Florence Nightingale’s Nectar
Did you know that some restaurants refuse to list Pinot Grigio by the glass, because it will sell too much, and they want to sell other (more expensive) wines? True.
I attend the day centre at the Florence Nightingale Hospice, in the grounds of Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Some people have a vision of hospices as quiet and gloomy places where the very ill go to spend their final days. This couldn’t be further from the truth and not in my experience.
In reality, hospices are full of life and compassion. They are places people can go to for specialist care and all kinds of support, and where families and friends are always welcome. And it’s not like being in a hospital.
On my first day I spied something that looked incongruous in such a setting: so out of place – and that was a trolley heavily laden with wine, beer and spirits. Strange, I thought. Perhaps I’d missed the monthly Bacchanalian orgy the night before. I wish!
So, I asked Barbara, a volunteer helper, who queried my preferred drink. When told she made a bee-line for the trolley, extracted a bottle of Pinot and proceeded to take the top off.
“Don’t do it, don’t do it,” I implored, pointing at the clock that said 10’clock. “Get it down ya,” was the retort.“Somewhere in the world, the sun is rising over the yardarm and it’s time for a snifter.”
Every lunchtime after that episode I was given a glass of wine with my mid-day meal. “Would you like some ice with that, John?” I just love being pampered in this way, but it did worry me.
I was taking a pile of pills at this time and, without exception, every leaflet with the medication warned NOT to mix with alcohol. Were they trying to see me off earlier than intended? A visiting doctor reassured me (with a wink) that it was a phrase that had to be included – for obvious reasons. “Enjoy your drink – and have a second one if you wish!” she confided. “But everything in moderation.”
Scruton described wine as a ‘social intoxicant,’ like the peace pipe and hookah. He also advocated wine as an aid to good thought and good society
In the short introductory chapter to his book, I Drink Therefore I am, Scruton makes a rather whimsical case for wine’s real purpose: “a better accompaniment to thought and conversation than even to food.”
The classic title he used may need some introduction to a new generation: the original is attributed the great WC Fields (1880-1946). But you may have seen ‘The Philosopher’s Song,’ performed by Bruce, Bruce and Bruce, all professors in the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo Australia., which included such great lines as:
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle.
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And René Descartes was a drunken fart.
‘I drink, therefore I am.’
Here are the guys from Monty Python (the three Bruces) singing the Philosopher’s Song in their stage show.
We credit a lot of things to the Roman Empire. No wonder they are referred to as …
‘The Trendsetters of History’
The Roman Amphora
When I started metal detecting all those years ago, old maps were carefully pored over in the local library for clues to what could be interesting and productive land. On one of my permissions, clearly marked on the map, I saw that a Roman amphora had been found in the 19th century.
An amphora, such as the one shown, is a two-handled storage jar that was used for storage and transportation of foodstuffs such as wine and olive oil. They were sometimes used as grave markers or as containers for funeral offerings or human remains. I understand that this container was full of dirt when found. No wine: no grave goods: nothing. But that field produced a lot of ‘Roman’ finds. Hurrah! I tell you this to show how wine – or items associated with wine – was a kinda fixture in my formative years as a detectorist.