A desire to dim my presence in the eye-watering constellation of celebrity explains my preference for the Balmoral Palm Court Bar. A location where such Appellations de Hollywood Contrôlée as Tom Hanks and Jack Burns sojourn is the ideal spot for Vins de Pays such as myself to pass unobserved. Vins de Table rarely intrude, but alas, I do have my followers.
Barbara Potts, an old University Wine Society acquaintance, is most definitely V. de T. Her perennial dissatisfaction with life has not improved since Mrs S. engaged her as a domestic assistant and failed to include a share of our notoriety. I’m uncertain if recent events have helped.
I’d spent the early evening astride a preposterously large kangaroo in the Balmoral’s Waverley Suite espousing Australian vineyards as a vacation spot. Perhaps, given the drastic drought Down Under threatening future supplies, I should have rationed my sampling of the wines on offer over the three-hour duration, but with the wife away on a work jaunt, the usual stresses had evaporated. Spirits still sky high, I retired to the Palm Court, but immediately spotted an all-encompassing and ominously heavy cloud on my horizon in the shape of local roué and fellow V. de P. Cal Cavendish.
Older readers will recall Cal from his week bothering the 1998 hit parade with a Runrig remix dance anthem. Cal has since taken in a tour presenting regional entertainment news, done a stint on a speech-based radio station (of which the less said the better) and penned an autobiography that is still piled high in those shops forever boasting a Final Closing Down Sale. Think of an initially cheeky Beaujolais Nouveau sipped intermittently over a decade.
Cal only appears at my side to sample new champagnes with which to subsequently impress the latest in a long and increasingly desperate line of ladies. I unfailingly advise him to buy a bottle priced on a scale of how long I expect to be in his company. That evening, however, sporting a koala bear hat, he had serious business to discuss. Having secured his disc a re-release, he wanted to revise his public image. I suggested that the Lanarkshire Lothario tag had mileage yet, but no, he insisted that artistic depth was the order of the day and evidence of our association would supply it. I spluttered dissent, but Cal had dashed off to round up an obliging paparazzo.
With his exit, Barbara also gate-crashed my fast-deteriorating evening by collapsing through a polystyrene Uluru. Force-fed into an entirely inappropriate black, strappy number and fragrant with Eau de Blotto, she was intent on self-promotion.
Heads turned at her loud insistence that I must do all in my power to ensure she appear on television before the first lambs of spring. Alarmed, I queried her belief that I could achieve such a feat. A simple misunderstanding had occurred when the header of a Burgundy Business Council letter—found in my study during her weekly dust—suggested high-level media connections.
The wailing began. What about her name in the papers? Not without cause, I reasoned. The threats commenced. Did my wife realize that I had shed the trademark bow tie for the Oz event? Could I not even match her with a celebrity friend? At this plea, and with the immaculate sense of timing usually reserved for master sommeliers serving a Claret at its peak of perfection, Cal returned. I introduced my tormentors, ordered a bottle and made bladder-based excuses. Earlier protestations aside, I knew that genetic instinct would conquer Cal.
Minutes later, I was back and they were gone. Details of their evening’s end soon appeared in one of our cheerier Sunday papers. I’ll let the quotes “Cal Down Under”, “cheapest bottle in the house”, “eight-foot promotional kangaroo soiled” and, cruelly for Barbara, “mystery blonde” tell their own tale.
This month’s wine? A bottle of Short Mile Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. Intense characters, well-integrated oak and a spicy finish—think of a particularly messy spaghetti Bolognese.