnolia buds are still wrapped up warm in their furry onesies. I know how they feel.


Surname migration

The Great Britain Family Names website allows you to find out where your surname comes from, and how many people share it. Bryden isn’t that common, but what interests me is the geographical spread. Even though the last century has been one of unprecedented mobility, there is still a clear concentration around southwest Scotland. My family and I are all diaspora, south of the Watford Gap.


Interestingly, Brydon is concentrated in southeast Scotland. The suffixes have different origins:

  • DEN at the end of the place name is usually derived from denn, which meant pasture, usually for pigs.
  • DON is usually derived from the word ‘dun’, which meant hill. The South Downs were the South Duns.

Buy this

In The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith, Walter Brueggemann writes: “A symbolic sense of the term affirms that land is never simply physical dirt but is always physical dirt freighted with social meanings derived from historical experience. A literal sense of the term will protect us from excessive spiritualization, so that we recognize that the yearning for land is always a serious historical enterprise concerned with historical power and belonging. Such a dimension is clearly played upon by the suburban and exurban real estate ads that appeal to that rapacious hunger. Land is always fully historical but always bearer of over-pluses of meaning known only to those who lose and yearn for it. The current loss of and hunger for place participate in those plus dimensions – at once a concern for actual historical placement, but at the same time a hunger for an over-plus of place meaning. This dialectic belongs to our humanness. Our humanness is always about historical placement in the earth, but that historical placement always includes excess meanings both rooted in and moving beyond literalism.”

Yesterday I cycled past this estate agent’s sign. Its confused message beautifully illustrates Brueggemann’s words.

On one hand, it presents us with the possibility of buying a “piece of Devon”, which, even though it applies to one of many large properties in the street in the middle of Exeter, conjures up images of England’s green and pleasant land, a piece of bucolic, rural, real and rooted heaven, your own cosy and snuggly-safe place.

On the other hand, the instruction is to “Buy this”, and not “Own this”. It is merely a financial transaction, an unloved impermanent investment which can be sold on tomorrow. The appeal to purchase power is set against the promise of belonging, and so our “rapacious hunger” goes ever unsated. After all, this “piece of Devon” turns out to be a second floor maisonette!

Brueggemann continues: “Most of all, it has been the failure of an urban promise that has reopened the question. That promise concerned human persons who could lead detached, unrooted lives of endless choice and no commitment. It was glamorized around the virtues of mobility and anonymity that seemed so full of promise for freedom and self-actualization. But it has failed… It is now clear that a sense of place is a human hunger that the urban promise has not met.”

This leads me to the question: “Is it possible to develop a sense of place in ‘my piece’ of suburban Exeter?”, or more optimistically “How can I develop a sense of place?”, or even “Are this blog and the activities it describes helping me to develop a sense of place, and can I extend that to my neighbours?”


Municipal-planting-rowan jelly

There’s a rowan tree planted beside the bus stop on Grecian Way, and this autumn it’s laden with bright red berries.

In the spirit of my wamble with forager Mark Lane, I nipped out on Thursday to cut a few sprays of berries. There’s something about suburbia that makes me feel slightly guilty whenever I do anything more exotic in public than mowing my front lawn or walking or cycling to get somewhere. Certainly, the dog-walker gave me strange looks as I jumped to grab branches and snipped away with my secateurs. But it’s not in anyone’s garden, I was taking a very small fraction of the berries, and the rest will only fall down and make a mess on the pavement. So it’s probable I should feel eccentric*, but why feel guilty?

Anyway, way back in the time, my uncle gave me a book on Wild Food, which includes recipes for rowan wine and rowan jelly. The jelly offers more instant rewards, and a chance for a case-control study of the impact on taste and clarity of the addition of apple.

First things first, the interweb-thingy suggested ‘denaturing’ the berries by freezing them. So I did, even though boiling them to a mush might be thought to have enough of an effect. Here they are, just out of the freezer; only 300g, but it took me not much more than a minute to pick them, and there’s enough for my experiment.


And here are the finished products. I started off with the same total weights of fruit and volume of water, so it’s odd that I got more than twice as much from the rowan-apple mix. I tipped the rowan-apple mush on top of the rowan mush in the jelly bag, so a bit more wouldn’t have been a surprise, but twice as much? I think the rowan-solo is slightly clearer, but the taste is pretty astringent, and adding the apple makes a milder jelly. I think I’ll try them both with plain scones and clotted cream, and with lamb.

One further note. It would be better to take berries from trees that are not by the side of a road. The concern is that run-off from the road – oil and general toxic yuk – gets taken up by the roots and concentrated in the fruit. Grecian Way isn’t very busy, but there are a few buses. So if I ever make any more, I’ll pick the berries on Dartmoor.

* On the other hand, is it possible to feel eccentric, given that I’m at the centre of my zone of perception, or can I only be eccentric from others’ perspectives?