Now, it’s a blogging faux pas to apologise for — or even refer to — the time that’s elapsed since one’s last post. So I shalln’t. Perhaps you’re hoping I’ll account for myself? Hell, believe me: I’m hoping the same thing, and have been for several years. Still hopin’.
But what follows, I guess, is a sort of oblique apology of its own, in a way. I’m going to tell you the story of yesterday evening.
And for this purpose I’d like you, please, to join me in welcoming back to these pages the inestimable Clemmie. Last time you met her, Clemmie missed her bus. This time, Clemmie misses her train. And then Clemmie catches a taxi, a coach, two tube trains and another taxi.
(I know: it’s all in the way I tell ‘em.)
But our riches-to-rags tale begins with the best Oxford can offer: the Old Parsonage Hotel, with its perpetually burning log fire and its perpetually rather damn nice Durnberg Gruner Veltliner — bracing like a sea-breeze in spring. Of all Oxford’s providers of food and drink, this is the place I most miss.
(And I reckon they probably miss me, too. Clemmie and I have put a fair bit of business their way, y’know? And we’re fucking charming customers, too.)
In the garden of the Old Parsonage, Clemmie is on the phone to her mother. Clemmie’s phone only functions in loudspeaker mode:
‘Mum, don’t say anything rude or horrible, because you’re on loudspeaker.’
Clemmie was supposed to catch the train to her mother’s home in Suffolk. But Clemmie is drinking Gruner Veltliner at the Old Parsonage. The advantages of a phone that works only in loudspeaker mode begin to be apparent.
We don’t linger, though, at the Parsonage. Rather prosaically, this is because I have to go to my old home in order to pick up my cello. In so doing, I am also the delighted recipient of two enormous — but very nice — but enormous — cushions. A gift from my kind little sister.
When one is carrying a cello and two enormous cushions, one needs another drink. And that drink was provided by Portabello restaurant on South Parade. A blossoming blackcurranty Carmenere that had, mayhap, a bit too much of the fruit juice about it for my liking, but was nevertheless welcome enough. Welcome also was the brief presence of Anna ‘Big Mitch’ Mitchell from her house on the other side of the road. Anna had a small pinot noir. Anna is quite a small pinot noir herself. (That’s meant to be a compliment.)
By this stage, alas, anything resembling a plan for the evening had been shredded like a tissue in a blender.
So Clemmie and I left Anna to roam the streets of Oxford — and decided to get a coach to London.
At this point, the class and sophistication of our evening began to take something of a dive:
‘It’s a pity we can’t drink wine on the coach,’ said Clemmie, wistfully.
There was a moment’s silence.
‘Is Tesco’s still open?’
And so it was, dear (horrified) reader, that Clemmie and I found ourselves on the back seat of the coach to London, surreptitiously pouring Tesco’s Finest Fiano (SECURITY PROTECTED) into plastic cups.
(Yes, I bought plastic cups. What do you think we are? Savages? Hey, don’t answer that.)
Now, I happen to believe that wine shouldn’t be taken even remotely seriously. Wine is our bitch, and we do to it as we will. So I don’t feel bad for subjecting Tesco’s Fiano to this treatment.
Especially as it’s not a very nice wine. It’s kind of thin, and has a bit of a fizz to it. Not in a particularly good way.
Nevertheless — as you know — we are nothing if not stoical in our pursuit of shitfacedness. So Tesco’s Fiano and plastic cups it was. Lesser humans might have caved; not Old Parn and Clemmie. The Fiano was dispatched.
… And there we were in Victoria. Me with my cello and my enormous cushions; Clemmie with her enormous bag.
Travelling on the underground on Friday night with a cello and two enormous cushions is an experience that itself requires a degree of cushioning — so it was as well that our resourceful acquisition of that doughty Fiano had anticipated this need. So Clemmie, cello and I happily swayed our way to Putney. To a pub.
At the pub, we had some sauvignon blanc. Or that’s what it tasted like, anyway. Look, if you’re still reading this for the tasting notes, you really need to carry out some kind of reality check at this point.
‘’Scuse me — is that a cello in there?’ asked a thin man wearing a tracksuit.
‘I love the cello. Do you play it with a bow?’
‘Can you pluck it, too?’
‘I love the cello. There’s something about it that speaks to me.’
Carrying a turding great cello around with you is, believe me, a surefire way to kick off some fantastic conversations. Be that as it may, stringed instrument vendors of Putney should take note: there is a man in a tracksuit out there. Make the sale.
Our cello-besotted conversant having departed, we were at length politely nudged in the direction of finishing our drinks. Even in London, y’know, pubs close.
And so Clemmie bundled herself into a taxi. And my cello, my cushions and I made our slow — yet somehow majestic — peregrination home.
I picked up the card and turned it over. It was from my neighbour.
Please talk to me about your packages. Why didn’t you pick up the one last night, I knocked on your door?
I turned the card back over, gave the rabbit a sick kind of smile, and went to bed.
(To be continued…)