Thursday 12 April 2018

Home Alone

Mrs K is out for the evening, at a musical, which I think avoids the need for any further explanation as to why I have stayed home alone.

So I have choices of both food and wine. On food, I can take the high road, put in some effort, and enjoy the things which Mrs K eschews, such as venison, black pudding and custard, although probably not all at once. Or I can take the low road through quick and easy eating alone options, like fish fingers, pasta with pesto, and ice cream, again probably not all at once. (Although let’s not limit my creative options here; I’ve been watching Masterchef.)

But of course, the real question is on the wine front; and again, it’s whether to take the high road or the low road. Should I enjoy a good wine on my own? Or settle for something mediocre because I’m drinking it by myself?

I have always been wary of the argument that “life’s too short to drink bad wine”. If anything, I have argued that life is too long to drink the good stuff now. That would simply decimate my cellar, and leave me with little to look forward to over the coming years beyond mental and physical decline – incompetence and incontinence.

What about that bottle I have earmarked to celebrate my 70th?  Am I supposed to drink it now, in fear that I may never reach that milestone? And then have nothing worthwhile left to drink if I do?

So when I look at my cellar for solo drinking, my eyes tend to race over the (few) really good bottles. Better to save them for some special event. Cometh the hour, cometh the corkscrew. And while I might get to enjoy twice as much of their contents by drinking them alone, much better to share them, talk about them, enjoy them with someone else.

Drinking alone per se has accrued an image of sad self-destruction, of the drinking into oblivion of Nobby No-mates. But I cling to the belief that there has to be a difference between drinking wine alone, and drinking, say, vodka by yourself. Surely the consideration and appreciation of good wine, even by yourself, is a different matter?

The prohibitionists would make no such distinction. The government measure of drinking by units of alcohol renders all consumption the same, whether it’s white Burgundy or White Lightning. Am I simply clinging to justification by pomposity, like Randy in South Park: “I’m not ‘having a glass of wine’ – I’m having six, it’s called a tasting and it’s classy.”

Surely not. I read what Roger Scruton has written in I Drink Therefore I Am, his Philosopher’s Guide to Wine, about the pleasures of drinking good claret. “Always in good company,” he writes, “which does not, of course, preclude drinking it alone, if your own company reaches the required standard (which, after a glass or two, I find, mine does).”

I am struck by a vision of myself sitting in my armchair, TS Eliot’s Four Quartets in hand, Beethoven’s Op 132 playing in the background. Yes, a bottle of good claret would indeed raise the company in this “evening under lamplight” to my own required standard.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be reached, what with the toll exacted by grilling fish fingers and all. In my hand is more likely to be the television remote. And in the background that classic episode of Grand Designs which they seem to repeat constantly.

(You know, the one they’re always showing, where the build goes on over the winter, and the bloke runs out of money and starts working on it himself, and his wife gets pregnant, and Kevin ends up saying “I was always nervous about this build, but d’you know what, this house made of rice cakes actually works…”)

So it’s a bottle of the rubbish stuff for me. The standard of my cooking, the quality of my own company, the cost of good wine, and the selfishness of solo consumption, all point towards a bottle of the trolley fodder. I reconcile myself to a bottle of Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference. (Mmm, certainly can…)

At least I can pride myself on avoiding the embarrassment of serving it to somebody else. Heaven forbid they might think that I would drink this stuff myself.


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