Tag Archives: Alcofrolic beverages

Ten? reasons to hate and love Christmas (Redux)

I know I said I was gone forever, but the time of year has come when it must be said once more. Less than a month to go again and I’m seriously tempted to renew my membership of the Ebenezer Scrooge appreciation society. Bah! Humbug! If this offends, tough. Should objectors wish to drive a stake through my black and sardonic heart, I’d like to say the only steak I want anywhere near said muscular pump is a nice thick rib eye with a smidgeon of external charring and light pinkness enlightening its centre. Possibly even with a little Dijon Mustard. As it passes through the upper reaches of my digestive tract, having left fond memories with my taste buds, naturally.

The festival itself I have no quarrel with; good old hijacked midwinter solstice feast that it is. A time of good food, wine and forgiveness to celebrate survival for another year. Good will to all? Within reason, of course, and certainly not all of them. I’m not going to be nice to the cretinous, no matter the time of year. Heavens to Murgatroyd Cowboy, one has to maintain some form of consistency. What really turns my normal sunny disposition to that of lemon sucking misanthrope is the insistence that everyone has to join in the ‘fun’; when ‘fun’ entails leaving drunken saliva snail trails over the nearest total stranger. Good grief! If nothing else it’s all so damned unhygienic. Not to mention more than slightly creepy.

With this in mind I have compiled ten major issues about Christmas which every year threaten to turn Mr Nice Guy (Me) into a raging homicidal psychopath who’s just got his chainsaw out of the shed for a little pre-festive flesh trimming.

First; Date. The date and the association with Christianity is incorrect. 25th December is the wrong date for Christians to celebrate Christmas. It’s an historical fudge, a compromise between 6th December, 19th December, 22nd December, 7th January or 25th January depending upon which Christian / Pagan sect you belong to. As for the year, if you’re a Christian, about as close as you’ll get is six years either side of 0 AD; and that’s just from official sources.

Second; Presents and shopping. This asinine insistence that you have to drive yourself into near bankruptcy giving overpriced, unwanted gifts to everyone you know. This may sound like heresy and probably is; but I would rather have no gifts at all than a gift without a genuine kind thought behind it. I especially don’t like being dragged in and out of the same five or six stores four times each only to find that we could have bought everything on line. I could have been doing something interesting for heavens sake.

Third; Enforced jollity. There is no greater torture to a civilised mind than forcing another human to ‘enjoy’ themselves against their natural volition. My personal standpoint is that I am quite capable of being happy without outside interference thank you very much. My major dread is that in the near future the PC Thought Police will deem it a crime not to be smiling and joyful at mandatory times and places. Perhaps in this age of mass surveillance and facial recognition technology, such edicts may become camera enforced. Like with bus lanes. Not smiling enough? Your penalty notice is in the post. Ironically giving you less reason to be happy than before. Incidentally, has anyone tried to be artificially happy and smiling, at least for any length of time, when they really don’t want to be without extreme chemical assistance? That way lies madness. Horrified shudder.

Fourth; Inappropriate headgear. The wearing of fluorescent antlers, tinsel and artificial fur bobbled conical hats three sizes too small, not to mention those inane ‘jester’ style confections made of poor quality red, yellow and green felt with bells on. Apparently there’s some strange, arcane folk belief that wearing such headgear actually makes everything you say and do amusing. Such as telling unfunny jokes, committing random sexual assaults or urinating in the street. Trust me, it doesn’t work. Strangely enough, recent scholarly research has conclusively proven that the majority of people donning such headgear instantly turn into annoying pillocks. Forcing your dog / cat / pet tarantula to wear any such item should instantly engender an instant charge of animal cruelty punishable by thirty strokes of the cat (A bad tempered feral Tom, for preference. One tail, twenty claws.) Re the headgear, perhaps some sort of open season / bounty system could be arranged with local hunters.

