Chapter 18

Sunday 18th July

Shopping in Purley Way. It is hell, especially the carpet store celebrating their refurbished interior by hiring a fifty-year old twit with an orange perma-tan and cowboy hat, bellowing nonsensical rubbish into a PA system audible from Nova Scotia. We enter the shop to a ridiculously deafening blast of Lulu's "Shout" and the Purley Way cowboy making lewd comments about a blond driving past in a Nissan Micra. I can stand about thirty seconds until I feel nauseous and entertain notions of GBH.

Monday 19th July

A "Baby Name" book arrives by post from mum. I am considering naming the child with an American slant, something like Randy Cosmo Martin Junior III. To my surprise it is vetoed by Tomoko who desires something more Japanese flavoured.

Wednesday 21st July

A heavy night out at the debauched palace dedicated to Bacchus, otherwise known as "Harry's Bar". We are already imbibing our fifth wine before we even approach the first course of seared scallops. Naturally I am fairly inebriated by the time I catch the tube home, mistakenly getting off at the wrong station at Stockwell where I am approached by a sinister, bald guy who tries to ignite conversation. Can he not see I am in no condition to talk? I simply utter two and a half words: "I'm" and "pissed" and he leaves me alone.

Friday 23rd July

This evening, a follow-up to Wednesday's wanton libation courtesy of Leytonstowe's finest oenophile civil servant: Mr. David Pope. Over the last week a tidy "ridge" of Ridge has been accumulating under my office desk as David drops off yet more Geyserville that nestles uncomfortably alongside an old pair of trainers (a memento from days when I mustered the willpower to work out at the gym), flotsam and jetsam of superannuated stationary and mysterious carpet stains. Admittedly, this is not a desirable environment for a fine Zinfandel to hang out.

David P

The vertical tasting encompasses eighteen vintages of Ridge Zinfandel from 2001 back to 1970 which David has amassed over the years and the venue is our old haunt: "La Trouvaille", a French restaurant with the nous to welcome winelovers and charge corkage. Their basement offers a cosy, some might say, slightly cramped setting for these dinners and the rustic Provencal food is either delicious of vexing, but always interesting. Sixteen wine geeks are crammed around a table to the extent that I am forced to scribble notes on an adjacent kitchen dresser (which occupies about one-third of the available room.) I had forgotten the insanity that surrounds these tastings, a chaotic atmosphere of illegible tasting notes, a flotilla of ISO wine glasses and the surreal, alcohol-fuelled conversation that from time to time spurs me to ask my neighbour: "Did he say what I thought he said?"

Somehow we keep the momentum going and arrive at 1970 on time. Usually the arrival of food decelerates the pace of serving so many wines and one ends up downing the final pours around midnight in a flurry of booze, which imperils catching the last train and guarantees a hangover the following morning. I finish off the dregs with David before catching the bus home through the underbelly of London. Catching the number two from Brixton we are forced to evacuate due to a pugnacious, drunken, sweaty middle-aged man who has succeeded in vomiting and defecating himself.
He was probably amidst an accounts meeting six hours look at him.
The police arrive to offer him a comfy cell for the night whilst we hapless passengers are marooned in the middle of a council estate at the witching hour, waiting for another bus to pick us up. Look closely into the dark and you can see the eyes of junkies. I shuffle nervously and my carrier bag clinks with 360 ISO glasses. I eventually arrive home at around one o'clock, exhausted from a journey home that makes the "Heart of Darkness" look like a weekend trip up the Norfolk Broads.

Saturday 24th July

Today I do precisely nothing, which is an absolute joy. I speak to mum in the morning. It is a mere fortnight since news broke of our impending arrival and already she has purchased nine baby grows and knitted two cardigans...and counting. I also speak to my brother who is elated that he will become an uncle. According to him, within London's gay community a baby is the essential accountrement for any couple and the fact that his surrogate accessory is destined to be half-Japanese will make him so hip that he cannot wait to wheel them down Compton Street.
Tomoko is still poorly from eczema, so we go for a Thai in Crystal Palace and then I return to watch "X-rated Videos They Tried to Ban" on Channel 4. I am disappointed that no Westlife videos were included.

Sunday 25th July

First venture into Mothercare to assess exactly how much this baby will cost.
Answer: a lot.
I was unaware how many designer push-chairs existed. What happened to those Victorian perambulators of the 1970s with squeaking metal suspension lifted directly from a 18th century stagecoach? Nowadays the market is full of designer brands, titanium frames, ergonomic grips, built-in CD changers and Vivienne Westwood retractable hoods that will foster a form of "babygrow consumerism" and leave them addicted to luxury brands by the age of two. Instead of forking out a ridiculous sum on an expensive pram, I decide that I will teach our unborn to walk at an early stage and save a whole lot of bother.

Monday 26th July

Commence reading another existentialist Kafkaesque masterpiece by the greatest living author: Haruki Murakami. This one is entitled "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World". Whilst commuters on the 07:59 are contemplating whether to have a "Pret" or a "Starbucks" for lunch today, I float around Murakami's boundless imagination that today invites unicorns, the Tokyo underworld, a professor inhabiting a sewer who can control sound and a man who can split his brain in two. I am only up to page 35. It leaves me mentally exhausted by the time I reach Victoria Station.

Friday July 30th

Wake up with roadworks in my sore throat: the symptoms of a summer cold. Bugger.
I can hardly speak and spend the morning at work mute and suffering bouts of feverish sweating. I opt out of Friday beers and down two big glasses of fresh orange juice that make me feel a little better.

In the evening I have the final tasting of the season, an intriguing 1970 horizontal. I just about survive the dinner and wines, my palate being the last bodily function to fail and shutdown (well the penultimate one, the last is respiration of course.) Such a shame: the wines, the company and conversation are all full of the joys of summer. I leave directly after the lovely Croft 1970 and begin my trek across the metropolis to West Norwood. My stomach is doing cartwheels in the tube and I sweat profusely with encroaching fever. London Transport compounds my woes by unceremoniously halting the train just outside Victoria Station to see how long I can cope in a confined space with a carriage full of obstreperous, lagered-up teenagers who have taken some third-rate horse tranquilizer, speak like Jay-Z had the Brooklyn rapper been born on Canvey Island. Eventually the tube driver decides that my suffering has reached its peak and takes me to Brixton. Such benevolence, such humanity.

I am now officially ill.

Saturday July 31st

Our house has turned into the hospice of gloom this morning. The humid weather is making Tomoko's eczema seep and blister, my throat feels as if someone has taken a blow-torch to it and my sinuses are rendered a glutinous labyrinth of snot. Why did God invent snot? What is its purpose in life? What on Earth does it do? When I get to Heaven and have my debriefing with the Diety, I will check his Holy nostrils to see if he has snot like us mortals and if not, I will make an official complaint.

1) If there are any doctors who can explain snot, please e-mail it to me and I will print it in the diary. I am expecting a lot of replies as every doctor is a obsessive about wine.
2) If any theologians can verify the chapter and verse where God's snot is mentioned, I would be very grateful.

Sunday 1st August

It is a glorious, sultry summer's day, but thanks to my stubborn bout of flu I spend the whole day semi-conscious on the futon covered in sweat and coughing up a steady stream of bright yellow mucus (sorry if you haven't eaten yet.)
In the evening, Tomoko's friends Motoko and Michael come round to the "Hospice of Death" for dinner. Tomoko has made a vegetarian casserole that I can barely taste and I splutter and cough my way through the meal. Our guests sit paranoid on the other side of the table, wary that a toxic cloud of germs shrouds the opposite side. Work tomorrow is looking doubtful.