An introduction to wine

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme: Alcohol

Remember the Time Blog Hop

Those who know me will probably not believe that I used to dislike the taste of wine. No really, listen. Will you stop doing that? Will you please stop laughing? Oh never mind…

Back in the day wine was not an everyday sort of drink as it is now (or is that just me?). My parents went to dinner parties and dances where my mum might choose a spirit and a mixer, my dad a beer or a stout, maybe rounding off the evening with a good, straight Irish whiskey. Wine was something that might be drunk occasionally, with a meal, a bottle being easily enough for four people. It was bought in specially for an occasion and finished on the night.

Then my father discovered the home wine making kit. He would sit in our cold kitchen (no central heating in those days) and work his way, step by step, through the instruction booklet. Sachets were opened, liquids mixed and drawn through flexible pipe to sit in enormous glass jars. These were then sealed and carefully carried upstairs to the airing cupboard to sit amongst the towels and sheets in the only space in the house that was always warm.

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My mother was not impressed when one of the jars, previously filled with a red liquid, erupted all over her clean laundry.

Undaunted my father continued. When the required time had elapsed the bottling commenced, and then we waited. The opening of a batch was an occasion, so my sister and I were permitted a taste of this strictly adult drink. I was not impressed. Over the years I would accept an occasional half glass to appear grown up, but I did not derive enjoyment from the beverage.

Jump forward a few years to when I was old enough to drink alcohol and did. I was taken out to dinner on a date and my young suitor, presumably in an attempt to impress, purchased a bottle of white wine to go with our meal. Tentatively I tried it and was amazed to discover that the taste pleased me. I decided that Liebfraumilch must be quality stuff and confidently recommended Blue Nun and Black Tower to anyone who asked.

And then one summer, at the end of my first year at university, I was invited to a house party and instructed to bring a bottle. As an impoverished student I could not afford the purchase, so my father kindly stepped in with a selection from his recent home made. I gratefully accepted, idly wondering how it would be received.

On arrival I set the bottles in the kitchen and left them there until the party was in full swing. When opened and shared there were no complaints. On the contrary, several imbibers seemed pleased with the effects produced. Even I, still not a regular wine drinker at that stage, could see that it beat the sweet wines from my recent past hands down.

Perhaps my father had improved with practice, perhaps I had been too young to appreciate his original efforts. Whatever the truth of the matter, he no longer makes his own wine so I cannot compare his creations with those I enjoy today. All I know is that, in the early eighties, his wine was fully appreciated by the student drinkers who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. And we all had the hangovers to prove it.

To read the other posts in this Blog Hop, click on the linky below.

Pressure to parent to a standard

New parents are inundated with criticism thinly veiled as advice. The excitement and anticipation of a first pregnancy can all too quickly descend into panic when that amazing little bundle of humanity is placed in the parent’s arms and they are expected to know what to do and to cope. Little wonder that, whilst trying to recovery physically and mentally from the effects of the birth, the sleep deprived mother can feel overwhelmed amidst the attention and concern of well meaning friends, relations and the so called experts.

I am sure that I was not alone in being profoundly shocked at how much my life changed following the birth of my first child. I had fondly imagined that I would continue much as before, simply bringing baby along. Instead I became isolated and exhausted; I felt obliged to pretend that all was just great when anyone sought me out, but tried to avoid contact with those who would try to mould my behaviour to that which they believed was best for baby. Their pearls of wisdom made me feel such a failure; in my sleep deprived mind, if I should be doing things differently then I was being perceived to be doing things wrong. At the time I was all too ready to believe that this could be true.

Sixteen years and two more children later I have a different mindset but I am still learning. Sure I would now feel confident caring for a baby, a toddler and a young child; I have been there and done that with results that I find pretty gratifying. What I haven’t yet sussed out though is the best way to raise teenagers. As our children grow and change into the individuals that they will become, we as parents need to learn as we go along how to deal with each new phase of their lives. After all the unasked for advice that I have been given over the years, some of which I have tried but that was so wrong for my particular children, I am wary of listening to anyone other than myself. My instincts have been far more helpful than any book, newspaper article or voice of experience from someone who doesn’t live my life with my kids.

There have been times though when I have given in to the peer pressure because I didn’t want my child to feel that they were missing out or because someone managed to convince me that I really ought to act in a certain way. Looking back, these were the times when I did get it wrong for my children.

Take sleepovers. Books aimed at young girls often tell stories of happy friendships cemented at fun filled overnight events. When my daughter asked to have a few friends round to stay for her seventh birthday I agreed, albeit with some trepidation. It turned out that sleepovers were not so common at such a young age; she may well have been the first in her class to host such an gathering. I learnt from the lack of sleep not to allow a repeat performance until she was several years older, and then only if the girls did not disturb the adults. I threatened no more sleepovers ever if this rule was broken and my daughter understood and agreed. She has enjoyed having many friends round to stay since without issue.

My younger son had a single friend to stay quite a number of times before he asked to host a larger gathering when he was ten. I set the same rules but they were broken big time. Four boys continually doing roly polys around the mattress strewn room at 2am, and the noisy hilarity that ensued when asked to stop, was unacceptable in a home where others wished to sleep undisturbed. Sleepovers for him were summarily banned; if friends cannot be trusted to behave as asked then they are not welcome.

My elder son lost his right to birthday parties involving groups of friends when he was nine. Without asking my permission, he invited a boy from his class who was known to be particularly lively. This boy ended up dancing on the table during the birthday tea which subsequently descended into a near riot. Since then I have limited my son’s friend invites to one person at a time and only for short visits. As he has grown older I have got to meet few of his new school friends. He has generally preferred to keep much of his social life away from home and private.