Fifth; Alcohol. Actually this is a bit of a moot point. I am greatly in favour of some forms of alcohol as it is a great social lubricant (I said SOCIAL. Honestly, some people.). A good pint, bottle of wine, or warming Single Malt in good company is wonderfully relaxing. Sometimes I can be very friendly with an entire bottle of whiskey all to myself. This is something anyone can do anywhere. Sometimes its nice just to hide in the den with a good book, headphones on and some rock music blasting any potentially festive thoughts from seasonally stressed synapses. However be warned; excessive consumption not only damages your liver and wallet but may turn you into another dribbling maudlin festive idiot.

Sixth; Office / work related parties. Or as Oscar Wilde might have said had he ever been forced to attend; ‘The unattainable pursued by the unlovable’. Watching what you drink in case you say exactly what you feel to / about your boss or other influential colleague; no matter how incompetent / unpleasant / overbearing they might be. I detest such events and whenever invited to ‘socialise’ in this fashion with workmates make a creative and plausible excuse not to be there. Ones I’ve found that work very well are; Emergency engagement with family, as far from the event as possible; sick and very rich relatives are always a good one. Short and untraceable illness like a 24 hour dose of food poisoning. Domestic emergency requiring your urgent presence at home – all of these are good (Spousal corroboration is prerequisite for the last). One cautionary note, use a different excuse every year or be labelled ‘Anti Christmas’ and find all those more important invitations disappear. Unless you’re going to move on anyway. In which case – Just say no. What are they going to do in these circumstances? Fire you?

Seventh; Christmas lunch. All that hard work put in to produce a table groaning feast to be met by refusal. For example an announcement by your wife’s sister / daughter (insert own preference here) that she’s become a Vegan without telling anyone; then flounces off when you, quite reasonably, refuse to specially cook a nut roast for everyone at five minutes notice because she can’t bear to be within fifty yards of that poor murdered Turkey. Another might be the kids whinging that they want to go to Burger MacWossnames for a “double death by cholesterol and fries”; refusing to eat anything green that hasn’t got four kilogrammes of sugar in it. I think Christmas lunches should be all ticket, invitation only affairs. RSVP Like a posh dinner party. If you want to be there, be there. If you don’t – don’t, and no social stigma should attach.

Eighth; Christmas Television. Especially those vomit inducing saccharine Coca Cola adverts. The endless mind strangling TV repeats of Christmas specials of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, and what’s going on in Emmerdale Enders. ‘The Sound of Music’ again. ‘Celebrity’ Christmas specials. Thank God for DVD’s. Don’t even get me started about Hogmanay specials. All I want from New Years Eve is a hot toddy, an early night and a clear head on a crisp winters morning, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Ninth; Christmas Songs. All of them. Especially (In no particular order) Slade’s ‘So here it is Merry Christmas’, Band Aid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’ and Aled Jones ‘Walking in the air’. When you’ve heard them sung extremely badly four or five hundred times by drunken cracked voices at up to half past four in the morning, you’ll agree all modern Christmas tunes should be banned by international treaty. I maintain that Christmas songs are crimes against humanity, and perpetrators should be tried at the Hague before being imprisoned for mass musicide. This goes for New Year celebrations as well; if I had a time machine I’d go back and shoot Robbie Burns dead before he could pen the words to ‘Auld lang’s syne‘. Posterity forgives the odd dead poet.

Tenth; Carol Singers. Not proper Carol Singers like in church choirs, they’re actually fairly pleasant and welcome in small doses. I’m talking about the avaricious little sods who turn up on your doorstep for a quick bit of extortion a month before the official date. I think we’re all familiar with this subtype of troglodyte; expecting you to give them money for an abysmal and desultory one chorus rendition of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ when half of them don’t know the words and the rest are miming. Some years ago I handed out some warmed over vegetarian mince pies to the last lot who dared darken my doorstep, and joy of joys, haven’t seen any since.

Eleventh: Christmas lights. Well this is more ambivalence than dislike. Done well, hey, fine. It’s your electricity bill. Done badly, with lots of cheesy illuminated Walmart Santas, Snowmen and Reindeer, urgh. Seriously. It’s embarrassing. Don’t do it. Likewise decorating things that aren’t yours. No please. If your sense of taste is that stunted, it’s wise not to show it off in public. People will only point and laugh.

