No, not that. (Although hope you’re feeling better, Kate – try ginger snaps?) I am very, very excited to say that Swept Off Her Feet, and The Runaway Princess are going to be published in the UK on December 13th by Quercus – just in time for Christmas! Both are available as e-books first, and will be published in paperback next year, if you like having an actual book to read in the bath. The new covers are really gorgeous, and I will do a sneaky preview here just as soon as I can work out how to post the jpegs.
Other than that, what else has been happening? Well, it’s turned a bit nippy out here on the Welsh borders. So nippy that I’m considering sleeping in the basket with the dogs tonight in manner of some prehistoric cave lady. I’m supposed to be having the slates on my roof fixed next week and I’m worried I’ll come home to find the roofers frozen to the chimney like some kind of macabre Christmas decoration. ‘Mummy, why has that Santa got a hammer frozen to his hand? And why is he wearing a fleece and not a red coat? And why is that lady pouring boiling water out of a kettle onto his boots?’
I’ve also been starting preparations for Christmas by researching some Christmas cocktails for my lovely new publishers’ website to get everyone into the festive spirit. And I mean that literally. In this house, the festive spirit is sloe gin and the King’s Ginger. My pantry is lined with beautiful ruby-red jars of home-brewed sloe gin, made from the sloes that grow around the Iron Age fort by my house. I like to imagine Iron Age fort dwellers brewing something equally potent to get themselves through the long winter nights, which must have felt very long around here with no Strictly. It’s easy to tell when the sloes are ready to pick, thanks to the sudden stream of batty aunt types heading up the hill past my house, armed with gardening gloves and plastic bags, a determined glint in their eyes and stout shoes on their feet.
You can buy delicious ready made sloe gin – Plymouth Sloe Gin is the best – but it’s easy to make yourself. Take a bottle of Gordon’s gin, half fill a big coffee jar with washed sloes (freeze the sloes first, then you don’t have to prick them which is annoying and takes hours), add a cupful of sugar, pour the gin over, shake, and leave somewhere cool and dark. Give the jar a gentle shake every other day for a fortnight, then a swirl once a week for a month. Be gentle, so you don’t disturb the sediment. You can add your own aromatics, like some orange peel or half a vanilla pod, or make it sweeter to taste. After a couple of months, strain it through a muslin (finally! A use for those Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish cloths!) and you’ll have your own delicious winter warmer, ideal for hip flasks, cocktails and 5.30pm pick-me-ups on dank afternoons.
It also makes a rather fabulous hostess gift, decanted into a bottle – you can get some very pretty bottles with those Grolsch-y tops from homeware shops that sell homebrew equipment. I’ve made my own labels. I might be taking the whole Hester’s Herefordshire Hooch thing a bit too seriously…
Coming next, cocktail recipes and biscuits to make for people you want to give a present to but don’t want to embarrass if they haven’t bought you something (eg, teachers, agents, neighbours, family pets*).
*Although my dogs are always very generous. Last year they bought me a string of pearls from Astley Clarke. I had to help Violet use my credit card but it was the thought that counted.