I was therefore somewhat surprised when he asked if he could have a few friends round to stay this weekend to celebrate the end of term. It seemed only fair that he be allowed the same opportunity as his siblings to prove that he can host such an event sensibly. As long time Scouts and regular campers I am quite used to my children sleeping out in mixed groups. The fact that he wished to have both boys and girls round seemed healthy to me; it should be possible to be friends with both sexes, without prejudice or preconceived notions of expected, unacceptable behaviour. I have always tried to take the view that I will start out by trusting my children. It is only if they abuse this trust and act foolishly that I will impose restrictions on what they may or may not do.

Once again though, it seems that I am breaking new ground. I was required to talk to a number of the parents of the young people involved in tonight’s proposed gathering to reassure them about nocturnal arrangements (separate rooms for boys and girls) and the proximity of adults (my husband and I will be present in the house at all times). As these people do not know anything about me or my family I can understand and appreciate that they require a little reassurance. However, a seed of doubt has now been sown; is my instinct to trust these young people, most of whom I have never met, naive?

My personal view remains that, if a parent thinks that their child may act foolishly, then they should not grant permission for the child to take part in that activity. I am not going to spoil the evening for my son by sitting in with this group of fifteen year olds (how embarrassing would that be for everyone!); he will be responsible for ensuring that rules are followed and must bear the consequences if things do not go according to plan. I can keep an eye and an ear on what is going on but cannot offer guarantees about how other people’s children will behave.

My instinct tells me that it is a good thing that my son is comfortable about bringing his friends home; that a friendship group containing both boys and girls offers balance; that he can be trusted to understand the rules and ensure that they are followed. The questioning and unspoken criticism of a minority of other parents has, however, tarnished my confidence. I have allowed myself to care about what other people think of me; I wish I could be stronger than that.

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On being old and incorrigible

My children amuse themselves by asking me if I miss the pet mammoth I had as a child. We have named him Arrhg as, in my youth, man would not have been sophisticated enough to have developed complex spoken language. To them, I am just so unimaginably old.

It is my children who make me feel my age. It is not only their smooth skin, lithe bodies and use of new slang (which I try to keep up with to at least understand what they are saying), but also their ability to quickly adapt to their constantly evolving world. Just as my own mum struggled to operate the VHS recorder, so I can never seem to remember how to switch our home media system between the various games machines, audio systems and video options available for our entertainment. I can still play a CD or DVD but apparently these are becoming obsolete – a bit like me perhaps.

I was very excited about receiving my first smart phone earlier this year and looked forward to reading the manual and learning how it all worked. It didn’t come with a manual. I now have to call on the services of my youngest son to sort me out when it does anything unexpected. I have yet to get it to access the internet when it cannot connect to our WiFi. I used to be able to turn to my husband to help me out but now he too just shrugs his shoulders and tells me to ask one of our sons.

All of this irritates my older son immensely. He has been told that I once worked with computers and held down a decent job. When he looks at how I cope with the technology he is so familiar with I think he regards these tales of my past life as on a par with Norse mythology, but a lot less interesting.

I am very comfortable making use of the modern technology that I can learn to access easily. As a former systems designer I hold the view that all machines should be made easy to use. If it is not intuitive then it is badly designed. My argument fails to hold when my children can pick up whatever I am struggling with and work out how to use it in minutes if not seconds. They are genuinely perplexed that I cannot immediately see what needs to be done. To them it seems that I am just a foolish, old woman.

Apart from my struggles with new technology I do not feel old. Actually, that is probably a lie. When I exercise hard my joints can ache for days. I struggle to read without my glasses. I do not sleep as well as I once did. I go upstairs to fetch something, spot several jobs that need doing and return downstairs without the item I first wanted. I avoid looking in mirrors so we won’t even go there.

My daughter asked me recently how I planned to be when I grew really old. I felt quite chuffed that, at that moment, she didn’t consider I had got there already. It brought to mind the poem ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/warning/). Although I have no intention of learning to spit and do not especially like pickles this appeals to me because it allows us to look forward to a bit of fun in old age, especially at the younger generation’s expense. Well, they have laughed at me often enough…

I wonder why there always seems to have been this generational divide. I would like to be able to talk to the old and the young in the same way that I can talk to my peers yet it is so hard to do. The old seem intent on giving advice and the young on not listening. I would like to just chat, share news and relax in each others company without concern about how we will be perceived or judged.

I have little time for people who make sweeping statements about the young of today having no respect and having things so much easier than those who went before. Respect must be earned and the young people I know do not have an easy life. There are many similarities and many differences from when I was their age but they still have exam pressures, friendship issues, concerns about their bodies and how they are going to achieve the future they dream of. Growing up is not easy.

I wonder if the elderly look back on how they were told to treat the older generation and resent the fact that they are not treated that way. The world has moved on and we must all live with how things are now. I know of many older people who have managed to adapt and accept these changes and I have enjoyed many a good conversation with them. Their views can be as fascinating and succinct as anyone’s. They do not try to influence unduly but to share and discuss. They are not overbearing and arrogant, they are interested and understanding. They do not try to condemn others for not treating them as they believe they should be treated.

As I have never liked being told what to do I have no illusions that this will change when I grow old. At least I hope not. I guess that I will become more forgetful and even less able to operate machines. I hope that I will still gain the pleasure I do now from watching young children emerge into adolescence and develop the characters that they will carry into adulthood. Our young people are the future. If previous generations don’t mess up their world too badly then I have great hopes for what is to come. I also hope that they will be willing to include me in their lives, however old and incorrigible I become.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple... ...