So the wife and I are just back from our sailing trip, filthy, bruised, exhausted, scorched by the wind and sun to the point where we both now resemble Julio Iglesias, and quite literally the first thing I do is sit down and ponder Sediment.
Only problem is that for the last three and a bit weeks, wine has been so far down my list of priorities as to be virtually invisible. All that matters in a cruise to the West Country is making it to the end of the day without falling overboard or freezing to death. What you put in your mouth after that - and I can now tell you that a baked ham will not last three weeks in an ageing boat fridge without developing at least some mould - is starch, fat, and narcotics with a light top dressing of prayer.
You might ask why I put myself through this experience. Truth is, the wife really likes sailing, and I was doing it to keep her happy, an occasional weekend potter around the Solent not being enough as far as she's concerned. Also, the West Country in June can be - indeed, was - quite lovely, the little harbours at which we turned up all glazed with solstice light and beauty. So it is not without reward. Equally, it is not an existence that PK would understand. It is not about dinner parties and tablecloths and decanters and social gênes and all that crap. It isn't in the least winecentric.
In fact, the only time wine made it onto my front page was with a Calfornian red which I am convinced in retrospect was an own brand which we bought at the Co-Op in pretty St Mawes, Cornwall. It had a gee-whizz label, that's for sure, broadly hinting at Rodeo Drive and botched facelifts, and was made from, I think, Malbec and Petite Sirah.
Drinking-wise, on the other hand, it was so ape-like that I actually recoiled from the glass after the first swig, and stared at it as if it was throwing out cinders. Spangles and Drano came to mind, followed by a kind of dust-devil in the back of the throat, ending with a sensation of deep personal loss. And this after a day spent getting stuck in a ghastly fog bank at the entrance to Dartmouth: a long moment of terror topped off with a glassful of garbage.
The good news, though, was that this horrible drink eventually turned out to be sound enough, at least within the ethos of boat wine - two days of spiteful neglect, including some heavy-handed churning at sea, doing wonders for its approachability, taming the stuff to the point where I could drink it without crying. I even got quite fond of it. It was, it turned out, a rebel child, one whom no laws could control, but also a rebel who understood that sometimes we were all in this damn thing together, and that there were times when a chronic inability to play nice could transform itself into a steeliness, an inner resolve which compensated for any rough edges, any spontaneous belligerence, a wine with more heart than at first appeared, Godammit, it was a man's wine, that's what I'm trying to say.
The rest of the time? Gin and whisky, as much of them as I could lay my hands on. Not Lieutenant-Commander Tommy Woodrooffe level, but near enough. Right at the end we even acquired a sack of ice cubes. And some limes. If I'd been able to get some rum, Royal Navy style, I'd have had that, too. I mean, who ever drank a glass of wine as a sundowner? Just look at the picture, if you're not persuaded.