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The Owl & The Raspberry

My daughter Nora took this shot through the kitchen window (hence a bit of glare fuzzing up the detail in part of the photo) of the house where we are staying in rural Hampshire. That’s a barn owl hunting at dusk. Heavenly, is it not?

It was a quiet Saturday here in the country. Julie and two of the kids went with our hostess Laura up to Chawton House, where Jane Austen lived. Lucas and I poked around the village, but mostly stayed close to home and marveled over how wonderful it is not to be hot. Later, Matt went for a long bike ride, Julie slept off remaining jet lag, and the kids and I went with Laura to the local beer festival. Nora and Lucas tried their hands at hatchet-throwing, as one does:

Lucas was pretty good at it, as you can see.

We arrived just in time to hear the last few songs of the Southampton Ukulele Jam, which is exactly the band you want to perform at a village beer festival. Not a great shot, I admit — it doesn’t begin to capture the exuberant dynamism of this band — but here they are playing the Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”:

It was cold and wet out there — and we loved it! It felt like a late autumn day in Louisiana, which is my favorite time of the year. But eventually the kids, who weren’t drinking one of the 50 or so local ales, got bored, so we came home. Laura grilled steaks and burgers for us, and we had a wonderful meal in her warm kitchen. She was preparing it when she spotted the owl on the hunt, and called us all over to the window.

After dinner, we retired into the living room to plan tomorrow’s adventure. Laura poured a thimbleful of this cordial made by a family living nearby, in their home, and retailed locally:

As a rule, I don’t care for sweet drinks. Laura said that she doesn’t either — but this is special. It’s made from fresh raspberries from the New Forest macerating in gin. It’s sweet, but it has a sourness that gives it a lovely balance.

She was right! I drank three thimblefuls. It was only 18 percent alcohol, so very light, but also mouth-puckering.

Here’s the website for Dampney’s; I don’t know if it will do anybody in America any good, alas. I’m going to try to get a bottle of the raspberry gin drink to take home.

Unfortunately, the white owl stays in England. You can’t have everything.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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