Friday, 28 June 2013

More drinking in the shower

apres golf
Just a quick post this week. I figured it was about time we had an update on one of my favourite pastimes; shower drinking. Sometimes I have a shower even when I don’t need one – just so that I can take a drink in with me*. You can read the original post on this activity here. Now, assuming you’ve done that, let’s bring you right up to date with some pictures and a bit of commentary.

First up you’ve got a glass of St Remy XO brandy at the MacDonald Portal Hotel, near Tarporley, Cheshire. This was after the first round of golf on my second stag do, and you can see there that there was a handy little shelf in the corner that almost seemed like it was designed for this purpose. You can also tell it got pretty steamy in there, but it was entirely because of the hot water.

Much beer, whisky and cigars followed, and it all culminated in me having a bit of a whitey far earlier than I would have liked. It was probably a good thing though, because it meant I was [fairly] compus mentus (considering) for the next day’s round. And I got a birdie, so that was quite thrilling.

Santa Eulalia, Ibiza
Next is a shower-beer from my honeymoon in Ibiza. This is Xavi Alonso on a can of Cruzcampo in the bathroom of our hotel in Santa Eulalia. Nice. I’ve gone for the cubicle corner technique, there.

King of bottled beers
Back at home now, but this time with the king of bottled beers; Double Maxim. I know I’ve done a post on shower drinking at home before, but I was so excited at having some Double Maxim to take in with me, that I thought it deserved a picture. If you don’t know why I was so excited, see the wedding post from… some time ago.

The shape of the bottle meant it was unsuitable for balancing on the corner, as I had with the Holsten Pils cans, so I just moved the shampoo from the corner shelf, and stuck it in there. Success.

The next two pictures are from Honeymoon Part 2 in Vietnam, about which you should be able to read on these pages in coming weeks. There’s a can of Bia 333, a glass of Glenfarclas 10, and then a bottle of the green variety of Saigon beer.

Finally, and bringing you right up to date with a shower drinking episode from my latest adventure, that if you were following me on Twitter, you would have seen was known as Golfageddon. Again, a full account of that will be posted on here at some time in the future. The glass in question here is DYC 10 year old single malt.

That’s it for now, but you can rest assured shower drinking is not a hobby I’ll be giving up any time soon, so I’ll collect a few more and hit you with another post sometime in the future. Don’t forget, I’d be delighted to see your shower drinking triumphs, so tell me about it in the comments. I’ll be back next week with another post that, at the moment is looking like being an investigation into the phenomenon that is the hot toddy. Join me then, but until then, have a great weekend. I know I will – I might open a new bottle.

*not really.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Out in Suits

My friends and I love pub crawls, but I think of late we have come to feel a little jaded. I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm. We surely can’t have been doing this for so long that we’ve run out of pubs.

Well, you can tell something’s gone wrong because we’ve been racking our brains trying to think of ways to bring the flame back. Bored lovers can turn to self-help books like 50 Shades of Grey and buy a butt-plug and a whip, but where is the bored pub crawler supposed to turn? Well, we have to survive on our wits, ingenuity and beer. The beer helps quite a lot. So what we’ve come up with is Birthday Wine Suit Chops. The premise? A pub crawl where we all wear suits, have sideburns and drink wine. I don’t even like wine, but that’s the lengths I was thinking about being prepared to go to in order to be able to go out and have an extended drinking session. And it proved a more popular idea than Birthday Butt-plug Chops.

I’ve been meaning to go out drinking in my suit for some time, so it’s good to be able to say that finally it has happened.

Circumstances though, weren’t ideal. It was still the middle of January, and it coincided with the week that winter finally hit the UK. That meant one or two people pulled out. It also meant that my beautifully tailored suit had to be squashed inside my winter coat for the trek between drinking venues. It held up pretty well though.

Given the potential for slipperiness, I had toyed with the idea of wearing my trainers with the suit, all Rab C Nesbitt style, because they would be grippier than my work shoes (which I don’t like wearing anyway), but when I put them on, they just looked shit. Somehow they’ve gotten all scuffed up and scruffy recently, and they’ve crossed that line from smart casual, be careful when you choose to wear them… to doesn’t matter, don’t give a shit. There’s always an event that marks this transition, like going on holiday and wearing them on the beach, or walking through a park and having to kick a muddy ball back to some lads, but this time I can’t recall what the event was. Long story short; work shoes it was, then.

