Archive for December, 2012

December 15, 2012

winter doing its thing

14.12.2012

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December 13, 2012

ideas for my best-seller

10.04.2009 – Well, I’d buy them …

booktitles3

booktitles3b

December 10, 2012

confessions of a winetard

01.12.12 – Saturday, Piacenza wine market

A brief history of my relationship with wine

1982, I’m 18, travelling around Italy with my boyfriend and no money. We’re somewhere in the mountains around Rome, and we decide that on our budget we can live on crusty bread, fresh tomatoes and fiaschi of local red wine in squat bottles in woven straw baskets, which all costs about 50p a meal and is nutritious, traditional peasant fare. This seems like a marvellous idea during our first meal, after which we pass out on our beach mats in a field under the shade of a tree. When I wake up I feel dreadful, headachy, nauseous, depressed. I won’t touch red wine again for the next 15 years.

What influences my wine buying behaviour:

  1. Is it white?

Mid-late 1990’s and I’m in my mid-late thirties, burning out from taking myself and my career far too seriously, and suffering from insomnia, which seems to be exacerbated when I drink white wine. Red wine is healthier and has all of those anti-oxidant thingies in it. I won’t touch white wine for the next 10 plus years.

What influences my wine buying behaviour:

  1. Is it red?
  2. Does it have a pretty label?
  3. Price range ITL.3,000 – ITL.5,000 (for a really good bottle)

End 2010, M. is selling insurance and one of his clients owns a local wine shop and bar. Within a few months of meeting him we are spending what we normally spend on a bottle of wine on a single glass. Buying a bottle of wine has become as complicated as choosing a new phone or computer.

What influences my wine buying behaviour:

  1. Does the vintner tell a good story? + €10–€15
  2. Is the vintner a woman? + €5–€10
  3. Will the vintner treat me like an alcoholic if I don’t spit it out? – €5–€10
  4. Will they be pleased if I don’t? + €5–€10
  5. Do they personally introduce us to their vines? Do they carry around a picture of their vines in their wallet? + €10–€15
  6. Will they want me to try the whole range of their wines? + €10–€15
  7. Do they talk like sommeliers and wear that ridiculous spittoon thing round their necks? – €10–€15
  8. Does he have irritating facial hair and suggest things like if you swirl the wine in one direction it tastes one way, whereas if you swirl it in the other you get something different? – €3
  9. Does the vintner act like a mad scientist? + €10–€15
  10. Does it have a pretty label? + €3
December 7, 2012

my first fountain pen

27.02.2008

defining moments 11 missed out

December 5, 2012

anatomy of an argument – sweating the small stuff

27.03.2011 – Journal entry [btw, we’re fine]

Well yesterday started out ok then M. and I had a massive row at the supermarket, after we’d been running in the park, about something ridiculously trivial and I am still in a rage about it. It’s making me feel crazy. I have just tried to clear the air, but M. maintains he has nothing to say, he’s happy, he got up early this morning, he’s feeling a bit tired, but otherwise he’s fine. I am seething. I’m not sure why I am making such a big deal of this. He has nothing to say and I can’t bring myself to look at or speak to him.

I am convinced that M. was trying to pick a fight with me. He won’t admit it. He reckons I escalated it beyond the two-minute moan he was having about my having bought an unnecessary plastic bag at the supermarket, and beginning to expand on the theme about how wasteful I am and all the food I’ve ever bought which I haven’t eaten. Perhaps I did. But I could feel a cloud descending on me as he repeated variations on the theme over and over again.

It’s not as if he was paying. It’s not as if the plastic bag wouldn’t get used as a dustbin bag anyway. It’s not as if I’m never going to miscalculate the number of bags we need again, and will be penalized to the tune of 15c. And since I’m the one who does most of the shopping, and I prefer to have too many plastic bags than over-fill too few, plus I pay for the fucking stuff, I don’t see why I should have to listen to him droning on about it. So it feels like he was picking a fight.

So why did I take the bait? I was starting to feel resentful, thinking how happy I’d felt running around the park, how relaxed, how normally right now I’d be in a dreamy state of well-being and instead I’m being nagged, having my balls broken about something absolutely trivial. I kept thinking “don’t sweat the small stuff”, actually, I kept thinking “why does he have to sweat the small stuff”. Maybe if I’d been thinking the first thing, I’d have been better able to resist the temptation to explode, because that’s what I did in the end. I told him to shut up, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!!! I think I might have missed the stage of politely asking him to change the subject. No, I didn’t. I could probably have been more polite or humourous about it, but I did ask him to change the subject.

Did I tell him he was right? He said something strange yesterday morning, that he was going to have to leave me because I always told him he was right. I often appease him, it’s the easiest way. He also said that it was because he was nearly always right, and I’d do better to just listen to him and do whatever he says. At the time this was a light-hearted conversation, but I wonder if there’s anything behind it.

