13st 10lb; 6.0 units of alcohol again yesterday, of which more anon; 1,369; Pickfords aspiring to be Pickfair (Beverly Hills).
The seven o’clock news on four proved to be yesterday’s leitmotif. Having got off to a lousy start with the a.m. version on Radio 4, I was provided with an unexpected opportunity to go off the rails by the p.m. edition on Channel 4 TV. A bulletin which surely never used to exist, because I had timed the dog’s walk perfectly so that I was back just in time to give him his dinner, make myself a sandwich and sit down in front of the box for Bremner, Bird & Fortune at seven. Only it wasn’t on at seven sharp, as usual; there was a five minute news summary instead, providing me with the opportunity I really didn’t need to think “Hmmm, a glass of wine would go very nicely with this chicken and rocket sandwich” and nip out to the shed to bring one in. I’d bought a cheap case of assorted rosé wines last week, along with another case of my favourite pink champagne, just on the off chance that the LTCB turned into my, you know, girlfriend, and came to visit me. Because everyone knows that, if there’s one thing girls like, it’s pink.
“Would you like a glass of pink champagne to start?” I’d asked her in my best sophisticated manner as the sommelier was hovering over us before our introductory dinner in Chester.
“No I bloody wouldn’t,” she’d replied. “Only woofters drink pink.”
I reflected that this would come as news to all those retired admirals in the yacht clubs of the south coast who like nothing better than to swirl some Angostura bitters around their glass before adding a quarter pint of gin. But I kept shtoom. I was about to order her a pint of John Smith’s with a bourbon chaser when she put in that white champagne was all right, so I got her that instead. I had a glass of the pink stuff myself. It’s an increasing wonder to me that we ever made it to a second date.
Rosé wine, like Pimms, is one of those deceptive drinks which don’t taste alcoholic at all. There is a persistent urban myth that I missed my own 21st birthday party because I turned up slightly late after deciding to lay some solid foundations for it over supper with a couple of friends. I can’t remember now whether I had the huge plate of chicken livers in the Eros in Petty Cury or a kebab in the Gardenia in Rose Crescent – references which will cause a huge wave of nostalgia to crash over any reader who was at Cambridge in the early 1970s, but will be totally meaningless to anyone else. But it was probably the Gardenia because that was my favourite, sitting in that cramped basement eating raw chillies while the kebab was being cooked, then screaming in agony when I went to the gents as I touched one of the more sensitive parts of one’s body with chilli-coated fingers. Amazing that anyone should make that mistake twice, particularly someone attending an elite educational institution, but I made it countless times over a period of several years.
Anyway, by the time I got to my party the Chapel Court of St John’s College was plastered with the prone bodies of inebriates who had mistaken my friend Geoff’s home-made Pimms for some sort of harmless soft drink. I can’t remember now exactly what he had put into it, but I think it was a mixture of some sort of wood alcohol, the cheapest supermarket own label vermouth, a cucumber and assorted citrus fruit. It was a joint 21st birthday party, Geoff’s being the day before mine. Which has proved jolly handy ever since, as I only have to remember to send him a card and I can be pretty sure of getting at least one of my own.
I’ll tell you one useful thing, though. No-one could remember a thing about the evening, but they were all convinced that they had had an absolutely great time. I must get in touch with Geoff and publish his recipe as a public service.
So back to yesterday evening, when I had just the one glass of wine, as intended. And very refreshing and delicious it was, too. (Note for connoisseurs: a Syrah rosé from Languedoc, Les Vingerons d’Argeliers 2006.) Then I drank the rest of the bottle, as though it were cherryade, and woke up about midnight in a pool of saliva on the sofa. Lovely.
Determined to make up for it by spending today very productively, I sat down at my desk to update this blog. Hardly had I typed the weight bit at the beginning of my entry than a battered white van drew up outside. From it devanned my friendly local painter and decorator, to announce that his planned work for tomorrow had fallen through, and he was unexpectedly available to tackle the dining room and staircase I had expressed a desire to have repainted when he was here the week before last. In addition to several dozen pictures, well over a thousand books and several very heavy pieces of furniture, the dining room still contained most of the contents of the downstairs bedroom which I had never got round to putting back after he had painted that. My heart sank. Of course, he added, if it was too much trouble he could easily come back another time. Only he couldn’t say when …
I sighed and got on with it. Seven hours later, on the hottest and sunniest day of the year so far (clearly a major systems failure in the Celestial English Bank Holiday Planning Department) I finished heaving stuff around. The only bright spot had been how smart the downstairs bedroom had looked for about 15 seconds after I had finished cleaning and re-hanging the pictures, restocking the bookshelves and washing the windows, but before I had started covering every flat surface with crap displaced from my dining room.
Still, I thought, it will be lovely when it’s finished. A phrase, now I come to think about it, that I’ve often heard women reciting to themselves under their breath to give them strength as they engage with me in the Act of Love.
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