Thursday, 31 January 2008

Nearly there

Just one day to go, and to be quite frank I would relish another month off the sauce. I feel better, livelier, fresher and ready to do it all again. I have never slept so well.
All lies of course, I feel broken, dull and purposeless and can barely wait to uncork the first one. I spend most of my time trying to decide what to kick off with first. A Refosco? A Barbera d'Asti? A sodding big Plymouth Gin and Tonic? I could do worse than get one of these down at 7.30 tomorrow morning. It was a present from my extremely butch mountain-trekking mate Renato whose speciality is searching out protected plants in the Italian Alps, ripping them out of the ground, and stuffing them into a bottle that he then fills up with half-decent supermarket grappa. This particular plant is called Iva and is only found above 6,000ft (apparently). It is just ever-so-slightly flowery and very clean. Yum yum, pig's bum.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

All sulphured out

I was at a family dinner the other evening, enjoying some lovely glasses of sparkling water, when I happened to mention to the distant cousin sitting next to me that I had a bit of a stiff neck. Quick as a shot she was off, and returned dragging behind her the family medicine box. Italians are enthusiastic first-aiders and most of them have an arsenal of bandages, ointments, plasters, drugs and pain killers at home that wouldn't look out of place in a NATO field hospital. After rummaging around for about ten minutes she triumphantly extracted a rock-hard, yellow cylinder (above) to the general approval of the assembled family. "Right", she enthused, "let me at you! Where is the stiffness?" and when I indicated the general area, she got me in a headlock and started rolling said cylinder up and down my neck with the palm of her hand. I could hear the occasional little snick, as if there was a small electrical discharge. "That'll be the negative ions coming out!". Anyway, it would seem that pure sulphur applied to the affected part can be a great help for a colpo d'aria (what you get if you sit in a draught) or indeed any general aches and pains. Did it work? I have to say there was some short-term relief. But it could have been the headlock.
By the way, we are now told to spell sulphur, sulfur. I blame Blair.

Friday, 18 January 2008

A bracing walk

Had a decent walk this morning with Mrs Combo and dog. At the top is the standard view from the local village, suitably snowy this time. The pointy mountain in the distance is on the French border (which is about 100 miles away) and is called Mon Viso. The locals are convinced that this mountain is the model on which the Paramount logo is based but I think that is bollocks. Perhaps Squire Ashley might like to advise.

This extremely dull shot shows the frontage of the shop in another nearby village, open from 10.30am - 12.00 every day. The reflection in the window shows (on the right) the owner, Signora Alma, who refused to be photographed as she wasn't wearing her serving apron and (on the left) Mrs Combo. The dog was off after a cat. As you can see, it would be quite easy to miss it as there is nothing to advise one that it is actually a shop. We don't go there of course because quite frankly it's just ridiculous; no loyalty card scheme and they don't stock Marmite.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Still or fizzy?

Seven days have nearly passed since the last drop of alcohol passed my lips and I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this week. The standard off-the-sauce background headache had gone by about Wednesday and I now sleep like a baby. I nearly stumbled twice; the first time on Friday afternoon when I started teaching a new class and I realised that the majority of the parents of the assembled obnoxious brats were at least 10 years younger than I am. And then again last night at a demanding dinner at Giulio the Singer's home with his extremely well-stocked wine cellar, but my Faith kept me strong. O Ye of trifling belief! Turn from your Sinful Ways!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

It's all over

On this joyous day of Epiphany when Christmas finally puts away its decorations and celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings, I stare bleakly ahead to the rest of the month of January without the overweaning company of my best friend Mr Booze. Every January is the same although this year I have deferred by six days for purely selfish reasons. As a quid pro quo the plan is that in February I will drink only at weekends (Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday). I will do it of course, I always do; the first three days are the worst and then it's OK. Just so profoundly and utterly dull. I am seeing this evening off with a bottle of 2005 cabernet franc from dodgy Tony in the Veneto region. Delicious. I leave you with a shot of our Christmas tree in the snow and a heavy heart.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

My name's Ron and I'm an alky

I am of few principles but I try and take as little information as possible from The Evil Empire as run by Mr Rupert Murdoch. Just before Christmas I followed a link to an article in The Times however that had me twitching. Some Phil Space decided to spend a month exceeding the government 'guidelines' on units of alcohol per day. Obviously he had the time of his life, being a lightweight. At the end of the article are the 20 questions to determine whether you are an alky or not. If you answer yes to one, you may be an alky; if you answer yes to two you could well be an alky; if you answer yes to three then you are almost certainly an alky. Well, I answered yes to 14.
Then I saw where the questionnaire came from (obviously the USA) but this made me feel much, much better: The Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Association, Baltimore
Pass me the bottle Mabel, I've got a hell of a thirst on.
For what it's worth, you can read the article here

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The sky's the limit

In High Spirits (December 4th) I referred to the bottle of 90 degree alcohol I had bought. On the Combo Estate is a bush that has leaves that reek of lemon, (although it doesn't produce any fruit) but just brush past it and the aroma it gives off is quite splendid. Anyway, I plucked about 100 leaves, put them in a large container with the alcohol and left them there for about three weeks. Then I boiled some sugar in water, put it all together and ecco! the perfect digestive! I gave it a run out on New Year's Eve and the assembled Eyties said it was as good as any of the commercially available products, usually called by the generic Limoncello and from the south of Italy. Whilst they obviously didn't want to upset their wild-eyed, booze-crazed host, I must say it's not at all bad. As you can see no expense was spared in terms of the packaging.
A statement will shortly be forthcoming with regard to January and alcohol.