So the wife and I are driving through the townlet of Wilton, just outside Salisbury, and we need to get some food. It is an incredibly hot day and we have not been on speaking terms for the last hour, largely on account of the terrible heat. The only good thing is that there is parking outside the Co-Op in North Street. In silence we make our way into the shop's air-conditioned recesses.
I spend some time motionless by the ready-made sandwiches. My wife pointedly inspects the fresh fruit. She gestures with a packet of tomatoes towards the basket which I am holding. I make a play of indifference. She equally indifferently lobs the tomatoes in the basket before peering at the cooked meats and coleslaws, things in which she normally has little interest but which on these occasions can be pressed into service as indices of mute disgruntlement.
Wordlessly, I select a twin pack of Scotch Eggs and let her know through the medium of mime that I have a twin pack of Scotch Eggs. I sense her disdain. She piously fondles a reticule of small oranges. I motion towards the full-fat yoghurts with Westcounty Fudge flavourings. Impasse.
The Co-Op's instore radio is big on the Eighties and I start to feel sentimental, mostly about myself, as I stand next to the biscuits section. Eventually I say,
'We need milk.'
'Yes,' she says.
The basket is now almost full, so, increasingly martyred, I carry the two large bottles of fizzy water pressed against my chest with my left arm, like a pair of scuba tanks.
I need a treat. I start to look around for the wine. There is some. It's not a big shop, so the booze has to earn its keep. Which is good, because it also boils the agony of choice down to no more than three wines, an ideal number in which price is the alpha and omega of the decision-making process, with a small space in the middle in which to be swayed by the perceived quality of the label design, shape of the bottle, nature of the closure, grape variety.
And what do you know? They're doing an offer (that magical £5+) on a Les Jamelles Syrah 2011, about which I know nothing other than that it has a slender bottle, a screw cap and a very clever label with nicely-finessed curly lettering and artisanal undertones. I somehow find a free hand and sweep the bottle into our pile. My wife's silence on the matter is eloquent as we stand sullenly at the check-out.
But I have the last laugh, figuratively at any rate, four hours later as I sample the Les Jamelles and find it to be a Syrah without vindictiveness, a playful Syrah with enough pepper and tannins to make a go of it, but otherwise highly approachable. My inarticulacy is touched with gold from that point on.
Why am I going on like this? Only because we're off to Corsica in a week or so, and I can see this tableau being replayed over and over, like something out of Alain Robbe-Grillet, in the heat and inconvenience and ruinous expense of that island, with us standing in a succesion of dust-filled Corsican minimarts, failing to communicate. Will there be anything as obliging to drink as the Les Jamelles Syrah? Will there be air-conditioning? Will there be Scotch Eggs? If we don't learn from today's psychodrama, how are we going to get through two whole weeks of the same?
I meditate on this as the Syrah begins its priestly ministrations. My wife finally pipes up and says,
'So what was that all about?'
'Ah, well,' I say, admiring the glass and, mollified by the Syrah, not wishing to seem churlish, 'it's really not a bad red. Not bad at all.'
'That?' she says. 'Don't talk to me about that.'