Book One: Chapter 24

Saturday 1st January - New Years Day

I have listed my resolutions for 2004. I wonder how many I kept?

1) Approach Mitchell Beazley or any other notable book publisher and suggest that wine-writing needs to be a little more engaging/entertaining if they want Joe Public to expand their horizons beyond Jacobs Creek.

Err...no progress on that front as of yet.

2) Approach any publisher, mooting the idea of turning my diary into a Brigitte Jones style million seller that Richard Curtis will beg to buy the film rights for. Hugh Grant will play yours truly with Lucy Lui playing Tomoko. Jancis will be played by Jody Foster, Andrew Jefford by Elijah Wood, Robert Parker by Marlon Brando, whilst Gerard Depardieu will play the roles of all the chateau-owners like Alec Guiness in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" or Eddie Murphy in "Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps".

No, nothing yet although the diary does appear to have consolidated a cult following over the last 12-months as people sympathize/laugh at the minutiae of my life. In any case, Hugh Grant has recently announced his retirement from the rom-com genre after the bland Brigitte Jones 2. I cannot blame him.

3) Finish the neverending task of completing the chateaux profiles for the website.

More or less complete although there remain several to be completed, especially on the Right Bank.

4) Redesign website so that is displays some degree of professionalism. Most hard-core pornographic sites look better than mine.

Yes. Mission accomplished, although the logo does resemble that of a mid-70`s porn magazine.

5) Join the select band of the "Circle of Winewriters" since hitherto I have never been a member of a "Circle".

Boo, hiss! I am still thwarted by their arcane rules, ineligible despite over 1,000,000 pages being downloaded in 2004 by dint of my asking for no recompense for readers. A second offensive will be made shortly, although I am refusing to be accepted on financial rather than qualitative reasons. If the CWW deems me to be writing about wine, then let me in.

6) Attempt the elegant prose of the Wordsworthian Andrew Jefford.

Well, that`s up to you to decide dear reader, although I doubt Jefford could have come up with the following desciption: "...the clarets at the walkround tasting were as jovial as a coach-party of UKIP members caught in a traffic-jam at Berlin's Mardi Gras." Even I chuckled to myself when that popped into my brain.

7) Visit the following wine-regions: Alsace, the Rhone Valley and the Loire. Also the following chateaux: Haut-Marbuzet, Figeac and Lafleur.

Rhone is coming along...Loire "not yet". The problem is that there are still only 24 hours in a day.

8) Be less disparaging about sommeliers, dentists etc.

I haven`t said anything bad. Have I?

9) Speak to Jancis Robinson rather than loiter about like a bashful teenager summoning the courage to ask a girl for a date.

Mission accomplished! We even had dinner together! Next we will be going on holiday to Camber Sands together.

10) Work on the garden that now resembles the post-vandalised Blue Peter sunken garden.

Matters have deteriorated since last year. The weeds sensed victory last autumn and have proliferated accordingly. The rose bush simply gave up and begged to be taken back to B&Q. The only thing I can cultivate is moss.

11) Finish A.N. Wilson's "The Victorians" at an opportune moment.

I read up to page 400 and something then quit.

12) Buy furniture not sourced from IKEA and named after a strain of the ebola virus.

Due to financial constraints I still spend 1/2 my entire life in a giant blue and yellow aircraft hangar crammed full of irritating shoppers and squawking kids. Still, the 35p Swedish hotdogs compensate for an afternoon of anguish.

13) Change underwear daily rather than when Tomoko notices.

Done. My partner can vouch for this.

14) Manage financial affairs more competently than Enron and start a pension (my present contributions mean that I will be living on £3.00 per day.)

Still poor and consequently my pension pot now stands at £3.10 per day.

15) Visit Italy. I cannot believe I have never been there considering the amount of pasta I consume.

Failed due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e. girlfriend got a bun in the oven.)

16) Eat more carrots and cut down on Burgerkings.

Hmm...I certainly cut down on BK, especially since my partner-in-crime Vik left the City. Sharing a Rodeoburger is not the same on your own. It makes one feel like an outcast from society.

17) Build up my DVD library which currently stands at just two DVD's (filed alphabetically of course.)

One Godfather trilogy and that`s it, save for a CD-Rom of the harvest at Chateau Angelus, which does not constitute the the highest form of entertainment.

Sunday 2nd January
Vienetta

Chez Jude for the first roast of the year. Jude is in domestic goddess overdrive having peeled a veritable Lancashire field of potatoes and roasted a flock of lambs in the oven. There are eight of us squeezed around the table, eagerly watching me carve the joint. I am more successful than my Boxing Day day debacle when I hacked the leg of lamb into croutons with a breadknife. There is an 80s theme for desert when Jude unveils her "Vienetta" and we recreate the advert by simutaneously reaching for the last mouthful with our spoons. We then discuss 80s cuisine, my personal favourites being "Arctic Roll", "Pacers" and "Space Dust" a diet that may explain my present senile dementia.

Tuesday 4th January

Venture into the new Apple Mac shop down Regent Street. Inside is a den of creativity. You feel worthless unless you have composed a drum `n bass track from scratch within the last 24-hours or speak Linux. Everyone bristles with inspiration and everyone is bursting with ideas that their Mac will bring to fruition (except for the queue returning unwanted iPods for Xmas.) There is even the "Genius Bar" where I assume one of their achingly hip staff connect a PowerMac into the Scart socket on the back of your head, download your cerebral data and confirm whether you are a genius or not. The staff are actually called "Creatives", media programmers kidnapped on their lunch-break, lobotomised, branded with a half-eaten apple and then set to work solving our computer glitches.