Suitwise, I decided to wear the bespoke one because the other two are for work, and I didn’t want our pub crawl to feel like work. Paul even elected to wear a tie, but I wanted to look a bit scruffier than that – good still, but just a little scruffier.

We headed out then, with the intention of beginning at 4pm. I had emptied the last of my Dewar’s 12 into my hipflask, and already had a warm up beer at the house. I had a couple of warming swigs of whisky on the bus, and made it to our meeting point, the Port Street Beerhouse at around 4.10. I ordered my pint – an unadventurous pint of Veltins - and Paul arrived a few minutes later.

When Dave arrived (late as usual) we considered buying a bottle of wine to push the theme forward, but on investigation Dave found the cheapest was £17, and he didn’t think that was good value. I thought that was about average, but he just bought a glass for himself, and Paul and I continued with the pints.

Before I get on to how good it was, I’ll get the disappointing elements out of the way. First, even though Dave had formally organised the evening, he hadn’t saved any money for it, so he was pretty skint, and wouldn’t be staying out all night. Similarly, Paul was thinking he wouldn’t be up for the steak that we had had planned all along. Frankly it was bad enough that there were only three of us, but I hope this isn’t a sign of getting old, or that people don’t want to spend more than a couple of hours with me… that would be quite depressing. It’s more likely that they saw how good my suit looked, and realised they couldn’t compete. I’m surprised they stayed at all.

Nevertheless, it was good, and I did manage to get suitably smashed. We didn’t struggle nearly as much as usual with venues, calling at Gullivers as our second stop. I tried to amuse everyone by comparing the corners of those studded leather armchairs to the foofoo, perineum and bottom of a lady. No one else found it as funny as I did, but it did look like it. I should have taken a photo really, because I don’t think there’s any way you can know what I mean. I would have too, but I didn’t realise it was going to be an abiding memory at the time.

From there we pursued my idea, which was to drink in hotel bars for a change. Paul mentioned the Mercure Hotel at the back of Piccadilly Gardens, which is supposed to be one of Manchester’s best kept secrets. Hotel bars are more spacious, quieter and more relaxed than your standard Saturday evening pub experience (if a little lacking in atmosphere), so a Newcastle Brown Ale by the big window looking down on Piccadilly Gardens was bang on. Even from that height, Piccadilly Gardens remains the ugliest and probably dodgiest central square in any major European city (I would think).

A stop in one of those tiny pubs on Portland Street was next, followed by the bar at the Palace Hotel, which is very opulent – and has table service, so that was nice. It is perfectly fine of course to drink in the various hotel bars, but this is the first time I’ve done it and not been actually resident. There’s something about it that normally feels wrong. Not when you’re in a suit! For some reason a suit brings a degree of confidence and entitlement. It makes you walk more confidently, and you can actually perceive a difference in the way people treat you. It could be the confidence you’re projecting, but you can see that people are impressed. Who’s that?, they ask each other.

Dave left us after the Palace, and Paul and I thought it would be fun to go to a metal pub in our suits, so we crossed the road and went to the Salisbury, which was perfectly fine. No one batted an eyelid, though outside one guy did ask me for business advice. I took the request seriously, as a man in full possession of several pints of beer (and a snappy suit) would, but really, how was I supposed to know whether he should take on the extra work, and what was he asking me for anyway?

Paul left at this point, and I headed back to Gulliver’s to see Rob Riot and his band, Precious McKenzie. As ever, it was a pleasure to see Rob flying the flag for fun but challenging rock n’ roll. Check em out sometime. It’s not a blog about music, but they deserve a mention.

Finally it was off home for a kebab, and a bit of Match of the Day. A pretty good day and night out, if not a great pub crawl then. I think in its midst we came up with a few ideas for future excursions, but I can’t remember them now; perhaps the others can. Even if not, good ideas don’t disappear forever – if you’ve had a good idea once, it will come to you again. That’s what I’ve always found anyway.

As for the suits; well I’d definitely go out in one again. Just thinking about it now makes me miss the snug fit of the waistcoat and the feeling that I look fricking awesome… You should try it.

