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Face-off October 27, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

By the time the Russian and I have wolfed down dinner in (verbal) silence in about fourteen seconds flat, having toiled lovingly over the preparation for considerably longer, the bottle is still usually half-full, even if the glass is half-empty. This inevitably invites a moral dilemma of critical proportions.

The only way to achieve a moral victory is, of course, to put that glass cone – the cleanest and most unused item of kitchenware in the house – in the neck and put the wine-bottle away in some dark corner where it can supposedly be forgotten about until the next wine-drinking occasion raises its predictable head the following evening.

Yet even moral fortitude and rectitude have their downsides. Chiefly that they are the enemy of hedonism and doing what you’d really like and while I’m not desperate for life to be one long string of gleeful moments, I do worry that these positives, if they can be so called, might be even loosely tied up with guilt and before you know it people will be saying or you’ll be thinking, “Once a Catholic…” which makes me want to go and impale myself on a spire somewhere, or, at the very least, speed-convert to the Church of England.

And closing the bottle with the pristine cone has the added disadvantage, or, at least, mitigated benefit, of putting me in the Russian’s good books. “Molodets,” he’ll say as I trudge hunchbacked to the cupboard under the sink where undrunk wine keeps the cleaning products company. “Umnitsa,” he’ll continue as I return to my seat and sip languidly on gone-flat mineral water in a mood redolent of the day after your birthday. Because being in the Russian’s good books and creating a fraudulent image of sobriety and temperance is as morally wicked as lying. Unless I was willing to change my ways, which I sometimes pretend I am, but am probably basically not, it would be awfully naughty to create such a false impression. And so early in our courtship! I haven’t even met my father-in-law yet.

One unlikely permutation, which occurs about as irregularly as the Earth changing direction, is that I will experience a rush of primness and suggest the bottle be coned just when the Russian’s looking like he’d fancy quite a lot more booze. I am magnanimous and say the decision is his but may have to tut (and remind him of his above-recommended-guidelines consumption) with sneering frequency.

But far more likely is a face-off between me and the bottle. Dinner is over. If I’m trying to be French, the national barometer I think best aligned with good living – ignoring the statistics for liver cancer – then I should, by rights, push my glass away from me and do something proper like meet my mistress or smoke and have an intellectual conversation at the same time, preferably with raised voices and aspersions cast on the interlocutor’s sanity. But I am not French. And the wine bottle is a foreign body my cultural immune system tries to attack. “What do you want to drink more of me for?” it whispers waspishly, circumflexes and castles leaping like sprites off the label and dragging my heavy fingers back from where they came.

Eyes right to see how I’m doing with the Russian. Is he in a wine-coning mood? Or one of those festive ones where we may drink on as long as we can find some excuse for it? “It’ll spoil by tomorrow.” “It’ll help us relax.” “We’re alcoholics.”

But the most crushing defeat is if my beloved benevolently waves his approval at my drinking on but fails to join me. He will return to online-shopping and academia and I will be left with two more cauldron-sized glasses of occasionless wine to drink. Each delicious drop tinged with reproof and condemnation. The Russian might find me in my one-man snug and ask advice on some linguistic matter. I will try to make my eyes look perky or not to slur my words or hide my red-wine lips but in an attempt to appear beyond reproach I will knock over a cactus or tip over the glass. “Uh-huh,” he’ll conclude soberly and turn on his heels, mission truncated.

Still, the nights are drawing in – it’s now dark at 2pm – and we don’t want to be too perfect, do we? What’s the world come to if a man can’t sip away the winter blues in the comfort of his own home! I say almost non-stop wine-drinking is a seasonal and traditional rite till the onset of spring.

To your good health!

Mis- October 24, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Hope none of you went with that recipe. Worst indigestion I’ve ever had.

Darlings, I’m all about the getting-things-wrong these days. Naturally I assume this is just the next stage of my irreversible dementia and living mislingually. Still, every experience is a good one, apart from, perhaps, being held against your will and tortured, or talking backwards, or eating upside-down, so I’m thinking even the misexperiences are to be enjoyed and, as surely as night follows day, written down for my own and, selfless old thing that I am, your appreciation. Perhaps even marvel.

These are hard times – mind you, a gent I chatted to the other day in a bar told me there’s no crisis and it’s all just bollocks, which is surely bollocks, isn’t it? Still, he had excellent teeth so I thought he had the moral authority and I had to go and seek out an all-night glazier to reglaze the window of the bank which I’d just smashed in – so making positives out of negatives is to be encouraged. Brain going down the pan? No! It’s just the next stage in your brain’s (mis)development. The world going down the tubes? Not a bit of it. Just an opportunity for us to realign to less nasty habits and make our own entertainment. Worried about your future and thinking employers will start giving you less work? Very easy. Just charge double!

See. Life is good, even when you get things wrong.

I’ve been tapping away fairly furiously of late, trying to scrabble enough pfennigs together to put a Würstchen or two on our humble table. By the time the taxman’s had his wicked old way with my money, there’s not much left for luxuries like food, booze, fast men and fast public transport. Yet it goes without saying that this is yet more cause for rejoicing. Giving is good. How could you not feel warm and fuzzy to think you were probably single-handedly providing schools with science labs, hospitals with vital and state-of-the-art equipment, godforsaken provinces with roads and electricity and civilisation and the people from the 100%-long-term-unemployment-house across the road with fags? But the tapping’s caused short-circuitry. Shatteringly vivid incidents of misinterpretation, mishearing, miswriting and misseeing.

Loving my fellow humans as I do and hoping that one of these mishappenings might lead to a eureka moment and be of some great benefit for mankind – wasn’t penicillin invented when some drunk person put his kebab down next to a moulding pizza-box as he went to check his e-mail having rolled in drunk at 4am? – I am careful to follow my mistakes diligently. But the results have only been disturbing or pathetic.

Favourite typo. Should have written ‘bacteriostatic’ which, as anyone with even half a day at school behind him can tell, is something boring and scientific. My mistype came out as ‘bacteriotastic’ which paints bacteria in a much jollier light. Singing and dancing germs. I wrote to the authorities to see if there could be any use for the word – even went as far as e-mailing the Académie Française, with a subject line of ‘bactériotastique’ as I’m happy to sell my soul to the French for fifteen minutes of linguistic fame – but no-one was interested.

I tossed and turned in bed all night and had dreams which magnified the extent of my failings. I argued with the Russian that the socks had been mispaired but he laughed maniacally, dangling miscoloured, mismatched garments in my face and said, in perfect English, “Don’t start an argument your colour-blind ass can’t win.” Terrifying. When did he learn English? Had he been misspeaking to me all this time? Had I misinterpreted all along? Had I misbothered speaking Russian?

But the real, waking Russian got bored of my missleeping. As my dreams about my misdeeds and misachievements got ever more misbegotten, my tossing and turning – so I’m told – got ever more mismanageable and misignorable. The Russian began to contort in such a way that, with minimum effort, he might push me as far across the bed as possible to be less misturbed. I awoke with a shudder, the terrifying visions of the unconscious disappearing as quickly as a student whose round it is, only to be met with misvisions of arms and legs flailing with the rest of some body concealed under a blanket. It looked exactly like an octopus in chainmail.

I’d very much like my brain never to misbehave again.