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No Time For An Old Bird

No Time For An Old Bird Yet again, Janet Wynne Evans feels at odds with Christmas

If marketing is, as somebody once wrote, the art of arresting the human imagination long enough to extract money from it, words are a key weapon in the professional attention-seeker’s arsenal. Any e-mail not containing certain mots du jour will fall flat on its face, we’re told, but I doubt that. The most potent word combination I know is that of ‘cheap’ and ‘Claret’. The trouble is finding some worth drinking, and meanwhile, the professional communicator’s mind must not be closed to a bit of cutting-edge coinage to stop readers in their tracks.

A rare Eighties example which, thanks to a succession of economic freezes and squeezes, has stood the test of time is cocooning. If recessions are to keep us indoors when we might otherwise have explored exotic locations from Pacific islands to new-wave restaurants, then home must be worth staying in. If you have upgraded your television, sound system, bathroom shower or any kitchen appliance this year, you have, consciously or not, been cocooning, and, perhaps, even hoping that when the economy returns to the black, the Red Admiral in you will come out.

Many of us have, sadly, lost, or simply never learned the art of staying at home, but even domestic goddesses would have been caught unawares in 2010, when it was a lucky person indeed whose plans were not somehow derailed by the weather. From the inconvenience and disappointment caused by a delivery van that couldn’t get through with essential provisions and gifts to the utter misery of several nights on a hard airport floor and in many cases many worse privations, our British grit – and our gritters – were certainly tested.

On a personal level, I discovered that Christmas is absolutely no time for an old bird. I refer here not only to myself but to a couple of mallard that we had in the freezer, for, with foreign travel arrangements scotched, and no time to commission exotic centrepieces or to remove wine from The Society’s cellars, we stayed at home and improvised. This should not have been a hardship. If you put good stuff in your freezer, wine-rack and cupboards, you’ll get good stuff out of them, non?

Unfortunately, our mallards had been in cryonic suspension for just a little bit too long, just enough for the minimal fat they carry to turn unpleasantly rancid when subjected to intense heat. The accompanying glass was a pukka, but forgotten Clos Vougeot which had spent too long in the rack, bound for better storage facilities had my memory been what it once was. Whether it was months of neglect or the fragrance of poorly husbanded chip-shop which had filled the house, it, too, went into a sulk. Our standby starter, a couple of defrosted smoked eel fillets, brought back to life in a frying pan with some bacon, was let down by the accompanying glass of elderly riesling that had been lying alongside the Clos Vougeot, doubtless plotting revenge.

Old isn’t always bad, of course. The last of 1990 Bollinger (drink up!) closed off one year and kicked off another in a blaze of mature, biscuity splendour, and in its warm glow, I confronted reality, and made a resolution. The festive season always makes me feel like a failure, however I try to approach it, and I have tried everything now, apart from leaving the country, which may not be right either. But I certainly don’t propose to spend the next one in a cocoon, unless it’s attached to a coconut palm in the Caribbean, and I can emerge from it in glorious technicolour.

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