That’s it from me for a couple of weeks, then. On Sunday I’m flying over to Spain for a week of golf and booze, and it’s going to be awesome. You can follow me on Twitter of course – I’ll try to tweet when there’s wi-fi available – but there won’t be a new post until somewhere around 28 June. Try not to miss me too much.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Pints of Wine in the Morning...

Good evening everybody, and what a beautiful evening it is, here in Manchester in the depths of summer. It’s the kind of evening that makes you forget it was fricking cold less than two weeks ago, and forces you to believe that this is what the weather is going to be like for the next three months. Well, I’m sorry to burst your little bubble, but it’s not going to be like that. Even so, let’s enjoy this good fortune while we can.

I’ve got something a bit different for you this week – an actual story about something that happened way back in 1998. So, increase the brightness on your phone, so you can actually see the screen, and get stuck in…

One morning, as I was heading out to lectures during my second year at university, I saw what looked like a petrol canister on the doorstep outside. There was no note, so I took it inside and opened it to have a quick sniff and see what liquid it contained. Had I interrupted someone in the early stages of committing arson? Had a desperate oil drum left its illicit offspring to be raised by a house of childless students? Was it just someone’s helpful suggestion for how we could clear up the mess in the living room?

Wait! You forgot to leave some matches! Oh, it’s ok, I’ve got one lighter that has gas, and another that can still spark…

No. None of those. It was wine, enough wine for 2, maybe 3 people to drink, but probably not all 7 people who lived in our house – or maybe I was vastly overestimating my capacity to drink wine. People do that when it’s free - British people do anyway if my last few works dos are anything to go by. They get excited and think they need to get their money’s worth, even though it’s not their money’s worth they’re getting. They forget that they’re in their 40s with 2 kids, and can’t drink like they used to when they were students, so they end up falling asleep [or over], vomiting through their mouths [or noses], or committing petty acts of vandalism or larceny. Because in the snooze you lose world we live in, the first thought is always “I need to drink this before somebody else does.”

When you’re a student you’re still finding your boundaries and pushing them, so… figuring that this wine couldn’t possibly be for us, I decided I’d best sack lectures off that day, find a drinking buddy, and set to work on drinking my good fortune before someone came a-looking.

It turned out that everyone had already gone to lectures except myself and my housemate Chris, who was still in bed. Chris now maintains that he had actually been to lectures already, and had since returned home. If you knew Chris back then, you’d be forgiven for being sceptical about that assertion. Getting up early? Yes, he was known for that. But going to lectures? No – loading a lung and getting stoned is what he was more known for. That and wearing a hat indoors, because washing his hair was too much trouble.

Either way, it didn’t take much to convince him that this was something we needed to work on straight away, so he got up (or didn’t) and we started drinking… out of pint glasses. Pints of wine. In the morning. That’s the sort of thing you can only do when you’re a student… or an unemployed alcoholic.

I’d like to tell you we had lots of fun adventures, but we didn’t. I’m pretty sure all we achieved was a childish rampage around the house followed by an hilarious trip to the local Kwik Save. I did learn two things though;

1.       when drinking pints of wine in the morning, expect a monstrous headache by 6pm, and an inability to sleep it off. It’s not the kind of mistake you make twice. Actually it is, if only free wine would show up on the doorstep more often.
2.       You can’t drink wine in the same way you drink beer – because you will get very, very pissed. Beer is for swigging, wine for sipping.
We later learned that the wine was a Christmas gift from the property company, and thus intended for all the housemates – but obviously not intended for all the housemates to get drunk. So that was nice. Fair play to our friends; they didn’t seem to mind too much that Chris and I had drunk it all. I think they knew they would have done the same thing in our position – what else can you expect in an environment where someone steals your seat the moment you get up - and I mean the moment?

Anyone sitting in a prime TV viewing position in our house would have to spend a long time weighing up the benefits of emptying their bladder against the cost of being relegated to the far corner of the room on their return, where they could only see the TV side-on. And they’d usually have to bring whatever anyone else wanted from the kitchen on their way back because no one else wanted to gamble. There was also the possibility that they might be giving up prime position concerning any spliffs that were going round, and let’s face it; that was far more important. It made for a tense waiting game which sometimes led to physical tussles between rivals who made a bid for any newly vacated seat, and I don’t think we’ve seen the long term effects this would have on our bladders just yet.

