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Posts Tagged ‘wine’

February is blowing itself out in a whole long week of storms, one after the other. It snaps some more of my rotting fence panels, and says, there you go, suck on that. It rattles the eaves all night, and howls through the vents, keeping me awake. I put on sound-cancelling headphones, which do a good job, but then I wake at intervals with hot, itchy ears.

Mornings bring a bloodshot dawn, and days indoors, sheltering from the weather, with the mood, like the trees outside, swinging from one side to the other. The various media show me roads flooded, lorries toppling over, and all the trains are cancelled. I watch big jets on live feed, making precarious landings at Heathrow.

Now and then there is a tease of sunshine, and the wind holds its breath, tempting one to contemplate escaping out of doors. But before I’ve got my shoes on, the rain is hammering against the glass. Submit, it says, you’re going nowhere.

In one brief interlude, I cobble back the worst of the damage to the fence panels, to stop them waggling about, and creaking in the night, at least. But we’re looking at replacing them, soon, and that means finding some workmen. But workmen are difficult to find, and, when found, they are difficult to persuade to turn up, and when they are persuaded, they suck their teeth and charge the earth. Reasons are various: it’s the price of wood, you see, mate? It’s the pandemic, it’s inflation, it’s the cost of energy, it’s the lack of lorry drivers, it’s BR*XIT’s sunny uplands! All of these things, I suppose, make their contribution to these late winter blues.

It has me fretting. It disturbs my sleep as much as the wind does, this seemingly endless business of maintaining fences. Is that another panel gone? Of course, there’s more to this. Are these possibly metaphorical fences? Is it the borders of one’s-self we feel are not so secure as they were? And have we the energy to keep on renewing them? In twenty years I’ll be eighty, which is not so long, since twenty years past was five minutes ago, and I imagine that’s too old to be moithering over fence panels. We do not normally toss and turn to such thoughts. How interesting! I surmise we are actually suffering from stir craziness, or cabin fever, when a mood can be punctured by so little as dropping the end of your carefully dunked digestive biscuit into your cup of tea. And it is, after all, two weeks now, since we had a walk.

So we brave the buffeting, and take a drive to the shop for a change of scene, noting in passing petrol is once more at an all-time record high. As for the shop, the etiquette is now confusing, since Boris declared victory over Covid, having fought it on the beaches, and in the air, until it finally surrendered. I wear a mask anyway, like the health services still advise. I am alone in this, but for the other fuddy duddy, who wears his mask as a chinstrap. Half a kilogram of butter costs nearly five pounds! And wine,… well, never mind. In emergencies, cheese and wine are called for. We pick out a modestly priced French Red, and a wedge of Stilton, then head for home.

Meanwhile, Russia invades the Donbas region of the Ukraine. I did not think they would, but, in retrospect, like many things in life, I see it was now inevitable. The western press is awfully keen of a sudden to talk it up as another infotainment conflict, somehow forgetting Russia has had effective control of this region since 2014, with the result of 14,000 deaths already, and barely a peep. But I am avoiding headlines as much as I can. This is not a good time to be further oppressed by things one can do nothing about.

The house always feels cold, in windy weather. Also, since our last email from the energy company, we have set the heating to knock off early. Then again, it never does quite warm the place to cosiness, since we also set the thermostat to economy. So we read a little, we write a little. And when the cold creeps in, we toss a rug over our legs, and think of spring.

To accompany the wine and cheese, we put Amelie on the player, settle down to watch its warm, gentle whimsy. I’ve been learning French off and on for years, with the aim of one day sitting through films like this without subtitles. I find I can catch the occasional phrase, now, the occasional line, by playing them back in my head, but by then dialogue has moved on, and it’s hard to keep up. My brain is just too slow, so I put the subtitles on.

Amelie is permanently in my top ten of movies, though it must also be said my top ten has many more than ten movies in it by now. The story defies explanation, but five minutes is all it takes, and the world and the wind are forgotten.

Why fret over what we cannot fix? Those rotting fence panels? Yes, we’ll have to fix them eventually. Let the wind pick them out for us, hopefully no more than one or two at a time. But the rest of what oppresses us, the media is geared to presenting us with stuff we can do nothing about, while social media lends the illusion that by shouting about a thing, it makes a difference, when all it does is make things worse. In other news, the forecast is looking fair for Friday. We’ll pencil the little blue car in for a run to the Dales.

I think we’re overdue.

See you there.

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big assDo you drink alcohol? Have you ever tried giving up? I’m finding it’s very hard. I like wines and spirits, also the occasional glass of beer. I try to stick to the UK government’s health guidelines for consumption which is about 4 units per day for a man, but I do exceed this sometimes. Now, however, I’m trying to kick the bottle and the reason is this: I’ve discovered I’m  alcohol intolerant.

 I wrote a little while ago about how I’d noticed a glass of wine would cause me to lose my sense of smell. The reaction took only a matter of minutes. I would start out with, for example, a nice glass of Merlot, being able to smell it, but by the time I’d finished, my sense of smell was gone – gone for days. I wrote whimsically that I had a choice – I could either go on smelling the wine, or I could taste it. I resolved not to taste it of course, because that was the sensible thing, but signing the pledge hasn’t proved at all easy.