I upload wine-journal on one of the laptops and see myself grinning back on the screen - it reassures me that I achieved something 21st century, in the 21st century. I stand askew, hoping that some cool dude will equate the photo with me, but everyone is too busy dreaming about tomorrow`s possibilities.

In case you are wondering, yes - I am intending to buy a Mac.

Wednesday 5th January

At noon, whilst jabbering to a colleague on the dog and bone, my computer screen suddenly pops up a reminder that simply says "BABY!". I stab the "Dismiss" key. The baby will not deign us with her presence on the due date, but has decided to prolong her vacation inside the womb, where it is safe and warm. Story of my life, waiting round for women. If I miss Celebrity Big Brother, I fear I may hold umbrage for the rest of her life.

Thursday 6th January

Bloody hell...this is like waiting for a bus.
What's she doing in there?
This situation is not disimilar to the countless occasions when I have (im)patiently waited for a female friend to get herself tarted up before going out. Having attempted every possible combination of skirt, blouse, shoe and handbag, each conjugation of apparel partnered with a "What do you think of this?" to which my perfunctory response is a mindless: "That's great", she inevitably chooses the outfit she started off with, thereby wasting a significant percentage of our lives or suffers a minor aneurysm faced with the infinite possibilities and a refuses to go out at all.

I spend the evening persuading our imminent arrival to get a move on - I am sure my voice is audible through the womb. I then finish off a shockingly bland bottle of "Smoking Parrot Sauvignon Blanc" (90% of effort on the title, 10% on the actual wine) and watch D-list celebrities make fools of themselves on Celebrity Big Brother.

Friday 7th January

Still no signs, no twinges, no frantic phone calls from South London imploring me to jump in a taxi and get home. I take a pro-active stance and order a spicy Indian to see if we can get things moving, a controlled conflagration of the uterus. Zilch. Nothing. Perhaps I should have requested a bit more chilli powder, a few fire-crackers to instigate some semblance of an escape plan from the womb? The ennui of waiting is building each day, although I am aware that I will soon pine for such moments of tranquility.

Saturday 8th January

Earwax. What does it do? I ask this because whilst showering yesterday I managed to permanently lodge a veritable candle into the Eustachian tube and consequently have not only lost any sense of hearing, but suffer high-pitched white noise piercing my brain. I must get through half a tub of ear-buds, hopelessly trying to shovel out the waxy sap that is congealing around the cochlea.

In the evening I cook organic salmon and drink a bottle of Chateau de la Négly 2003. I fall asleep half way through Hitchcock's "Spellbound" since I have a place in my heart for Ingrid Bergman. Tomoko has to turn off the television in the middle of the night, no doubt rueing her choice of a father. This is what excessive earwax does to you...and it doesn't even taste good.

Sunday 9th January

Currently reading Hugh Johnson's "The Story of Wine". What a fine writer he is, I must interview him soon. Whilst reading about the Roman Bacchus cult, the maenads and amphoras brimming with sweet wine and seawater, I watch non-League Yeading prevail against Newcastle United until the 53rd minute. They eventually lose 2-0, though they put up a gallant fight.

I cannot get obsessive about football unless it is England or Southend United (doing well this season) and I am certainly not one to reach for the Prozac every time a result does not go my way. I only visit a football stadium, namely Stamford Bridge, when the annual New Zealand wine-tasting is held in their executive suite overlooking the pitch. Now that Roman Abramovitch is pouring his rubles into Chelsea, I look forward to lobster and white truffles being served alongside the Villa Maria.

Monday 10th January

Did I miss something, or did Southern Train Company pass an edict that all commuters must be reading the "Da Vinci Code"? I survey the 07:59 cattle truck and practically every person is on a different page of Dan Brown's Indiana Jones meets the Gospel according to Saint Paul page-turner.

I confess that I succumbed to Dan Brown's irresistible cocktail of theological revisionism, cat and mouse chases through Paris and that crucial ingredient for any pulp fiction: Fibonacci sequences. After learning it for O-level maths I never thought it would reappear during my life, but there it is. Brown's book is appallingly written, but when has that ever hindered a story that compels you to digest just one more canapé-sized chapter before bed? I particular enjoy the fact that the narrative hurtles along at 100mph, but freeze-frames the most dramatic chase sequence so that our hero can offer a synopsis of the Knights Templar or Mary Magdelaine.
The Da Vinci Code was digested in just two days, before it was passed on to Tomoko who has postponed her birth until she finds out just who murdered the curator at the Louvre.

Tuesday 11th January

No baby, just in case you are wondering.

Wednesday 12th January

Still no baby. This means I can attend the Justerini & Brooks' Burgundy 2003s and set eyes upon beautiful Laurence Faller from Domaine Weinbach. I should stress that if any members of WOW (Women in Wine) are reading, rest assured that I was not tasting her wines simply because of her aesthetic charms. In fact, inspired by the WOW revolution, I will be forming my own forum EMIW (Essex Men In Wine) to celebrate all those wine professionals born in this maligned county. Expect us to take over the Harper's editorial soon with a full report on wine bars in Laindon.

Both HRH Jancis (dressed in coruscating vermilion) and Bard Jefford are surprised at my presence and I have to explain that fatherhood has been postponed until after the Burgundy tastings.

Thursday 13th January

Still no baby. The child is patently taking into account my Burgundy tasting schedule. At Howard Ripley's tasting, once again HRH Jancis is present (no vermilion) although the Royal family (Broadbent, Peppercorn et. al.) are all regally tasting their way through the Pinot Noirs. I am knackered after fifty wines and ensure I am home in time for Celebrity BB.