February 22nd A garage of spirits

Thursday has been a clatter and clutter with a medical day and more people have been added to Mark’s email list. Thankyou for your replies and stories of all the cocktails you have had and intend to try on your life travels.

You may puzzle why Mark stores his bottles of spirits in the Seaford garage. And what he intends to do with them all. He says have a bottle party but don’t bring your own. But anyone drinking that quantity might be vomiting all the way to Beachy Head, which means lifeboats, coastguards and helicopters if you trip off – and at Splash Point outside our house, we have regular visits from all of them.

As part of his working life passion, Mark has collected classic spirits from around the globe and he’s stored them in dangerous places – the first being the top of our home in Wimbledon. If there had been a fire, the whole house would have exploded as a giant, flaming cocktail, spraying as far as the tennis courts.

After dinner parties, special guests that showed an interest were invited upstairs to taste the latest arrival.

When we moved to Lewes, hundreds of bottles were banned from our home and moved to storage space opposite Lewes station. And put on shelves. I phoned one afternoon as he was loading up only to discover that his whisky collection was about to topple and crush him if I did not arrive quickly.

Quickly! he shouted. All bottles were rescued and the shelves were then properly attached to the wall to prevent further falls.

The bottle collection shifted again when we arrived in Seaford – this time shelved in the back of the garage behind a black curtain, and on dark nights Mark sidles off down the steps for a torchlight search for something delicious for his evening drink.

But these bottles are really used for his tastings which have been delivered all over the world. He tells the stories of the history of gin, rum, vodka, whisky … and celebrates the skill and passion of the makers in creating their product.

You can read these tales in his last book Spirits Distilled on Amazon. If you buy it from Ridgwell Press, the money goes directly to him.


10 years ago when we moved to Lewes, I suggested he develop his own South Downs Gin. He trekked over the Downs with the local herbalist and collected suitable botanicals – wormwood, broom, honeysuckle, hawthorn … A small still was bought to distil and infuse flavours. But the gin never got beyond a few drops of spirit –  Mark had spent too much time marketing Smirnoff, Croft Sherry and Maker’s Mark to want to spend time persuading people to drink his Sussex Gin. 10 years ago we were way ahead of the trend!


This bit comes from Mark

Today GP tells me in all my medicals of blood and other samples right up to December 2017 I was in the best of health. I’m sure this recent arrival – a new kid on the block with appetite and attitude but no strategy. Whereas I have strategy and thankyou Ken for giving your professional assurance to Jenny that what tastes good does you good. I add to that what feels good … – I never saw the film 50 Shades of Grey, but read today there is no problem that cannot be ameliorated with a hot bath and hot cup of tea. That’s where I’m off to now with my tub of sodium bicarbonate.


Tonight is a meet with Southover Bonfire’s unrivalled action team to hand over the May Fayre – please put in your diary for Sunday May 20th. Mark

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