The fourth of July was independence day for boozers in England. For the first time since lockdown in March, pubs threw open their doors with staff waiting anxiously at the pumps. We were like rats out of a trap. First stop for a cheeky bottle of blush, the White Horse, transformed into a virus-free sanctuary (as much as anything can be) by the jolly landlord, Simon Peck, and his trusty staff.
The pandemic revealed an entirely different side to Simon as a bumbling and uncannily accurate BoJo impersonator as you can see in this tongue firmly in cheek performance.
Simon even made it on to Look East, our regional BBC news programme. If you’re on Facebook, give the video a like if you would. Simon would be chuffed.
Next stop was the Swan for a couple and then the King’s Head for a final snifter. We didn’t quite make it up to the Angel. That’s on the menu for next time. Too early for opening time? I’m no expert so I’ll leave that to the know-it-alls to speculate. What I do know is each establishment did their bit to keep people safe and all the punters behaved. Was it worth it? You bet! We got totally tiddlypooped.
I heard through the grapevine that a bottle of vino from Norfolk had been recognised as one of the best in the world. It won a platinum best in show medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017, one of the industry’s most prestigious competitions. Fancy that! The winning white, the Bacchus 2015, comes from the family-run Winbirri Vineyard on the edge of the Broads National Park. Apparently, the name Winbirri comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘win’ for wine and ‘birri’ for grape – though I suspect rough beer was the tipple of choice back in the day for those merry Angles of old swigging from their drinking horns, Beowulf-like. And so it is again, judging by the spectacular revival of indie brewers across East Anglia. These days, it’s artisan ale and hipster whiskers at every tavern. Drinking horns have yet to come back into fashion. Give it time.
English wines have been winning gongs galore for a while now. The weather’s brighter these days, it’s a global warming thing. With rising sea levels, we might as well make merry before the North Sea laps about our knees. At 14 quid a bottle, the Winbirri winner is a bit pricier than the plonk we normally guzzle but we thought we’d give it a go to see what all the fuss was about. All sold out. Sad face.
Wine tasting (ok, wine guzzling) is an essential element of our hedonista lifestyle. Together, we survive on in a month what I alone used to earn in a week so we’re rather preoccupied with the cost; prices have been rising due to increased taxation on alcohol. We don’t have a car so we can’t take advantage of the bulk bargains to be had at Metro, the local cash and carry warehouse. Instead we have to make do with what’s on offer in local supermarkets.
We care about the quality (though less so after the second bottle) and quality isn’t necessarily linked to cost. As Brits, we’ve been rather spoilt for choice. Setting aside the small amount of vino produced by English vineyards, all wine in Blighty is shipped in from the four corners of the globe. Generally, this means the quality is reasonable, even at the plonk end of the market. Liam likes a full bodied red. I prefer a crisp white. We’ve found a couple of labels that tickle our taste buds: Sava from Carrefour (the French multi-national) and Beyzade, occasionally from Tansaş. Both sell at around 7 lira (about £2.40 or $1.80) and are very good value. We’re not experts. We don’t do the Jilly Goolden roll, smell and spit routine. We just sup. A lot. I’ll drink to that.
Last night, the heavens opened and we were entertained by a real snap, crackle and pop of a storm. What is it about Turkish raindrops? They seem so much heavier than the Blighty variety as they fall to the ground like cluster bombs. As we watched the spectacle from our balcony, our courtyard became littered with adolescent olives and the road outside was overcome by a river of brown sludge that sloshed against our garden wall. We unplugged our fancy electricals as a precaution against the strobe lightning, positioned towels at vulnerable points around the house and hoped for the best.
At least the town’s first autumnal wash did douse the semi-parched garden. At the beginning of the summer, our neighbour took sole charge of our joint plot and made a valiant effort to keep it well watered. His initial enthusiasm eventually waned to half-hearted resentment; he seemed very pleased with the biblical downpour. We were less enthusiastic. Midway through the tempest, our roof sprang a leak and our fuse box, which is illogically located on an external wall, tripped. Compared to some, we got off lightly. We’re planning a joint birthday shindig this month; our birthdays are two weeks apart. At this rate it will be illuminated by candles and guests will be entertained by transistor radio while they sup warm white wine and dance around strategically placed buckets.
Unhappy with the high cost and variable quality of Turkish şarap (wine), I have advised Liam to double our wine budget. When I first visited Turkey some 15 years ago, a quaffable bottle of table wine was a couple of quid. These days it would be cheaper to arrange an international delivery from Ocado. I feel a golden opportunity is being missed in Turkey. Wine has been produced in Anatolia for six millennia and with some serious investment, better quality control and a more benign tax regime, Turkey could become the new Chile. Most Turks don’t drink that much (presumably influenced by traditional Islamic prohibition) but a weak home market hardly matters for export. Cheers!