Thursday, 17 February 2011

Obscure or Nerdy? (Part 2 of 2)

7.  Old people are just us a few years hence.  Thanks to being brought up with my grandmothers either living with us or around, and therefore seeing endless parades of their friends dropping round for tea, I am very comfortable with people of any age, and particularly those of advanced age.  They all remind me of my grannies, and I understand that they need to talk rather than to listen – I don’t know about anywhere else, but in the UK it’s an abandoned generation.  People in homes are rarely visited by their relatives, and I’ve had to learn to hide the shock I feel when people at dinner parties talk (in a roundabout way) about what a nuisance it is to have an old relative, and how ‘difficult’ they are.  These seniors long to tell you about their interesting lives when they were ‘someone’, and are now written off as doddery and stupid.  Most of the time it’s because they’re hard of hearing and forgetful, and being combined with possible incontinence problems, it all contributes towards this impression.  Sorry – I get angry just writing about it.

8.  Music – through my partner John I’ve learned to appreciate some opera, and there is classical music I love.  Unfortunately he’s not keen on folk music, which is where my musical tastes lie.  I loved Joan Baez when I was a teenager, and played the Spanish guitar, and through music lessons in Buenos Aires grew to love Argentina’s rich folk music heritage.  The more time goes by, the more in awe I am of the wonderful poetry written by folk music writers there.  I followed it all as kids nowadays follow their rock groups (and I followed the Beatles etc too of course…).  Once in England I learned about British and US American folk music.  Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and Tom Paxton could make me cry (Both Sides Now, You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, The last thing on my mind…), and I loved Fairport Convention and Gordon Lightfoot.  Then my tastes went slightly more towards folk rock with Steeleye Span, and I would see them whenever they came to Bristol.  But for John it was an effort, he wasn’t keen, and it became too complicated to listen to stuff with headphones – so I write words more than listen to music these days.

9.  Family – obscure facts that I share with each and every one of you reading this blog:  that we all have quirky ancestors who did unusual or interesting things, and ‘their stories should be told’.  Here are a couple of tasters:

On my father’s side, his maternal grandfather – my great grandfather - was a successful farmer in Uruguay with a very grand house on one farm, and several other farms to his name.  My grandmother had a handsome inheritance, and they enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle for the first ten years of their marriage, but instead of retiring, my grandfather (her husband) decided to continue with his investments – and in the crash of 1929 he lost absolutely everything.  So my father and uncles and aunt vaguely remember prosperous times, but mostly they grew up having to watch every penny, and only ever had one pair of shoes (at a time) each.  "New" clothes were handmedowns which when you got them were at least newer than the ones you were passing down to your younger sibling...

On my mother’s Italian side, her grandmother (“La Nonna”) was married with two children – Granny and her brother - and living in Florence when her husband died suddenly, leaving her penniless.  She became a music teacher and governess to make ends meet, and one day when the children were 7 and 8 she was contacted by a former admirer whom she had turned down, and who (disconsolate) had emigrated to Argentina, and later married.  He told her he was now also a widower, and had heard by chance that she too was now on her own.  Would she marry him by proxy, and take a boat to Buenos Aires to live with him and his children?  She agreed, and they married far apart, at each other’s embassies in Florence and Buenos Aires, for it would not have been seemly for her to travel alone and unattached over such a long distance with two children.  In 1903 she arrived in Argentina, and he took them back to the village where he lived, a place called Bell Ville, province of Córdoba.

10.  I have a diploma in wines and spirits.  While working for the company that makes Harveys Bristol Cream sherry, I was sent on the beginners and diploma courses in wines and spirits, held one day a week in a local college, and over 3 years finally obtained a diploma.  Being more of an arts and literature type person, this was most unusual for me, and I was proud to be able to look at a wine list in a restaurant and understand what would be good and what wouldn’t. 

I don’t share the view that wine tasters are a lot of pretentious twats who like to claim that wine tastes of raspberries and Marmite.  Wine smells of – well wine, but if you’re forced to distinguish between red wine A, B and C, and you’ve got to sit there till you do – well, you sniff gently over and over again, then taste them slowly, and eventually you begin to notice that they’re different.  But just saying they’re different isn’t enough – red wine isn’t generally sweet, so you can’t say A is sweeter than B.  You have to put it into words, and after a while your nose plays tricks on you and you find yourself thinking of raspberries for example – but just the faintest of a faint suggestion. 

After all, if I forced you to taste chocolate blind, and made you describe exactly what the difference was between Swiss, Cadburys and Hershey, say, I’ll bet you’d have the same difficulty.  Or different cuts of steak, or different colas.  So you use any trick that will work to help you remember the difference in the future.  There’s a French generic wine called Beaujolais which I can recognise blind (or I used to be able to) simply because when I smelled the bouquet it reminded me of cheddar cheese.  Of course it wasn’t cheese, and I couldn’t tell you what on earth it could be that made me identify it with cheese – but each person finds their own triggers to help them.  Thump.  That’s me jumping off the soap box.


Photo Finish:
from Lonicera's digital & non-digital archives

Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a pub...

Hydrangeas on my coffee table (non-digital)

The river Wye from Chepstow Castle (Wales) 2010

North west Argentina, 1994 (non-digital)

Río Colorado, evening (2009) Argentina

Río Negro province (2009) Argentina

A Maldives atoll - 2007

Maldives - flowers in the rain



tessierose said...

Very nice! I love the story of "LaNonna" ...fascinating!

Tina said...

Great! as always your posts are wonderfully and carry me along with baited breath waiting for the next line and additional piece of knowledge...well that is until you compared the ability to discern different wines to that of cadburys and Hersheys chocolate!!! :) the Hershey's is so obviously nasty that even my 9 year old can tell the difference :)...I am working on tasting the difference between Cadbury's South Africa and UK..a bit finer difference but different for sure :)

I wish I had you around to train me up on the wine thing. When I drink Red wines the tannins get my tongue so bad that it is hard to taste much beyond my tongue curling back into my throat along with the drink. :)


Zanna said...

Once I again I 'saved up' and read the two posts together. I share your love of forms and form design - and excel - I think it's tht we're organisers at heart and like orderly things. I also am a tidy freak but sometimes heaven help you if you open a cupboard door!!! But every now and then I have a massive 'inside' tidy up and feel so damn good. Have a great week Zxx

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