The above list is nowhere near definitive as I’m sure many of you can come up with your own reasons for wanting to spend your midwinter holiday overseas. The nicest Christmas day I ever spent was alone with my wife in Barcelona. Messing around in near deserted streets like a couple of school kids and getting soaked in a torrential downpour. No cooking, no turkey, wonderful Irish coffee in a bar where the staff were grooving energetically to Ricky Martins ‘La vida loca’ full blast on the sound system. Ganneting a quarter kilo of ‘Chocolat Naranja’ between us while drying out, watching an unfestive CNN News in the Hotel room. No tinsel, no tackiness and a thoroughly civilised time was had by both of us. A close second was a Spa break in BC having a (Sort of) merry detox with several bottles of eminently quaffable 2009 Quails Gate Proprietors Reserve pinot noir. No TV, in room Jacuzzi and no bloody tinsel. Bliss.

Canadian wine

Sounds like a joke doesn’t it? Wine in the land of the frozen north? Bill, are you taking the piss? Oddly enough no. Mildly irreverent and contemptuous of fools as ever, but no piss taking.

When Mrs S and I first made the jump over to this side of the pond I secretly wondered if I would ever taste a reasonable wine vintage again. At least nothing that was not Australian, New Zealand, a Chardonnay, which is not my favourite grape variety, or hideously expensively imported French. However, it is with significant pleasure I can report that there are some quite reasonable, even remarkable, wines springing full blown from the Okanagan valley. Even at the budget end of the market ($14-20 a bottle).

Although I make no claims to have an educated wine tasters or epicures palate, I do know what is drinkable, and would like to share my top nine vineyards and most liked wines (in no particular order) with whomsoever cares to visit this blog. To set my baseline; I like wines with a pleasant bouquet and nicely rounded flavours that leave little or no aftertaste.

Mission Hill: 2010 Viognier, 2009 Pinot Noir
Quails Gate: 2009 Pinot Noir Stewart Family Special Reserve
Volcanic Hills: 2011 Gewurztraminer
Mt Boucherie: 2011 Pinot Gris, 2010 Gamay Noir
St Hubertus: 2010 Pinot Blanc
Cedar Creek: 2011 Pinot Gris
Gray Monk: 2011 Siegerrebe, 2010 Auxerrois
Intrigue: 2011 Gewurztraminer
Ex Nihilo: 2010 Pinot Noir

Best red: Quails Gate’s 2009 Pinot Noir Stewart Family Special Reserve. No question. By a country mile. Superb. Close second was Mt Boucherie’s 2010 Gamay Noir. Light and nicely balanced.
Best white: A tie between the subtly perfumed but eminently quaffable Gray Monk 2011 Siegerrebe, Cedar Creeks clean and rounded 2011 Pinot Gris and Mission Hill’s perfectly suppable 2010 Viognier. Honourable mention to St Hubertus Pinot Blanc.

We have tasted and purchased bottles of all the above wines and look forward to making suitable occasions to drink them. Did try an Ice Wine, but only one and did not purchase any so any comparison would not be fair. I would also like to mention that no Rose’s were tasted in the writing of this blog.

About the vineyards we visited: Some awards.

Bill Sticker Prize for most impressive goes without contest to Mission Hill. Their open air restaurant is superb and the staff a delight. Beautifully styled grounds. Architecturally stunning.
Bill Sticker Prize for most intimate: This is a toughie, but after due consideration I’d recommend Mt Boucherie. Smallest wine shop, but really worth a visit. Close run second; St Hubertus.
Bill Sticker Low Bullshit Quotient award: St Hubertus. No fancy talk. Small gift shop. Will go again. No question.

Downside: Being charged $5 for tasting three less than impressive wines.
Upside: Incredible views and some surprisingly sippable vintages.

We only managed to visit about sixteen vineyards, but were pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of most. There were few disappointments (No names, no pack drill, but SBML knows who I mean), and places I wouldn’t visit again, but they are not mentioned in this post. As for the mentioned; fill your boots. They’re good. Even to a tyro with a Biryani ravaged palate like mine.

There are vineyards we didn’t visit simply because of time pressure. Which means, oh dearie me, heavy sigh, we’ve got to go back there at some stage. Life’s a bitch, eh?