Occasionally the whole seating plan would change as others would take advantage of the tussle to improve their own position, now at the expense of anyone foolish enough to have given any semblance of moving away from their seat.

One such altercation that occurred while the housemates were on acid resulted in one person sitting on another, such was their stubbornness at having lost out on the seat – if I can’t have it, I’m going to make it as uncomfortable as possible for you!

Yep; those days are gone. It’s considered rude now to occupy someone’s newly vacated seat if there’s any chance they might be returning. Similarly, it would take special circumstances to make me think of drinking wine in the morning again – like, as I said, maybe a gallon of it turning up, unannounced on the doorstep.

Hello? Is that work? I’m uh… not feeling well… [hic!] What? Yes, I think I feel a… monstrous headache coming on…

So, what have you got on this weekend? Yeh? Sounds good. As for me, the missus and I are heading to Sheffield tomorrow for an nice leisurely weekend away, visiting friends. You know there’s going to be drinking. That’s about it, actually. Well, you have fun, and I’ll see you next week for another post. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

How DID I select wine?

You might remember that a few weeks ago I posed the eternal question; how does a novice like me go about selecting some decent wine from the myriad of shiny bottles that are all competing for my attention, ooh, let's say, in the supermarket? You know, not that it's for me mind, but perhaps when I'm having guests, and I know they like wine, and I might, for some reason want them to enjoy it?

I'm not sure that last bit needed a question mark, and there's a chance my original question was more concise than that, but it looks to me like I've summed up the whole previous article there - because I didn't offer a solution, I left it up to you. And one of you came to my aid. I say one of you, I mean Clare from the Feast and Glory blog, who isn't so much one of you, as a friend already. Nevertheless, she provided a brief set of guidelines that an idiot like me could take to the supermarket with him. I decided to put them to the test.

Clare and husband Gav were due to visit at the weekend, so not only would I be able to test Clare's hypothesis, but also get feedback on how well I did from my wine svengali or mentor. Hopefully, that would be 'well', and I would have learned some basic information that I could rely on in future. I don't think things are going to change too much in the whole wino-sphere for a good few years, so I figured I'd be sorted.

Now, Clare did tell me that outside of her basic guidelines, the choice she makes when wine shopping ultimately comes down to such fickle things as how she feels on the day and what the weather's like. WTF, yo! How am I supposed to legislate for that? For one thing, I don't know what the weather's going to be like in two days time, and even if I have thought to check the BBC’s weather page and it  turns out to have been correct, I still wouldn't know how that would affect Clare's preferences.

On top of that, I don't know how Clare is going to feel on Saturday, and even if say, she was going to be feeling obstroculous (chances fair to good), she didn't provide any information about what she would choose, come that eventuality.

No, I was going to have to follow the very basic tenets of what she told me. To save you having to go back to the earlier post (though youcan if you want), let me summarise Clare’s advice:

Red: go Italian or Spanish. If Italian, Primitivo, Nero D’Avola, Barolo or Chianti. If Spanish, Rioja or Tempranillo.

White: anything Sauvignon blanc fom the Marlborough region of New Zealand or any Riesling from the ‘new world’. Alternatively you could go French with a Sancerre or Chablis.

Obviously these are Clare’s preferences, and maybe not for everyone. I didn’t much care because primarily I was buying for Clare, and as far as I’m concerned, if she says it’s ok, then it’s ok.

I made some notes in my book and headed out to Tesco. Hopefully I’d still be able to get something for £5 or under.

Clare had given me a few things to choose from there, but even so, when I took price into account, it meant my options were limited. I couldn’t find any of the Italian contingent within range, but I did grab a Rioja, on offer, at £5 – half price. Result, just a white required then…

Straight to the New Zealand section, and knowing that Clare very strongly favours Sauvignon Blanc, that was what I wanted. The cheapest was this one at £6.20, a bit out of my ideal range. I looked at the Sancerre and Chablis then, and they were all £10 or over. I’m not spending £10 on a single bottle of wine.

