The fabulous sunny weekend has had me ignoring all election and computerly nonsense, no way was I staying inside and squandering such glorious weather.
There are a variety of traditional things to do outdoors on St George's Day, and I'm glad to report that one of them - the twatting of National Front thugs as they try to hold a march in a multi-ethnic area of London - went off well.
I however picked a more sedate option. St George's Day is traditionally a day for harvesting dandelion flowers for an assortment of uses, and so out I went on to my allotment. It's in the middle of Hyde Park in Leeds, which is a fabulous busy buzz of a place on sunny summer days. The allotment gives some space and something good to do, yet still feels part of the whole park vibe.
I'm not sure why, maybe it's all the meditative time alone on the allotment, but this last couple of days I've had pretty bad Stuck Song Syndrome. Usually such earworms are tracks that are really bad, or at least not the best songs you know. However, this weekend it was the simply gorgeous Sitting In The Park by Georgie Fame (so I've put it up as the new download on my MP3 blog).
But today I saw a spoof Tory billboard poster done by the public service union Unison. It asks how £35bn of spending cuts could improve public services and has the tagline 'What are the Tories thinking of? Use your vote to stop them'.
This set off the bridge - the bit where they sing 'what are you thinking of?' several times - from All Out Of Love by Air Supply, and it's been relentlessly going round my head for 9 hours now. Bastards.
Anyway, today saw the uncultivated first allotment crop of the year. Self-set dandelions are in full flower everywhere at the moment, and they make a brilliant wine; rich, golden, like liquid sunshine, the sort of thing that makes you exclaim after you take a sip. I just had some I made last year and it tastes like alcoholic honey. (Which sounds like a skewed term of endearment).
I don't understand why more people don't make their own alcohol. We give such vast quantities of money to these fuckers like Whitbread who give it to the Tory party, or Coors (Carling and Grolsch) who use it to fund anti-abortionists and other right wing shits in America.
Making your own isn't just ethical for who you don't fund either; the food miles on a bottle of wine is obscene, whereas the food metres on homebrew is hilarious. Transporting things around the world that are 85% water seems very silly indeed.
It's also ludicrously cheap (about 20p for a bottle of wine), not a lot of work, and very difficult to get wrong.
The only real problem is leaving it alone while it matures in the bottle. That minger taste people think of as classic home brew is actually just the taste of young wine. Leave it in the bottle for a year and it usually goes lovely.
So, the allotment's got tons of unwanted dandelions, and I'm about to turn them to my advantage. Finding how to make good home wine is even easier in these days of Google. All you need to do is type in 'Dandelion wine recipe' and poof! there's a shitload of them a click away.
One near the top of the list is this one which is on a Welsh recipes website. Doesn't quite tie in with that St George's Day Englishness thing until you realise that George is also the patron saint of about thirty other nations and peoples, including Germany, lepers and syphilitics.
Remember that last bit next time you deal with any unsavoury English nationalists, it tends to shut them up.
The veneration day was made up out of thin air by the Synod of Oxford in 1222 and doesn't actually mean anything anyway.
He's also patron saint of farmers, which is excuse enough to let anybody make it a day of harvest.
You'll find dandelions growing wild all over the place. Making something lovely to consume from things you harvested yourself satisfies in a way that even a very nice bottle from the offie cannot. Go make some wine this week before dandelions pass their best!
Whilst there are a lot of recipes out there, most have a few bits you don't need. Here's a no frills wine recipe:
2 citrus fruit, juiced
The flavour thing: (2kg of very ripe fruit is usual. If it's not something with so much natural sugar - such as dandelion flowers - add 1lb of mashed grapes. Oh, and harvest dandelions on a sunny day so they're wide open.)
Heat 6 pints of water with the sugar in. When nearly boiling, pour over the flavour thing (if that's fruit, mash or lightly blend it). Add citrus juice. Leave 24 hours in a container with a snug (but not totally airtight) lid.
Put 1 teaspoon of yeast in a cup with 2 tablespoons of suger and half fill with warm water. Stir, cover, leave. In about 15 mins it should be frothy. Stir it into the mix. Leave covered snugly, stir several times a day.
After about 10 days, the fermentation dies down. Strain, put in a gallon demijohn (add water to make it full), put an airlock on. Leave somewhere that's a stable warm temperature.
A nice thought while you watch it bubble; the yeast turn the sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol in roughly equal amounts. So for every bubble that comes through the airlock the same volume of pure alcohol has just appeared in the wine.
After a couple of months, the wine goes clear, the sediment is at the bottom and no bubbles come through the airlock. Siphon it out into another demijohn, adding 1 crushed campden tablet. Leave a few weeks, siphon again. Bottle it, then do the hard thing; leave it in a cool dark place for at least 6 months, preferably a year. Trust me, the wait is well worth it.
Everything you use should be sterilised. You can get sterilising stuff from any home brew supplies place, the same place that sells you yeast. Demijohns and airlocks can be bought there but you can usually find them in charity shops or in mates lofts and garages cheaper.
This gives you 6 bottles of wine, at least 25 quid's worth, with way less environmental impact and a much greater sense of achievement.
In three weeks time do another load with top leaves of nettles, and three weeks after that elderflowers. Like dandelions, once you start looking you'll easily find enough right by where you live.