I find myself still drinking – even telling myself I’m experimenting to see which wine or spirit causes the problem, if it’s something other than the alcohol I’m intolerant to. It isn’t. Alcohol – in any consumable form – causes the inside of the nose to swell – this is a well known fact. If you have other problems in there, as I do, with say polyps for example, you can lose your sense of smell and it can take ages to come back. Drink regularly, say every day, and you can quickly become entirely anosmic.

So why can’t I stop, since I clearly want to?

This week my sense of smell returned, after having been absent for several weeks, and I immediately celebrated the fact, with a small glass of wine, which led to another glass of wine and the eventual loss of my sense of smell, again. I’d apparently forgotten I was intolerant and that was really stupid.

The long term health issues of consuming alcohol are of course, quite terrifying – anosmia being the least of the potential troubles it can cause, so clearly it’s in all our interests, as with smoking, not to indulge at all. But how realistic is that, given the amount of exposure these legal mood enhancers get? One of the things I’ve noticed, while trying to keep to the pledge, is the number of reminders we get  that alcohol is available, and that it’s socially essential. TV soaps are a terrible source of this subliminal messaging. They appear in the early evening, and no matter what the plot or who is doing what to whom, everyone is also drinking while they’re doing it.

I think to myself, I’ve not thought about alcohol all day. I’d be quite happy to settle down with my laptop and a cup of tea, but then I’ll glance at the telly and the alcohol is flowing as freely as at some Bacchanalian orgy. So I start to think about trotting off to the corner shop for a bottle of chilled white wine.

Damn!

It’s also hard when others around you are drinking as I’ve noticed the tendency is for friends and family to look up sharp when you refuse the drink and go for the fizzy water instead, and then you have to trot out the explanation, and endure all the cooing and the quack cures for your dodgy nose.

It’s easier to just take the drink.

I shall be redoubling my efforts in future, but there’s a bit of Big Ass Chardonnay left in that bottle in the fridge. I’ll just have that first because it’ll be a shame to waste it!

Only joking. I drank that ages ago.

4 days without breaking the pledge, and counting!

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noseIf you have a normal sense of smell, pause for a moment and think how much you would lose in terms of your experience of life if the world were entirely odourless. You might think you wouldn’t miss much, that you could easily do without it. I managed without it for many years, my sense of smell declining gradually, until I woke up one morning and realised I couldn’t remember what anything smelled like any more.

You don’t need a sense of smell to function normally, unless you work as a perfumier of course, but take it from me, one’s experience of life is so much more muted when one cannot smell, like viewing the world in black and white instead of colour. As a writer too, I found it difficult when penning descriptive passages because so often we use scent to implant an instant impression of our invented world. For example I don’t need to describe the smell of lavender to you. It just is. You know at once what I mean. But how authentic was I being, it being so long since I’d smelled anything myself?

The cause of my anosmia was nasal polyps – quite common in middle agers – small, benign growths in the mucus membrane of the nose, probably the result of long term exposure to allergens. The current western medical approach is to shrink them with a short course of steroids and antibiotics. If this doesn’t work, a minor surgical procedure is necessary, but it’s recognised that in both cases the polyps will probably grow back unless you take a tiny daily top-up dose of steroid based spray or drops, unless you can identify the allergen and permanently remove yourself from it.

After treatment my sense of smell returned, and was reliable for several months. Indeed it was super sharp at times, so I could experience the world of scent to a degree others could not – until I woke up one Sunday morning without it, and spent the whole day in a misery of anosmia again. Bummer!

The reason for my relapse?

Unsure at first, but I have a liking for single malt Scotch whiskey, also wine, and had enjoyed a drink on the previous evening. The complex aroma of a single malt is something that can transport me to another plane and, unlike lavender is not so easy to describe, unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I don’t actually have to drink it – just put my nose near it, so I’ve been grateful to have my sense of smell back, then I can indulge my former passion. But could my tipple have caused a return of anosmia?

By way of experiment, I refrained from alcohol and my sense of smell returned within 24 hours. Then I took a glass of wine – not terribly strong – just a soft red table wine, and I waited. As I took my first sip, I could smell the wine – pleasant, fruity, earthy, warm,… but by the time I’d finished the glass I could smell nothing, and it took a full twenty four hours again for my sense of smell to return. I’ve repeated this on numerous occasions now. If I don’t drink, my sense of smell remains intact. If I take a glass of alcohol, the anosmia returns, sometimes within minutes.

QED

I’ve always had my suspicions about alcohol, now confirmed, at least to my satisfaction. If it doesn’t actually cause anosmia, it seems to aggravate it – in my case anyway.  You don’t need to over-indulge; a single glass will do it. I’m hardly a perpetual drunkard, but I’ll admit  a glass of wine or malt whiskey was a regular companion, once the sun had slipped below the yard-arm. It seems I have a choice though: do I want to taste it, or smell it? I know which I prefer. If you’re anosmic like me, and you like a drink, you might not be doing yourself any favours.

Michael reluctantly lowers his pen, and signs the pledge.

Damn!

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