Idle Eye 122 : The Cider Inside

According to the internet, I may or may not have alcoholic neuropathy. Not the fully-fledged bumping into walls/khazi-bound variety, you’ll no doubt be pleased to learn, but there is some evidence of a tingly leg thing going on after an exceptionally enjoyable bottle of Pinot. Gruelling news, particularly as I am halfway through the arduous task of reducing a bottle mountain of barely palatable filth, bequeathed to me by my late father, in order to reclaim some kitchen shelf real estate. So, in the greater interest of my failing health and with a small nod to genuine altruism, I have decided to give away one of said bottles to any reader who can be arsed to ask for it. Yes, like a competition.

But which one? You are most certainly not having the 1982 Taylors port, and I wouldn’t wish a 2011 Vina Primera white rioja on anyone with a pulse, not even the ISIS vintners. I did, however, find a dusty old thing lurking at the bottom of the pile which, on closer inspection, turned out to be an ageing bottle of Merrydown cider, its blackened cork still wedged in tenaciously at the neck. A thrilling discovery by anyone’s standards, so much so I proffered this information to Merrydown themselves, along with a photograph and a discreet enquiry as to its age. And quick as a flash, I received an email from an equally excited Emma Vanderplank at customer relations, informing me that according to their archive, it probably dates from 1952. Or 1955. Or 1962. Whichever one, it’s proper old: Small wonder Dad laid it down.

So there’s the provenance, but what of the value? To this end, I delved deep into the guts of several online auction houses specialising in the sale and distribution of historic orchard fruit-based alcoholic beverages, and it turns out our little friend ticks all the boxes (matured in cellar/label still legible/stored outside mandatory fifty mile exclusion zone of anyone with a Somerset postcode etc…) And if I’ve got my sums right, it’s almost certainly worth between six and eight quid, give or take a few pennies (allowing for market variables and fluctuation thereof). Bearing in mind that you pay considerably more for the tat sold in convenience stores that doesn’t even have the patina of age, I would suggest to you this is a gift horse not worth looking into the mouth of. Not even a furtive glance from the other side of the paddock. To say nothing of its accruing potential if you so choose to lay it down for another fifty years. I must be mad, me.

Here’s the deal: I’ll post the photograph on the Idle Eye Facebook page (over there, on the right). You tell me why you want it (in the comments below). The winner will be selected by me, subject to bribes. You give me your address, I send it to you at my not inconsiderable expense, along with a picture of a hamster (UK applicants only – Not this time, Johnny Foreigner). Now, what are you waiting for?

Idle Eye 112 : The Shock of the New (Glastnost)

Having enjoyed over a month of writing bugger all for you lot, I was beginning to slip into a self-induced torpor that required little else to assuage the crippling guilt of non-delivery than doing the dishes occasionally and hoovering up the encrusted remains of tobacco strands beneath the bedroom window. And consuming my own body weight in pink and/or white wine (legit now that it’s getting hot). But this could not last, of course it couldn’t. Something more appalling than there are words to express is about to happen and I need an outlet: Glastonbury.

In a moment of weakness, I agreed to this monstrosity many moons ago at a time I thought it unlikely I would be unlucky enough to have to attend it. But, due to the tenacity of a fine friend, I now find myself in the horrendous position of having a ticket with my photograph and assorted personal details attached to it. It cannot be sold on, and unless I can find someone with the enormous good fortune to resemble myself, I am duty bound to turn up and mingle with people half my age, with half my acceptance of failure. In a field without a flushing lavatory. And for this I am supposed to be grateful.

What the young people don’t understand (and why should they?) is that the ceiling of maximum thrill is drastically reduced beyond one’s fortieth year. We no longer need to experience popular DJs pumping out their thing from the artificial thorax of a gigantic spider, whilst acrobats in their prime dangle themselves provocatively from its leg joints. In order to feel better about ourselves. Really, we don’t. This weekend I managed to source a toilet seat/lid combo from B&Q in Sydenham that I’ve been hunting since November and the joy that this has brought knows no bounds. And it is these tiny, visceral pleasures that constitute the fabric of our everyday, sad though this may sound. So, to put myself back into the lion’s mouth after 22 years is nothing if not somewhat alarming to someone who has learned, through bitter experience, to lower the threshold.

Nearly everyone I have spoken to about this (analyst/partner/check-out lady at B&Q Sydenham) makes out that I need to get a grip. But my fear is far more deep-rooted than you might otherwise believe. I am projecting waking up in the Healing Field after a sedative evening of west country cider, with local stones placed around me in a circle and violent, semi-clad children worshiping the oncoming dawn as I dribble my discontent through a crumpled tin. And as I make my way to the missing persons tent, I am accosted by a dayglo mono-cyclist with pamphlets. The horror, the horror…

I shall report back next week, unless you find me leaping about in my second flush of youth. Which, to be honest, is unlikely.

 

Idle Eye 33 : The Turgid Miasma of Existence

The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted that I’ve been off-piste of late. The only plausible explanation I can offer as an apology is that I have been suffering from what I like to think of as the turgid miasma of existence, and what everyone else refers to as everyday life. This somewhat disturbing development was almost certainly the result of a self-imposed complete alcohol ban on school nights, the oral equivalent of Michael Schumacher slamming on the handbrake in the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet (there must be a couple of you, own up), let me tell you this: It’s not great, and if you can bear with me as I reluctantly come to terms with the appalling lucidity I am currently experiencing, I shall attempt to tell you why.

The body is a delicate bit of kit. It’s also a bit dim, despite what you may have read in weightier tomes than this. From cradle to the grave it reacts to the various stimuli we hurl at it throughout the duration, but not all that quickly. So, when we bung in that first bottle of cider consumed in a field somewhere at the age of eleven, it rather smartly puts its foot down. So we try again with Captain Morgan and his chums, smiling enticingly at us from his Trinidadian retreat, only to regurgitate them all as quickly as they went in. And so the pattern continues until, eventually, it goes ‘Oh, I see what you’re trying to do here’ and concedes that this could actually be a bit of a laugh.

Education being the key, we continue to train the bag of bones we carry around with us for many, many years to come, as did Pavlov and his half-witted dog, until we come through the cloud layer and reach a perfect plateau of contentment, usually in ones’ mid-30’s. It takes a while but we get there in the end. Now, just imagine for one moment the seismic shock to the system if this process is suddenly reversed, and at a time when the body is getting its metaphorical slippers’n’pipe combo sorted. It doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Exactly. Feel my pain.

So go on then, enjoy yourselves, why don’t you? Help Her Maj get through her big day by necking the good stuff until you can’t fit in no more, safe in the knowledge that the alternative is far, far worse. And for those of you down at the Idle Hour party this Saturday, watching them saucy singers Verity and Violet shaking their stuff and manhandling a massive pint of Nibs’s speciality Pimms, spare a thought for one less fortunate. A once good man trapped in the turgid miasma of his own existence, doing combat with his insubordinate innards with a glass of tap water and a stale bun. God bless you, Ma’am!