Looking at all the possibilities from the new world still seemed a little daunting to me, so we just opted for the New Zealand one at £6.20. That’s £11.20 on wine, then. I couldn’t help wondering whether I might have been better off just getting a cheap bottle of spirits – it would certainly have been better value, but sadly not appropriate for the occasion - or what I actually went in for. In fact, I was so absorbed by the task of buying wine that I forgot to look at the spirits altogether! It was probably for the best.

You know, I get so much enjoyment from buying new bottles of booze that I could almost wish I was enthusiastic about wine. It’s more affordable in general than spirits, so I could treat myself more often without feeling as guilty. Nor would it take as long to finish a bottle, but no, it’s not to be. I’m a spirits and beer man, and beer isn’t that interesting to me anymore, I just like it.

So here are the wines that I opted for. Don’t worry, I swear this will be the last time I photograph wine, and hopefully this will be the last time I talk about it on my blog.
you can see me in this picture!

How did we do, then?

In all honesty, it probably couldn’t go wrong because I followed Clare’s instructions to the letter. Having written them down, they are now inscribed on my brain, so I can draw upon that should this kind of eventuality occur again, so that’s good.

And yes, everyone enjoyed the wine. Gav and Clare arrived between 1 and 2 on Saturday afternoon, and I insisted we crack open some wine before we went out. Clare had bought some Cloudy Bay, which she said normally retails at £20-25. I gasped. There is no way you would find me spending £25 on wine. I could get a decent blended scotch for that! In fact, you can get the Highland Park 12, usually. Outrageous! I’m sorry, but there is no contest when it comes to choosing between a bottle of Highland Park or any wine at the same price.

Anyway, we opened the Cloudy Bay and then indeed, the others. Normally in company, you open a bottle and then drink it till it’s gone, but I figured; why not just open them all? What are we saving them for? Not me!

Sauvignon Blancs have a clean, sharp taste, and seem to be very clear. Yeh, they’re all right. Most of the red was left over, though I don’t think it was due to anyone not liking it, we just didn’t get chance. You’re supposed to drink it within three days according to the bottle, but that didn’t happen either. Instead it was a week later when I was next able to try it, and for some reason I was having trouble swallowing it. I’m afraid I didn’t like it at all.

I decided to make a comparison with one of the bottles that had been left over from our wedding (pictured). That one had been open for some months by this point, but after a single sip I felt it was delicious – yes! Actually delicious. And it was wine.

You can see on the picture that it’s a merlot. I remember seeing the trailer for that film Sideways many years ago, and the guy says, “I’m not drinking merlot!” As a result, I once bought a glass of red wine from a pub (Manchester’s Sand Bar), and the barman asked what type. I said, I didn’t know, and he said they’ve got a merlot and something else. I reacted probably too quickly, and said, “not the merlot!”

The way he looked at me suggested he knew I’d seen the trailer. I didn’t get around to watching that film till sometime last year. The fact that it was about wine put me right off. It actually isn’t all that bad, but it would be better if it were about a whisky tour.

Sadly Clare wasn’t around to be able to do a comparison with our merlot, though she probably had some at the wedding. I’d be surprised if she could remember whether she liked it though. I think she said nice things about it at the time. It was her advice that prompted us to ensure that one of the wines we provided to our guests was a Sauvignon Blanc.

So I think the lesson to be learned here is that recommendations and guidance are all very well, but everyone has their own preferences, and if you’re bothered enough, you’re just going to have to take a little bit more of an interest and find out what your preferences are – make a note of what country and region the next wine you enjoy is from, and what grape variety it is. Encouraging you to get into wine is the last of my intentions, but it’s up to you after all. I’m not drinking my share of the wine, so I suppose someone should.

So in conclusion, would I have been happier spending £12 on a cheap bottle of spirits? Absolutely, but what would I have written about then - how I was going to buy wine but didn’t? I suppose I could have done another Budget Brands post, try that Tesco own brand scotch or something. Still, that leaves me something to do in the future. Keep an eye out for that one.

That's it for this week. Sorry it was late, but thanks for reading. I'll be attending another poker night this evening, so I'm particularly looking forward to opening a couple of new special bottles. No doubt I'll tell you more about that at some time in the future. Enjoy your weekend now, y'hear?