A cautionary tale of canfinement

An increasingly despairing Tony Harries loses it during lockdown and runs out of supplies. Faced with a difficult choice between two foraged cans of beer and one old bottle of wine that’s way past its best, which will serve to quench our hero’s thirst?   

I’m going to share a first-world tale of a wine writer. It might shock, it might make you laugh and there might even be one or two who are reaching angrily for a pen and paper. Like you, I’ve been in ‘lockdown’ for long enough to find news reports boring and bargain-hunting thrilling. Yes, life is getting desperate, but not as desperate as what happened the other Sunday when I was taught a serious lesson (not really, but I’m trying to build tension!).

It is just after four o’clock and I fancy a glass of wine, just one single small glass of vino. The trouble is that there’s none to be had because I plan my visits to the supermarket on Monday and I’d not checked how low supplies had got. I can manage without food and water until my delivery, but my Sunday ‘evening’ glass of white is sacred!

“Why weren’t you prepared, why didn’t you check?” The simple answer is that like most men, I’m prone to forget unless my wife reminds me! Never mind, I’ll wait until tomorrow I reason. Two hours later, I’ve watched a repeat of The Saint on Sky TV, tried to read a book on Hong Kong Chardonnay and told my wife six times how bored I am! It’s time for man (the hunter) to forage.

I stand up and look around the living room in the slim hope that there might be a quarter of something waiting to surprise me, but cold coffee and a chocolate bar wrapper provide no comfort. I don’t want much; just a single glass of fun in the face of a lockdown that only seems to bring misery. The kitchen looks as though Mother Hubbard has taken up residence, and the echo that comes back when I muse aloud doesn’t exactly promise me the wine world. Come to my aid sweet fridge!

I open the door and feel it mocking me. Not a gentle friendly mock, but a belittling laugh right in my face. Nothing but a couple of slivers of Brie with their foil loosely wrapped around, providing no protection against food poisoning and the rind hardening; a box of cereal I store away because I’ve been informed they last longer; vegetables in various states of decay; and a tub of butter that appears to be turning into a mouldy scientific experiment.

I start to close the sombre door when I notice the glint of two tins that are playing hide and seek with me from behind the box of cereals. They might not be wine, but in my growing desperation I’ll settle for a can of bloaty beer. I move the box, stare at the two tins and feel like crying. Staring back at me in a state of embarrassment are two cans of the sort of lager that are used to advertise football and that should carry a government taste warning. I realise that at times like this God does indeed laugh at us when we are in the nude!

How the heck did this emblem of blandness come to be in my fridge? I have always found the taste somewhere between licking an iron bar and an ink cartridge leaked in my mouth; only I do remember that the cartridge was slightly more palatable! I seem to vaguely remember that they arrived (like unwanted relatives during Christmas) when a friend of my daughter came to visit. The fact that they have spent four months in the fridge (the beer, not the friends) gives me hope that my daughter has got more taste than I’ve given her credit for.

I start to shut the fridge door, but a devil on my shoulder urges me to go back, because the taste isn’t too bad and that feeling of chewing metal is simply a trick of the mind. Besides, it’s been so long since I tried this brand of lager it might have improved. Then again, Donald Trump might start to show empathy! I force myself to leave, as weakness and hopelessness overcomes, lifting my head towards the heavens (or in this case the ceiling of the kitchen!). How can life be so cruel as to set me such a challenge in this alcohol-free wilderness? It is then, on top of one of the kitchen cupboards that I notice a beautiful shape that can only belong to a bottle of wine!

Quickly retrieving a chair, I carefully climb on the seat (no point in breaking my neck before I reach the bottle) and I grab the wine by the neck. “It’s mine, it’s mine!” I say through tears of joy. It might be covered in so much dust but it’s mine! I start to clean away the dusty particles of filth floating in the air like a grey storm and finally the slightly torn label gives up its secrets. Now my heart sinks lower than a Rap artist’s trousers as I identify the wine.

It’s a rather cheap Lambrusco that my grandmother had given to me a number of years ago, somewhere between Margaret Thatcher stealing children’s milk and the birth of punk rock, and it had already been long past its drink-by date even then! The air holds more curses than you’d hear in a teacher’s staffroom, and as I look between the fridge with its tins of horrible foamy lager and a bottle of Italian wine that’s so old the writing is in Latin, I know I’ve reached rock bottom (until groceries are delivered tomorrow).

To cut a long story short I’m here to tell you that I’ve learnt two things from this incident. Firstly, I’d rather drink anything other than a tin of metal tasting lager, even a wine that might have been at its best when the United Kingdom originally joined the European Union (or Common Market as it was then). Secondly, that a wine that tastes of lifeless must, dead fruit and obvious embarrassment is not too bad after the third glass!