Sunday, 11 October 2015

Three well-travelled bottles of wine


This is me at Bude, just over two weeks ago. Here's a few more of the place on the same sunny day.


Whenever I go to Bude, I like to 'do my rounds', which includes visiting shops I like. I'm endlessly fascinated by the way Bude manages to have such a good collection of shops, considering that it's basically a small and remote holiday town that has only the Atlantic for company in the winter. That said, it is the only centre for miles around; and its very remoteness means that - like much larger Barnstaple up the coast - it must have a range of shops and services that the local population, increasingly a sophisticated incoming population, can use.

So perhaps it's no real surprise (for instance) that it has a decent department store, Wroes. I have an especially soft spot for Wroes. I have bought clothes there in the past, and bedroom sheets, and pots and pans, and mugs. But it also has the Ocean View Café, which has a fabulous panoramic view seaward, and is a delight to be on a sunny day, morning or afternoon.


This was also the place where, sitting despondent one day in August 2011, I received the wonderful news that the sale of Ouse Cottage - a millstone around my neck by then - was a done deal. I went instantly from despondency to high elation. I wanted to dance and sing. I wanted to spend money at once on a souvenir from Wroes, henceforth not a store but a shrine to personal salvation! I bought the aqua-coloured jacket often seen in my outdoor photos. A jacket I shall never discard, even if it gets tatty. Since the sale of the Cottage, I have gradually clawed my way back to financial stability and a sense of security. Selling the Cottage was that important. It was so very nearly my ruin.

Another shop I always visit is HBH Woolacotts, an electrical and household appliance store. It has several branches. The one at Bude may not be the largest, but it is nevertheless most impressive. They always seem to have the very latest stuff. The accent is on cutting-edge tech, and this is especially apparent in their range of big flat-screen TVs, which is different every time I go in - every six months. On this occasion they had some 4K recordings showing on a very large 55-inch curved television by LG. It had an OLED screen, similar to that on Demelza, my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone. The flowers opening out in a time-lapse sequence in the video absolutely hit you in the eyes - amazingly crisp detail, and great contrast and brilliance. I took some shots, although they don't do the TV rendition full justice:


And this was a TV on offer - the price had come down, and they were selling it off at a 'mere' £1,799, reduced quite a bit from when I saw it (or something very similar) back in February. The TV itself was very thin, mostly less than a finger's-width. Astonishing! It was also astonishing, on the face of it, that they could find buyers for such expensive products locally. But then, as I said, Bude serves a wide area, and more and more of the local population comes from other parts of the country, with consumer wishes to satisfy and money to spend. That's reflected also in the number of upmarket clothes shops and posh eating places now in town, and I suspect that they don't all close down in the winter. Times are a-changing.

Although I love the picture-quality of these latest TVs, I'm in no rush to buy one. This is because I watch TV so little. BBC4 aside, what channel consistently offers anything that appeals? I want to see history, art and science, plus of course the news. I've not the slightest interest in baking, ballroom dancing, soaps, sport, nor anything sensational. I'm a programmer's nightmare. I'm also hard-headed about paying good money for tech that won't get much used. Phones, cameras, laptops? Of course; they are rarely out of my hands, and get worked to exhaustion. TVs? Hardly watched, and so low on my list of stuff to buy.

Instead of watching TV, I listen a lot to the radio. I like the mix of serious stuff on BBC Radio 4. But ever since buying my Ruark digital radio in early August, I've been listening to LBC as well, especially in the evenings when I usually want to get on with various things, and object to sitting down in one place and staring at a TV screen. A radio is a great accompaniment to a manual task. Or for those moments when you'd just rather close your tired eyes and hear voices discussing medical advances, scientific discoveries, or political controversies.

I make no apologies; I'm a serious-minded girl. In any case, it pays to be well-informed. It gives you an edge, makes you savvy, and helps to protects you from the pitfalls of modern life, such as all those financial scams. I also think it maintains your brain-power and wards off dementia, or at least keeps you mentally alert and agile. No amount of passive TV, especially populist frothy TV - and typically cake-baking programmery - can do that. Bottom line: learning new stuff from the radio all the time is a Good Thing and an Essential Survival Tactic.

LBC used to be the London Broadcasting Company long ago in the 1980s, when I listened to it nightly in London. Nowadays it's gone more nationwide, and the 'LBC' initials stand for Leading Britain's Conversation. But it's still pretty London-centric, and sounds much as I remember it from thirty years back, but with new presenters, and minus the Flying Eye (a flying reporter reporting live on London's traffic snarl-ups). Basically it's one endless talking-shop, picking up on the topics of the day and discussing them at length, both the programme presenter, his or her guest experts, and the many, many people who phone in to have their say. All kinds of interesting topics - political, educational, economic, you name it, so long as it's in the news and likely to be on people's lips. They have even retained the ever-popular Saturday-evening discussion on relationship issues and sex. It's a lively mix, and for me a great alternative to BBC Radio 4.

Well, last night LBC touched on Alcohol Abuse and the Drinking Culture in this country, asking why so many people drink to excess, and whether there was anything really wrong with getting tipsy, responsibly or otherwise. That stimulated a wide variety of responses, some from people who seemed trapped in a drinking habit they wanted to justify. One person actually claimed to drink because they enjoyed the taste of alcohol, and the various different ways in which it could be consumed - as if they were a cheese lover and discerning about one kind of cheese compared to another. Which is rather glossing over what the body suffers when overwhelmed by too much alcohol, and the possible physical consequences.

What's my position? Basically, I drink a variety of liquids but mostly water, or mild stimulants like tea or sometimes coffee. Taking the week as a whole, I'll drink some wine (or a gin-and-tonic) when out with friends - maybe twice a week, exceptionally three times. I'm almost exclusively a social drinker. I'll drink by myself only if eating a pub or restaurant meal on my own, which isn't very often. I never drink on my own at home. Similarly, I never drink on my own in the caravan. And since last winter, I've been scientific - or at least very careful - about how much alcohol I consume when driving. In short, I'm pretty responsible about drinking, but not priggish. I won't lecture anyone on what they should be doing. It has to be an individual decision.

Essentially when on my own I have no motive for drinking alcohol, as opposed to having a nice refreshing cup of tea. So that's why all three of the wine bottles I took on holiday on the 17th September - with possible invitations to eat at friends' homes in mind - remained in the boot of my car and are still intact in my kitchen at this very moment. You can if you wish pooh-pooh my assertions about being 'only a social drinker', but those three wine bottles have remained untouched for nearly four weeks. They travelled about 1,500 miles to Devon and back, and around the West Country. Hence the title of this post. (We got there finally!)

Caravanners are supposed to be knocking back wine all day long. The caravan manufacturers' brochures depict a decent bottle of wine, and wine glasses, somewhere in the luxury interiors of their products, to indicate the lotus-eating lifestyle of potential buyers. (The price of new caravans is lotus-eating too: you won't get much change from £20,000 for an upmarket version of what I have) The caravan club magazines show pictures of contented caravanning couples swigging their chablis, or (how ghastly) a dozen of them sitting around in a circle, getting pissed on plonk, and presumably discussing the most boring things imaginable.

Not this child. In caravanning, as in many other things, I insist on doing it my way, and that doesn't involve getting drunk. If there is a job going for a trusty wine cellar or distillery warehouse superintendant, I can apply with confidence and probably name my price. Those three unopened wine bottles are my credentials!

1 comment:

  1. I quite like a glass of wine as the boxes just unloaded from my holiday to France prove but they have been chose to go with food and company. I did once open a bottle by myself but it took several days to consume...

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