wibble wobble wibble wobble.

Yesterday fortnight I found a small box called “for making marmalade” in the bottom of the freezer. I added the same weight of sugar, then too much water, and heated it to frothing, in a BIG bowl in the microwave.

Wibbly wobbly unset marmalade …

wibble wobble wibble wobble.

Welcome to marmalade juice-land. I resolved there and then to use it in a bread-and-butter pudding or in gingerbread before it went mouldy.

wibble wobble meany miser me.

… treacle “gingerbread” – using mixed spice and runny marmalade instead of ginger

This “failing wetter” doesn’t mean that I’m not a veteran. I’ve been making marmalade since 1975 when I moved into Ascension Rectory, 3 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, which was then a New Hall graduate hostel.

During the week my breakfast was a hurried affair of husky muesli (out of a reinforced paper sack, from a wholefood stall on the market) before I progressed (in risky, frisky style at 29 miles per hour) towards The Plant Breeding Institute at Trumpington, taking in a misty view of Grantchester Meadows and then Jeffrey Archer’s house. I rode in state on my Honda-50, who rejoiced under the name of Horace, though (like any contemporary motor vehicle, and ships) being female.

One day Horace and I slipped on ice in Grantchester and my tartan Thermos flask and two oranges leapt out of my wicker rear-basket and were later retrieved by the nice man motoring not-too-close behind. I was unhurt. I ate the oranges, but the flask and the coffee were doomed.

That was on a weekday, when experimental strains of wheat had to be infected with yellow rust disease under climate-controlled conditions. And genetic manipulation (GM) consisted in hand-pollinating individual florets on wheat ears. By me, under the amused supervision of barely older Fenmen, yet more skilled.

At weekends, though, Horace could stay in her stable lapping up petrol (although her two-stroke companion Henrietta needed a slug of oil as well). And I could luxuriate for an extra hour or three, having taken back to bed an orange enamel teapot of Earl Grey, on a tray with toast, butter and home-made marmalade.

Sevilles from Cambridge Market in season (January, just a bit later than Burns Night); sugar from Tate and Lyle, courtesy of the International supermarket in Market Square (I eschewed Sainsbury’s; still do. Now Co-op girl, me).

Library books (I think I was reading Tolstoy short stories at about that time) from Cambridge City Library in Wheeler Street.

Music from BBC Radio 3, ‘Record Review’ (still going strong as ‘CD Review’, over fifty years since its inception. I have the same radio too, which my parents bought for my twenty-first birthday. It still has the most lovely tone, reverberating from its wooden sides).

Hacker Hunter RP38A, bought in Cambridge in
1970s and still going strong

And now, in the time it takes me to write, illustrate and edit a post (and to lose the intended ending of this essay) I have returned to the Far North (of Scotland) where other landscapes and other resources await.

So, for those of you still sticking with me, here’s a more successful feast, made last summer from bargain lemons from Brora Co-op, silhouetted agains the Lenten snow on Sutherland hills, and accompanied by the sands of time. The eagle-eyed among you can see the skeletal “hare’s ears”: still – after gales and winter wuthering – attached to the boundary fence that protects our garden (with signature compost maker) from the curious cows beyond.

And I am dedicating this post to my golden sister Carole (1939-1977), who once described her own home-made marmalade as “like the sun over the British Empire – it never sets”.