The weather in Britain is cruelly and unfairly maligned. The striking thing about it is not the amount of rain (which isn’t all that excessive), but how amazingly temperate it is all the year round. I grew up in the American deep South and spent my adulthood in New England; I know from weather extremes. Temperatures in the South of England rarely rise above 80 in Summer or fall below freezing in Winter. It very seldom snows (a little sad at Christmas, that) and the grass is never anything but a deep emerald green. There are palms trees growing in back gardens facing the Channel. I’ve often wondered if I’ll be the first immigrant to move here for love of the weather.
However, this here is the most relentlessly gray visit to Old Blighty I’ve ever had. I arrived on the 19th, today is the 31st, it’s been fog and overcast with the occasional mizzle and not a glimpse of the sun the whole time. Last night we caught a break, when the drizzle turned into a squally gale. Blew the roof off a hotel in Suffolk.
This is like being pushed up an elephant’s bottom with a damp rag.
Ordinarily, I like dull days. Rain means I can stay inside staring at my computer screen free of the nagging suspicion I should be out cavorting in the sun. Ugh. I dislike cavortage. I’m not by nature a cavorter. There is, however, a limit to the time my beloved and I can spend together in this little sitting room before the claws come out. So we decided to gather up our holiday liquor bottles and take them to the recycling center.
Oh dear. We cannot possibly have drunk all this ourselves. I suspect Binge Fairies visit us in the night, siphoning off our wholesome, life-enhancing alcohol. Stupid goddamn fairies.
Nothing for it but to buy more. The grocery store is conveniently by the recycling bins and they conveniently sell booze in the grocery store. Which is awfully convenient. Even our little local grocery is a Disneyland of boozage. So many bottles of beer! So many silly names! Honestly, I think they make this shit up to impress tourists.
Today, however, I am buying cider. Here is a piece of information worth knowing: cider in the UK is always hard. Very, very hard. Apple juice is called apple juice, that which is called cider will bark the gray matter right off your cerebral cortex. At around eight or nine percent alcohol, the stuff is substantially stronger than beer, but doesn’t taste boozy. I’m told that American airmen stationed in the South of England were often encouraged to drink cider, innocent of its true potency until they went outside, hit the cold air, and crashed. Much like the Luftwaffe.
It’s a pleasant tipple, though I often catch myself thinking either “gosh, this wine is sour” or “gosh, this beer is flat.”
I also managed to snag some little sampler bottles of whisky. Half price, because they were packaged for Christmas gifts. This is an expensive gambit, ounce for ounce, but a good way to try a variety of pricey spirits without having to buy a whole bottle of something unfamiliar.
So, if I’m a very, very lucky, my New Year’s Eve will include hard cider, whisky, champagne AND vodka. Perhaps a bit of table wine. Start as you mean to go on, they say. Looks like I’ll be starting 2007 with an evil festering mofo of a hangover.
Happy New Year!