Last night I was sitting in the pews in a church with a 14th Century tower in a Devon village, waiting for a music event to start. They serve tea and cake at the interval; it’s all very civilised. It’s not licensed to sell alcohol (which churches are?) so I wasn’t surprised to see the woman next to me reach into her bag and bring out a bottle of Sloe Gin. Her companion then got out the tonic and they filled champagne glasses. “I just love the colour”, she said. It’s a gorgeous pink.

We swap stories of making Sloe Gin. All the recipes say you have to pick the Sloes from the Blackthorn trees after the first frost of winter and prick each of the blue-blushed fruit with a thorn from the tree they grew on. You’re then meant to add sugar and steep them in gin for many months. All that is beautiful, romantic, emotional and, of course, nonsense. The best thing is to collect Sloes when they’re ripe and simply put them in your freezer. That splits them without the need for the whole magical Blackthorn thorn pricking. Then steep, and only add the sugar at the end when you can guarantee you won’t turn it into a syrupy mess. Simple.

Today I wandered to our local Country Park and the Blackthorn trees are in flower. They are one of the first natural signs of spring. The flowers are tiny and beautiful.

Spring at Decoy - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Spring is on its way.

I’ll drink to that.

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