This is a little story about a subject that is on my mind today; not letting things fade and go to waste...
Years ago, just after I’d stopped working as a chef, I had a summer job for a couple of weeks cooking for some wealthy friends-of-friends while they were on holiday (in a borrowed country house - they were seriously monied). I got to cook all my favourite show-off food for an appreciative audience, I had bed and board provided, I got to look after the chickens and ducks, and I was very well-paid. At the end of the fortnight they also gave me a bottle of rather posh wine as a little thank-you present, telling me it would probably be better for “a couple more years waiting”.
Wine that benefits from being laid down is pretty damned posh by my standards so I decided to keep it for a special occasion; but no particularly special ones arrived, and then I had to move to my mother’s place for a spell, when I became a student again, and the posh bottle went with me; it ended up in the back of a cupboard and was forgotten about.
A few months ago, she was doing some turning out and found it, and I brought it up to London. I wondered if it was still any good, but there was only one way to find out. On Friday evening, tired and hassled after a fairly argy-bargy-ified week, I drew the cork and poured myself a glass of beautiful, garnet-coloured well-aged Posh Wine.
It was corked. It tasted absolutely vile. I poured the lot down the sink and rinsed my mouth with good old London tap water.
I’d also been keeping a bottle of Moschato, a Greek dessert wine from Samos that to me is one of The tastes of Greek island holidays. I’d bought this three and a half years ago, at a point when I expected to be sharing it with a particular someone, on another of those mythical special occasions, fairly soon. The someone in fact moved out of my life fairly soon after, and the special occasion never arose. On Friday, with the foul taste of the spoiled wine vivid on my tongue, I opened the Moschato in a panic. Supposing it too was ruined?
It wasn’t; it was fabulous, if a little on the rich side to go with an omelette and a green salad.
Thank goodness I hadn’t opened the old posh bottle on a special occasion lately! Thank goodness too that I opened and enjoyed my Samos wine while it was still good. For how often I have waited and how much I have stored up, waiting for that special occasion. Food, clothes, opportunities, gift vouchers, chances to do something or see someone; all of them in their time I have stored too long, waited too long to use, and then lost, because the waistline expanded, the voucher expired, the food went stale and the loved one died, or moved far away, or blew me out…
Saturday night I was at a performance of “Das Lied von der Erde”, which just reinforced this mood. The spring of my life has passed, and I’m weary of lying alone, and altogether mein herz ist müde…
“There's a neat sweet little flower in this garden alongside me.
Take it away, sure it's all but your own,
For the flower it will fade and so also will the maid,
Though she's weary of lying alone, alone,
She is weary of lying alone.”
After the concert, I went on to a birthday party. It was a lively gathering of good friends, at a rather pricey bar, and gods be thanked in no time I had all the fun and laughter I needed to stop me thinking mein herz was müde, and even met a very nice man who I would love to see again…
Well, who can ever tell, from minute to minute, what will come next? Crossing Waterloo Bridge I had felt as if I lay in the bruised heart of melancholy, and would lie there forever. Half an hour later I was drinking cider and laughing uproariously, snatching and treasuring the moment of joy, once again, the life and the light of life, and trying to shout over the sound system to a bloke who looked like a skinny version of Liam Neeson in glasses. You never can tell.
You can never tell; but don’t store all the wine for a special occasion, for the special occasion is now, today and this very minute.