A recent blog I enjoyed a lot was about different alcoholic drinks being associated with special memories. It really rang a bell with me and I hope she doesn’t mind, but it set me off down a nostalgic and alcohol fuelled trail thinking about what memories various drinks conjured up in my head.
Unlike Islandmomma’s roots, my family were no strangers to alcohol, being very typical of the working class West of Scotland – nearly every night of my dad’s life was spent in the pub. A heavy drinking culture was the norm where I grew up and nobody really considered people to have a drink problem even though they might be bladdered every night. Ironically, it was those who enjoyed a drink at home instead of the pub who were treated with suspicion and considered alcoholics as drinking was all about the social life. Even now my mum still looks a bit uncomfortable when we uncork the wine.
Probably because of this, alcohol has been my preferred drug and since about the age of seventeen I’ve been a loyal worshipper in the church of the Reverend D. Wayne Love (anyone who gets that reference is automatically a soul brother, or sister). Whilst my drinking patterns have changed throughout my life – cutting down as I moved from a heavy drinking culture (Scotland) to a drinking culture (England) to a culture where drinking is far more moderate (here) – I still enjoy the demon drink. I particularly enjoy trying local brews when we travel and much of my own memories of various drinks are connected with different places.
Lanzarote – Red Wine
Of all the places we have visited, Lanzarote was my least favourite. We went there the year we were married and stayed near the harbour in Puerto del Carmen. The harbour was pleasant enough, but we couldn’t walk anywhere without being hassled by time-share touts. But Lanzarote is the place responsible for a liking for red wine. We were in a fish restaurant overlooking the harbour when I noticed two men lounging on the wall below us, a terracotta jug full of red wine between them. It just looked like the most sophisticated way to drink that I’d ever seen and immediately ordered a carafe even though I thought I didn’t like red wine.
Sri Lanka – Arrack
One of the reasons that Lanzarote might have been a disappointment was that we’d not long previously been to Sri Lanka which completely blew us away and which still remains our favourite location. We struggled to get any decent vodka, our preferred drink at that time, so had to settle for the local stuff, arrack. It turned out to be surprisingly quaffable; smooth and not overly sweet or harsh. A long, iced glass with ginger ale was perfect when served with stunning sunsets, palm trees wafting in the breeze and strange haunting calls emanating from the jungle.
I love ouzo and we’ve had some great times in its company on various Greek Islands, but it’s retsina that conjures up special memories, particularly of the island of Symi. We’d catch a water taxi from the town – usually a glass of ouzo and water came with the price of the ticket – to the most beautiful crescent shaped beach where there was only one vine covered shack of a taverna. After a morning’s sunbathing, interrupted only by cooling swims and fending off curious goats, we’d head to the taverna, order mezes of whatever they brought us and a bottled of chilled retsina…then snore our heads off on the beach until it was time to catch the water taxi back to town. Bliss.
Jamaica – Red Stripe
So many memories, so many bottles of Red Stripe consumed watching cliff divers from LTU (a poor man’s version of Rick’s Cafe) and people like Toots and the Maytals and Yellowman in venues where the air was thick with ganja and we usually ended up having to rescue our blonde-haired friend from over-amorous Rastas - normally as a result of her behaviour. You can’t sing along with Yellowman’s Vagina Song at the top of your voice and not expect the local Lotharios to think you’re game.
New York – Champagne
New York on the eve of the Millennium and the signs were there that the Americans were expecting some sort of an attack. We had to sign a form saying who our next of kin was when we boarded the plane to NY, not a comforting thing to have to do. The manhole covers in the street were sealed shut and we were surrounded by a police cordon in Times Square. It was the most alcohol free New Year we’ve ever experienced. Not a drop passed our lips as we watched the world welcome in the new millenium over a period of 12 hours or so. Sometime after it was New York’s turn and the crowds began to disperse we headed back to out hotel and, due to a mix of being thirsty and relief at not being blown up, immediately ordered two bottles of champagne which we downed in record time in the packed lobby. I don’t really remember what happened after that.
India – Feni
I’ve got to add this one because it is one of the most disgusting drinks I’ve ever tasted, or more accurately, two of the most disgusting drinks as there are two varieties; palm feni and cashew feni. One of them is revolting and one is just unpleasant, but I can’t remember which is which. It’s the popular hard drink in Goa and therefore deserved to be tried. It’s serious stuff. We were told that two glasses would get you drunk; we had three each. Two to try the different flavours and the third to mask the taste of the second. Did it get us drunk? Well one us hallucinated a giant moth after the second feni and the resulting panic caused a knocking over of what was left of the third drink. But I can’t remember who did what, so I suppose that says it all.
France – Wine (of course)
One of my favourite alcoholic fuelled memories is of two weeks we spent with Andy’s dad and his wife at a wonderful old gîte near Dinan which had gardens the size of a public park. Whenever we were out and about exploring, we’d pop into a local shop and stock up on red wines, the more local the better.
Each night one of us would announce at some point early on ‘time to test the wine’. A bottle would be uncorked, glasses poured and a rating would be agreed. Being France even the most modest bottle was given four stars. The result, plus a brief description, was recorded in a notebook so that we’d know which wines to buy again. Wonderful summer nights were spent in the sun-kissed garden as hot air balloons drifted lazily overhead whilst we quaffed the day’s booty. We got through an awful lot of testing on that holiday and by the end of each night I’m sure our judgement wasn’t to be trusted. It was a very special holiday.
The thing with this blog is that I could go on and on and on and I can’t decide whether writing it is making me want to go and pour a long cool one or give it up forever. Still thanks Islandmomma for triggering my boozy trip down memory lane…slangevar!