Anyway, after I told him to SHUT UP, he didn’t, which ramped up my frustration, which was rapidly turning into rage, even further, and I doubled back on myself and took the parallel route home so I wouldn’t have to keep listening to him. Unfortunately I was the only one who had the keys, so he was waiting for me. We got home in silence, with me banging every door I could. He seemed calm and cheerful. It felt a bit sadistic.

This does remind me of rowing with mum. I think she believed this was what communication was about, this was how people were supposed to interact with each other, this was “being Italian”, being honest, being oneself, expressing one’s feelings. I would be the one having the amygdala hijack, and I’d feel completely drained and crazy afterwards.

It’s funny, M.’s always more likely to do this when people are coming over, especially if it’s D. He has been known to behave like a whiny pain in the arse with T. around as well, but less so.

What happened when we got back? It was quite late, so I started tidying up the house, clearing the table in the kitchen. M. started to go on about the plastic bags again, because, evidently, I hadn’t understood what he was trying to say. I started screaming at him to shut up, what was there not to understand that he’s pissed off because I bought a plastic bag we didn’t need, and how dare he break my balls about something so fucking trivial, about a 15c bag. How would he like it if I broke his balls in this way? I don’t break his balls so why the fuck does he think it’s alright to break mine. He denied he was breaking my balls, at which point I threw the folded-up table-cloth at him.

I went into the living room to try and cool off. I realized that wasn’t going to happen so I decided to have a shower. I’d just finished getting dressed when D. & A. arrived. There followed a fairly excruciating day of my pretending that everything was alright. M. was showing affection towards me, leaning against me at the table, but as soon as D. & A. went outside on the balcony for a smoke, he said, half jokingly, “I hate you, and I’m going to hate you until you apologise.” I couldn’t trust myself to speak. Before D & A came back, I hissed at him in the toilet that I was happy to apologise if he was. He announced that he had nothing to apologise for.

Is it too much to ask that he shows some basic consideration of my feelings, like if I’m clearly about to erupt with fury to stop doing whatever it is he’s doing which is presumably provoking it, reasonable or not? Apparently it’s too much to ask. I really feel like I’m dealing with Sheldon here, but am I being a bit Sheldon-like?

December 5, 2012

sunrise over Milan this moring

Ok, maybe you had to be there…

 

December 3, 2012

what I think about when I think about wine

Thursday 29 November 2012

I don’t like this wine, but it’s a Barolo, and costs a fortune. Saying I don’t like it would just sound ignorant. And invite comments about how I’m English and can’t possibly have any kind of taste in wine. I suppose I’ve learned that it’s bad manners to be dismissive about well-made wine, it doesn’t show the correct appreciation of all the challenges wine-makers face, all the choices they have to make, to follow the phases of the moon, whether to use pesticides or sexually confuse the butterflies [honestly, they spray a hormone into the air that makes the butterflies that attack grapes forget what their sexual preferences are re. gender, and makes them horny all the time, not just when the female is ready to mate],  to let the must ferment with or without the skins, to age the wine in oak, stainless steel, cement & fibreglass, in terracotta amphorae seven leagues under the sea … But, fuck, I don’t like this wine, and I’m paying a fortune for it. It’s a bit sour, very tanniny, it’s not giving me a good buzz. When I was a teenager hanging out with a biker gang –the ex-public school boy bikers – experimenting with drugs, drugs were evaluated on the quality of their buzz. Why isn’t wine? Why can’t I ask Antonio for something with a “mellow buzz” rather than elegant or full-bodied, which basically means less or more alcohol? I’m sure the producer decided to gently squeeze rather than crush the grapes, to use old rather than new oak casks to retain the genuine flavours and aromas of the wine, I don’t care, to me it tastes like it will curdle in my stomach. It smells of fruit, of jam. Big deal. I like surprises, like when wine smells of something completely different to wine, but tastes delicious, like those German wines that smell of petrol, or the biodynamic ones that smell of shit, honestly, not even shit and something else, just shit. They try to dress it up a bit, saying it smells of stable, or even horseshit, which is less scary than human shit, but the last one I tried smelled of nothing less than dirty nappy. So what do I have to do to get a decent glass of wine around here, without having to pay homage to well-made wines I don’t like? And for the record, Antonio, it’s not true that I am a sucker for oak-aged wine, all that vanilla, all the difficult stuff rubbed out by the wood. I do realise that they put actual wood shavings into tetra pak wine to make it drinkable. I don’t want a wine that tastes of the rocks on the sides of the mountains the grapes were perilously grown on. I want to float away, to get pleasantly squiffy, savouring a lovely, gentle, tantalising wine that reminds me of random things, of the smell of new tennis shoes, of shitaki mushrooms, of condoms, of chlorine, of freezers, of burned leaves, of mothballs, of M.’s deodorant.