Thursday, 6 July 2017

Blueberries

So it's too hot to do anything. The sun burns down. Our pals are on a visit from their place in the South of France and they're complaining about the heat. Just sitting in the back garden, staring at the opal sky, takes it out of me. The birds fall silent. I blink at our dripping bathroom overflow and wish I could stand underneath it.

Then, an idea: I have some half-finished Asda champagne sitting in the fridge (Henri Cachet, recognisably a champagne and only £14) and some blueberries. I shall recreate a drink I once enjoyed (at a boat show, don't ask) in which a well-known champagne maker dished out free samples of his product in giant plastic glasses etched with the company logo, but - and this is the point - made them go much, much, further by the addition of some ice and a couple of blueberries in each glass. Sounds disgusting? At the time, it was heavenly and I could even sit down while I drank it and watch millions and millions of pounds' worth of yachts fail to get bought. What's more, blueberries are a good source of vitamin K (helps wounds heal) and antioxidants (might prevent or delay some types of cell damage). Let's do it again, I vow, reeling back into the house and towards the kitchen.

Nothing could be simpler. In go the ingredients, the blueberries ever so slightly bruised, just in case this helps, and I return to the garden with my champagne glass. I take a swig. Do you know what? It works. This is not least because, after a day in the fridge, the Henri Cachet, while still about zingy enough, has nevertheless taken on a certain flabby, caramel, quality, something for the bite of the blueberries and the moderating effects of meltwater to get to grips with in an entirely beneficial way. See pic.

Trouble is, I then feel a great and overwhelming need not to let things lie. Instead, I recall another use of blueberries, as explained to me by someone who knows their alcohol: this being a kind of micro-Martini, in which a measure of gin is joined by a chunk of ice and a couple of blueberries to hint at some other kind of aromatic intervention. It's the work of a moment. And yes, on the one hand it's delicious, mainly because a shot of Sipsmith on ice is always fab - I know, Sipsmith, so commercialised these days, but what a voluptuous gin they make - while, on the other hand, is not much more than that. The blueberries sit around looking enigmatic: fished out and eaten when everything else has gone, they do yield a tasty, steeped, mouthful, but I couldn't say that the drink as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Now I'm frustrated. The heat and the gin are doing nothing for my better judgement. So determined am I to further the blueberries' talents in my own head, to insist on their suitability for all drinks and occasions, I dig out a work-in-progress three-day-old bottle of McGuigan Shiraz. I pour out a bit, lob in a couple more blueberries, watch them sink to the now-lightless bottom of the glass like paperweights. Tastewise? Well, the Shiraz has already got the miasma of envelope adhesive which three days of being opened will encourage and the blueberries, it seems, only add to that. I taste leather. I taste working man's gloves. It isn't any better than it was. In fact it might be slightly worse. I can't believe that the blueberries aren't working.

And so, like something out of Malcolm Lowry, or perhaps, simply, like Malcolm Lowry, I wander outside again, a haze of liquor coming off me in the desperate heat, disorientated, numb with failed obsessions. Why couldn't I just leave it at the champagne? No, but then, the champagne was a success, I mustn't lose sight of that. Such a success that I might make even a habit of it. Yes, that's important. I musn't forget it.

'It was a success,' I say out loud, to make it real.

CJ




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