Through rose-coloured glasses
In these times, it’s a blessing to be prone to daydreams. I had one yesterday in a café not far from home. An expensive café in an up-market street near the park and the art gallery. The ‘large’ glass of wine here is small, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the ‘small’ glass turned out to be extremely small. But it also turned out unexpectedly to hit the jackpot. This place is known for its prime location, not its food and drink. ‘Very hit and miss’, I heard the owner of the neighbouring bookshop describe it recently to a customer who asked her for a lunch recommendation – I caught her eye and we exchanged a look which told me our experiences there had been similar… So my expectations were not high as I raised my glass of rosé from South-West France to my lips and … ooh! It was perfectly sour and sweet and pink/red/orange and sweatily cold. And it took me right back to the first time I ever tasted good rosé - not sugary sweet, not sugary pink, not Mateus, the pink Portuguese plonk ubiquitous back in the 1970s.
I’d been in Cambridge just a week or two. Girls were a rare commodity back then, one of us for every 10 male students in the university. Which was how I found myself attached to a friend of a friend of someone in my translation class at the Master of Trinity College’s party for the college’s new students – he got the kudos of a female partner at this very formal occasion; I got free drinks and an excursion into gracious society. The Master at that time was ‘Rab’ Butler. He resided in the Master’s Lodge. Students milled in ancient rooms with precious antiques pushed back against the walls and butlers with a small b circulated with trays of glasses. On arrival, we were ‘announced’ to the company: ‘that’s Mr A… G… and…?’ murmured the greeter in my companion’s ear . ‘I can’t remember your surname’, hissed A in mine, scarlet with embarrassment. Drinks, in these circumstances, are a blessing fallen upon and downed rapidly. The first glass my hand encountered was pink, and the taste was heaven, utterly delicious – and the subsequent several glasses no less so. The next morning I had my first hangover, and one of the few that’s been worth it.
I never forgot the sublime taste, but have rarely recovered it. Good rosé, just that blend of sour and sweet, that bright rosy, ruby, slightly orangey pink, is not common and mostly beyond my budget. Chancing upon exactly that never-forgotten taste and colour was a small miracle. So was closing my eyes as I swallowed and recapturing that scene, finding that age has so mellowed me that I can recall it with innocent pleasure untainted by the class consciousness and resentment that descended along with that first hangover. I don’t deplore the blithe privilege I discovered in Cambridge any less than I came to within a few weeks of arriving there. But I do savour pleasure, present and remembered, with far fewer reservations.
...and we have to keep savouring pleasure, I think. It doesn't help anyone if we don't. Lying awake at night listening to the radio doesn't help anyone. Feeling dreadful and functioning less than well doesn't help anyone. Going silent doesn't help anyone, though it's tempting because no words seem adequate... not adequate compassion, or adequate distraction, or adequate in any way.
Well actually, that's not quite true. What Dave and Susan wrote today was pretty adequate, I think. Both manage to perfectly and poetically blend the intimate and the wider perspective.