Let me take you back to a Friday night some time ago. A Friday night that came at the end of a day spent working my mouse-finger to the bone, selling cheap shit to idiots on the internet.
Amy is out — out for dinner in Big London. Me, I’m enjoying some quality time with Potato the labrador.
Some quality time with Potato the labrador and a bottle of Villa Melnik’s Young & Crazy Melnik (£8.50).
Young & Crazy came from The Wine Society (of course it did) and is pink and honest and straight. A bit like me, I guess. There’s some juicy ol’ plum in there, along with cherry, liquorice and herbs. There’s a decent hoof of tannin giving it some grab and grit, but also some woozy boozy solventy stuff which I guess fits the ‘young’ part of the name fairly aptly. It’s somewhat rough around the edges and not particularly complex — but what do you expect for under nine quid? Frictionless trade across a hard border?
Potato and I are approximately the same age in our respective species-years: an age at which one begins to realise (I speak for myself, at least; Potato’s self-awareness is hard to fathom on this score) that one may be straining the definition of ‘young’ in the eyes of some.
Crazy, though? Potato and I both do a very good line in crazy. Which is how, a glass or two of Y&C having been slugged back, we came to find ourselves rolling on the sitting room floor, locked in a titanic struggle of man versus hound. Potato and I enjoy such battles (well, I do, anyway), all the more so when Amy isn’t here to tut irritatedly when we distract her from whatever 19th century Russian novel she’s immersed in at the moment. In such situations, Potato’s submissive tendencies become (oh, the paradox!) his strongest weapon, as his frenzied licking causes even the most determined of dog-wrestlers to flinch jerkingly away, in an effort to avoid a tongue to the face—
What the devil was that?
That, friend, was the sound of one large glass of red wine salmoning itself gracefully off the side table, onto the definitely-not-red carpet. It was also the trigger for me to make the journey from one mode of crazy to the next.
I am (let me be the first to admit) rather a distance from being a cleaning influencer (god save our miserable skins). But I’ll cut to the chase and save you a lot of frantic googling by letting you know that the very best thing to do ASAP when you spill red wine on a pale grey carpet is to yell a loud obscenity.
You should then start wildly tearing off handfuls of kitchen towel and, my friend, you should blot like you’ve never blotted before.
I blot. I blot hard. You know those cookery programmes where you watch some implausibly old peasant type character kneading bread like a goddamn machine? That is how I blot. But with less peasanty stoicism and way more aggression. I blot until there are stars in my vision and I am gasping for breath. There is a time at which I think I must be almost done. I am wrong. I blot ABSOLUTELY LOADS MORE BECAUSE I WAS NOT ALMOST DONE AND THE BLOTTING NEVER ENDS.
I’ll say one thing about spilling red wine on the carpet: if you’re anything like me, the blotting will be the most intense cardio workout you’ve had in years.
When the blotting is over (if you’re still able to raise your arms without them shaking, the blotting is not yet over, friend) it’s time to spam salt EVERYWHERE. Don’t be stingy! Salt makes everything taste better! Including carpet!
Oh no, wait. There’s actually one thing it doesn’t improve the taste of: the bitterness of impotent rage at one’s own clumsiness. Because that stuff tastes pretty damn good unseasoned.
Potato at this point is no longer crazy. He very quickly saw the lie of the land and took himself off into the dining room, where (sensitive fellow that he is) he lies quivering in his bed. At some point, Amy shows up, takes one look at the aggressive blotting in the sitting room, joins Potato in the dining room, helps herself to a glass of what remains in the bottle and starts reading Gogol. Which, I think you’ll agree, is behaviour nobody is likely to brand either young or crazy (or, for that matter, especially helpful).
I may at this stage be somewhat wild-eyed. Like one of those characters in a fantasy movie of whom a terrible bloodlust takes hold, except with blotting rather than orc slaying. But we have now run out of both kitchen roll and salt. As I shamble into the dining room, Amy eyes me wearily. We stay that way for a little while, in silence.
‘I think I’ll book a carpet cleaner tomorrow.’
‘Hmm, yes, probably.’
‘Sorry about the blotting.’
‘Don’t apologise to me; apologise to Potato.’
Potato is very forgiving.
A few days later, the morning sun streams spitefully through the sitting room window onto the ghastly swathe of discoloured carpet. Fortunately, the Carpet Man is here.
‘Oh, that’s not bad at all!’ he cheerfully exclaims. ‘I’ve seen much worse.’
‘Oh, I blotted as much up as I could,’ I casually reply, trying to keep any note of pride from my voice.
‘Mmmm, that’d do it. Well, this should take me about half an hour, so you can leave me to it.’
We leave him to it and rejoin Potato, whose fondness for tradespeople means we have to shut him away when they visit, for fear he may abdicate with them when they leave. His Young & Crazy experiences seem to have left no scars.
‘Well, he seems very nice,’ says Amy, of Carpet Man. ‘If he’s good, I think we should get him to come and do that stain up on the landing.’
That stain on the landing, I reflect, was entirely Amy’s doing.
‘I suspect he’ll find that stain more difficult. I seem to recall you did very little blotting.’
Amy looks at me but does not reply.
‘Right, that’s all done.’
And Carpet Man has done a splendid job: the evidence of my idiocy has been almost entirely erased. If only Carpet Man could do this for other manifestations of my past idiocy, I find myself thinking.
‘That looks fantastic. Thank you.’
We are standing in a strange configuration, thanks to the narrow hallway and the need to avoid treading on the drying carpet. I perch halfway up the stairs and Amy stands in the hallway, at the door to the sitting room. Carpet Man is at the front door. Our positions form a triangle.
‘Oh brilliant!’ exclaims Amy, delighted. ‘That’s amazing.’ She looks up at me, one eyebrow raised. She is thinking, I realise, about the stain on the landing. Her stain. I understand how she feels at this time. The guilt. The promise of redemption. I give her a nod. She turns back to Carpet Man.
‘You’ve done such a good job. I’d like to ask you back for some upstairs business later in the week.’
I look at Amy. Amy looks at Carpet Man. Carpet Man looks at me, then back at Amy, then back at me again.
I decide it is time for me to pay.