Idle Eye 20 : The Liquorice Nose

When it comes to raw booze, Nibs has sure got me down. Of course he has: Secreted from the same womb over four decades ago it would be hard not to. So when an open invitation came from Idle Hour HQ to hop over to Lords Cricket Ground and consume some of the finest Portuguese wines available to humanity under the guise of ‘Restaurant Taster’, it was a done deal. Assuming the mantle of potential clients who can say ‘liquorice nose’ without pissing themselves, we slid in amongst the cognoscenti, making a beeline for the overwhelming reds. Nibs, to his credit, was magnificent: Doing that slooshing thing like they do in Sideways and never once being pathetically grateful for free alcohol as I was, he came across as a man at the top of his game. I, on the other hand, did not:

Wine Grower : Thank you for tasting. This powerful Reserva has very smooth attack with beautiful structure and well present tannins which provides long and very soft finale and slightly spicy sensations.

Me : So why is everyone spitting it out, then?

Call me old-fashioned, but in this time of austerity I was deeply disturbed to see man-high black plastic bins that we were supposed to spew our unfinished samples into. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Health and Safety issues I’d have been quite happy to leap into one of them with my mouth gaping like a guppy fish and guzzle up the slops. We’re talking £25-30 a bottle here: Just think what you could do on eBay with the right label and a PR chick in a power suit.

Seasoned tasters know there is an arc upon which, once the apex of saturation is reached, there is a dramatic drop-off in acumen. Unfortunately, it also gives the end user the illusion of clarity and infinite knowledge, coupled with ill-advised Herculean courage. On reflection, perhaps it would be fair to say that I reached this point approximately fifteen minutes after entering the building. And when we finally met the biodynamic bloke Nibs had been searching for, my eyeballs were colliding against their own sockets like bumper cars at a Mayday fair. The only way through was mimicry: So when Nibs whizzed the wine around the glass, so did I. Then he took a deep sniff. So did I. Holding the glass against the pristine white tablecloth, he assessed the colour. So did I, losing a few precious drops in the process. But then came the crunch:

Nibs : She’s a feisty little number, for sure.

Me : Indeed. And traces of liquorice nose…?

Bionic Man : I’m sorry?

Me : Liquorice nose. It’s in there. I can taste it.

Bionic Man : You are tasting the nose?

Me : Yes I am.

You can guess the rest: It wasn’t pretty. And due to a clerical error I missed my stop on the train home. So, next time you’re in IH Barnes, ask Nibs for a go on the Portuguese liquorice wine. Just don’t tell him I sent you..

Idle Eye 3 : The Gift

Readers, I need help. Last weekend I bought a bottle cutter off that eBay and made a vase. A vase, for God’s sake! A sure sign that I’m heading at breakneck speed towards the final countdown. Whatever next? Carpet dye? Comfortable shoes? In my defense, it was an attempt to stem the tide of neighbourhood wrath every fortnight when a pantechnicon with my address embossed on the side appears at 5.45am and minimally reduces the glass mountain engulfing the street it has just woken up. Frighteningly, I’m getting the hang of it too, thanks to the glossy 35-page brochure exquisitely realised by Terrence Picone and Sydney St James from Wyckoff, NJ. Apparently, when I get really good, I can make a Gold Votive Candle Holder from an Orangina bottle, or a magnificent Fish Decanter with just a Pescevino white wine bottle and cork. And some liquorice paint. But this giddy level of excellence does not come quick, oh no! According to Tel’n’Syd :

“During your learning phase you should successfully cut about 80% of the projects you start. And once you have practiced a little, 95%. Practice, practice, practice!”

No time like the present then, so I took the Triumph Herald to Majestic and loaded her up with a suspension-busting cargo of practice items, including some challenging top flight shaped ones for when I get better. And I really don’t have long to master my craft. It’s the Idle Hour 10th anniversary this month, you see, and my thinking runs somewhere along the lines of making Nibs something special to mark the occasion. Something he can look at on a busy night when he’s clearing the tables of lesser bottles and feel a warm Ready Brek glow of pride that we are from the same womb. He also mentioned that there was a bit of a ’10’ theme going on, 10% off booze, 10% off food, 10 years lopped off the tail end of your life etc..etc.. Which is nice. But anyway, first things first. I’ve got 2.5 cases to get through before I can start and there’s a potentially lethal cutting tool involved. These are the kinds of impossible odds young David faced in the Valley of Elah as the mighty Goliath waved his sword about and pointed at his wet patch. But, like the warrior I have become, in times of peril I shall overcome.

Footnote from Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5

I must say I can’t see what all the fuss is about the NHS. Over-stretched/underpaid and most of them absolutely shattered but always time for a smile and a chat. Bless them all. Nurse Rached has been particularly sweet and set me up in Physio with my cutter as there’s really not long at all until this anniversary thing kicks off. And most understanding about the mess. Turns out T’n’S were wildly optimistic with their percentages but there again they are American: Perhaps I should sue.