ONE 2 • Tasting Notes: The Feast of Steven

Deck the halls, book out my diary… I’d throw in a fa-la-la-la-la, but my corporate Christmas shindig schedule ate into Beaujolais Nouveau week this year. My bank manager loves it, but I question block booking November and December when most revellers seem perfectly happy to introduce themselves to the wine.

The packed diary meant ridiculously early festive drinks with my old neighbour Steven Mackintosh. In Christmas’ past, I’d have enjoyed his portly company and scandalous muck-raking, but after the inevitable, post-libel loss of his Council seat, 2007 suggested only a shade of such vintages.
Steven arrived at the Balmoral Palm Court on a cold, early November evening; although he seemed cheery, the year-old eggnog stains on his winter coat indicated straightened circumstances. Pouring from a tinsel-wrapped bottle of sparkling Shiraz, I tactfully expressed sorrow that our social calendars seemed unsynchronized this holiday season.

Lamenting his reduced public exposure, Steven noted that the wife and myself had recently been accepted into that exclusive New Town Victorian swimming baths, and asked if we could perhaps revitalize his social life by hopping him up the membership waiting list. I could make no promises, but agreed to help with the application form.

Progress was swift until we reached the box for occupation. I’ll confess that our traditional roles were reversed in that I couldn’t quite identify what it was that Steven now did. “Ex-Councillor” clearly not being an option, Steven suggested “Socialite”. I reminded him that he was not living in an Evelyn Waugh novel and suggested that something more prosaic would find favour with our chair, Colonel Bailey. Steven’s next suggestion was like a passable glass of English Riesling… I mean, I’d never heard of a “Facebook Consultant”.

His explanation cast little light, but indicated that they were all the rage. Not having a “Facebook presence” myself heightened his enthusiasm, and before I could blink he was offering to “workshop my profile” and preparing his camera phone. Leaping behind a nearby Christmas tree and shouting alarm were enough to provoke a management intervention.

That incident’s full significance only emerged at the first of the season’s festivities, where I was cornered by a group of Jenners’ menswear assistants brandishing mistletoe and welcoming me to the world of “social networking”. Whilst later rinsing away the lingering lavender taste with a robust Cabernet Sauvignon, my wife called explaining that Steven had set up a Facebook account in my name and had already snared much of Edinburgh society as “friends”.

Steven planned to reintroduce himself to former contacts through my supposed “pokes”. Once accepted, he’d invite them round to a small bar where I’d fail to show, but—oh fancy!—here was that old rogue Stevie Mac. The ploy enjoyed limited success. Complete strangers would approach me, infuriated that I’d stood them up on such and such a night, and—to make matters worse—that undesirable “Dirty Mac” fraud had sauntered in as if butter wouldn’t melt.

Mutterings about “identity theft prosecutions” were soon drowned out by the noise of cancelled engagements. As one missive put it, “Nobody wants spam for their Christmas dinner”. With Christmas Present looking ruinous, I was understandably relieved when an accident in the baths involving ill-advised fairy lighting forced Colonel Bailey to relinquish power. Efficiently guarding her own, my wife soon secured the post.
With this settled, I summoned Steven to the Balmoral and offered him pool membership in return for my Facebook account. As the bar pianist tinkled away at “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, I sternly explained that, whilst we may indeed all want some figgy pudding, I’d appreciate it if he didn’t pile into mine. He was glad to accept.

My wife has now secured the site and has full control of my online persona, which is doubtless a hostage to Christmas Yet to Come, but December looks prosperous for now and so I’m happy to recommend splashing out on a 2001 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino—legs like Angela Rippon with vanilla fudge flavours heightening the glory. Try it with chestnuts.

—WFS