I am watching TV with Mrs The Thamensian when it happens. A nice little old lady called Mary appears on our screen and whips out her big blue jug. She slices a few lemons, chucks white elderflowers and water in and has made elderflower cordial. “That looks easy” says Mrs TT, eyeing up the beautiful white flowers on the giant elder tree in our garden. And the ladder. I watch it again. Lovely Mary added citric acid and Camden tablets, which we don’t have/have never heard of, and so I replace the ladder and try and watch the World Cup. “Could you pick those ingredients up tomorrow?” a little voice asks. I forgive her. It IS half time.And so I head for Robert Dyas because that sounds the sort of place for Camden tablets. They don’t have any but they suggest the cookshop next door. So I stride purposefully around trying not to break anything but have to admit defeat and ask. “Do you have any Camden tablets?” I smile at the assistant. “No. Or Citric acid” she replies. “A lot of people have come and asked for those. Try Boots or Superdrug.” So I cross to Boots. What are Camden tablets? I think they are sort of disinfectant? So I look near the baby equipment. I have just edged too far and have strayed into family planning when my neighbour passes with a knowing smile. No, wait…Blushing bright red I sidle to Superdrug. I ask the assistant. “No,sorry. Mary Berry was it?” she says with a shake of the head. Have you tried Boots?” I head for Waitrose and remember the health food shop. “ I was watching Mary Berry…” I begin. “Citric acid? Just up the stairs on the left” says the assistant. Hurrah. But no Camden tablets. Boo. No point one without the other so I head for my final hope, Waitrose. I look along the baking ingredients and another customer is scouring the shelves alongside me. “I don’t suppose you’re looking for citric acid?” I ask. “No, dessicated coconut” she smiles kindly “but everyone seems to be making elderflower cordial like you” Defeated, I go home and confess my failings. Two days later I try in Oxford. Nothing doing. On Thursday I scour Aylesbury. No joy. I finally go online and order the elusive extras. They arrive three days later in a neat little box and I skip merrily through the house. I lift my ladder and wobble to the tree. I look up. The white flowers have gone brown. I have missed the season. I quietly replace my ladder and open a can of coke.
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