Dreaming of an absinthe Christmas: Part 2
You will doubtless recall my previous entry, which spoke of Tupelo and my own self’s wandering among the narrow lanes and edgy alleyways of the Raval district of Barcelona. And how we came across the Bar Marsella and were delighted and inspired by its clientele, décor and absinthe with Guinness chasers.
That all took place on one of his Lordship’s occasional cyclonic Summer visits-cum-residencies at my humble lodgings in Spain in the early 90’s of the 20th C. Now we fast-forward to late December of the same year. Christmas was looming, as it always does, and I was planning my yuletide expedition to England, as I always did.
My usual prefered form of travel was “light”, as they say. But Christmas always meant that my small travelling bag was discarded in favour of a large suitcase and said case would weigh a lot, being stuffed with all manner of goodies easily procured in Catalonia but of a more exotic nature in England (In those days. Now you can get all of this stuff in any Supermarket): Chorizo, cured ham, various varieties of delicious nougat (called Turrón), wines, Cava (the Catalan sparkling white wine) and, this time, an unopened bottle of absinthe which I’d talked the barman in the Marsella into selling over the counter. Now I just had to smuggle it into the home country. My plan was to spend the first part of the holiday with family in the traditional, accepted manner. The second half of my time there would be dedicated to dossing at Tupelo Manor where we would continue to wrestle with and/or on our masterwork, The Reeking Hegs. The wine, chorizo etc was for the family. The absinthe was to be dedicated to Hegs related inspirational business.
As it happened no sooner had I arrived at Chez Tupelo than he informed me there was a party that night and we were going. I brandished the bottle of absinthe. His eyes grew large and round as he rubbed his belly and smacked his lips. With no more ado we leapt into his Renault 4 and headed across town.
The party was the typical scene of youthful recklessnesses accompanied by very loud music. After salutations and a bit of communal yelping we decided to find a quiet corner, get the absinthe open and do some writing. We went upstairs into an empty bedroom, got comfy, served ourselves the first glass of absinthe and began to write. At first the plan worked perfectly. We were writing a section in which the Polar Bear figured prominently. We proceeded with our usual modus operandi of each of us writing a short piece and then handing it over to the other to be continued. This went on for a while. We’d sipped our way to just over half way down the bottle. I had started to feel distinctly strange in a numbed sort of way. In fact, writing seemed to have become a huge effort for both of us. We were thus stopped and statuely like unmoving, unblinking and silent when our hostess burst in and loudly berated us as party-poopers. I tried to move a tongue that felt thick and sluggish like an overfed mollusc in my mouth in order to explain what we were doing. She impatiently took up our sheaf of paper and read the paragraph we’d ground to a halt on. “Aha! I guessed as much” she said as she grabbed my pen and began to write her own contribution to the Canto – a sentence or two about the depth of fishing-holes if memory serves. She handed the page back to me with a “See? Anybody can do it. Now, get your anti-social asses downstairs.”
Words were unnecessary. I knew Tupelo was far beyond any hope of strutting his stuff, and he knew I was too. Leaving the bottle there in the room we left the revellers to it.
I’m delighted to reveal that the phrases in question have made their immortal way into the published version of The Reeking Hegs.
I challenge all Hegfans to locate those two or three sentences penned by our hostess!
If you are not already the proud owner of one, You can obtain a copy of The Reeking Hegs on Amazon. It comes in paperback, ebook and audiobook form!