Why is chilled water, particularly if it has ice cubes in it, suddenly so much nicer to drink than water straight from the tap? This summer I became addicted to ice cubes in glasses of water. Now I have revived my water filter jug and chilled water from the fridge is available all day.
But I have also found a new pleasure; bottled cider. It’s not really new. when I was a child we would often have cider with Sunday lunch, drinking it from my grandmother’s cut glass goblets that my sister now owns. It is a drink I sometimes enjoy if we stop at a pub when we go walking. But not a drink I buy to have at home.
That changed a few weeks back when I wanted a cold drink on a hot evening and decided to open the bottle of cider that had been resident in the fridge door since Christmas. The opening took a few days, as I realised I no longer had a bottle opener.
Eventually I noticed that the can opener had a hooked thing on the end, and correctly matched this to the bottle top. I can’t say I had high expectations, but it was delicious. More time passed, and then I saw there was an array of ciders in M&S, and they were on offer. Counties in the north and south of England trumpeted their claims as the land’s chief cider sources, though I admit I was checking closely that none said the word sweet. Sweet cider is an abomination; an alcoholic equivalent of Coca Cola. So Hereford cider and Somerset cider have found their ways onto my shopping list. It would be better for my waistline, liver and pocket if they hadn’t.
I strogly suspect they are more calorific than wines, so I am not reading the labels too carefully. Someone who had enrolled at WeightWatchers told me mournfully that a glass of wine is the calorific equivalent of a cream cake. I imagine a fact like that is supposed to make you stop drinking wine; seeing mille-feuilles and choclate eclairs in each glass. I rarely eat cream cakes, so somehow, I felt I was already being sufficiently restrained.
A friend joined Scottish Slimmers (WeightWatchers north of the border) several years ago. The pounds fell off, but hearing her quote from the manual reduced her social circle. There is something very depressing about conversations that all incude references to weight loss. We haven’t had much communication recently. Although the holder of a French passport, she’ll be able to vote in next week’s referendum, and I strongly suspect she’ll be voting Yes. She has taken to talking scathingly of ‘down south’, as if it is some lesser place of dubious culture and vision.
The news on Channel 4 keeps saying the world is watching to see which way the referendum will go, but I have been with a number of foreign visitors to these shores this week, and most have absolutely no idea that the Union is on the line. For myself, I hope it’s a no vote. I was at a talk when I was in Armagh this summer, and one of the speakers pointed out the problems for hauliers from NI if the Scots vote to secede from the Union. Also, unless they agree to take back David Cameron, whose name marks him as having Scots’ antecedents, I can’t see why we should be stuck with him here.
I like the talk of regional representation; the idea of a federal UK, but again I think here in London we could lose out. There seems to be a prevailing view that the parliament in Westminster represents London. It doesn’t. It represents those with money and influence no matter where they live. My home is about two miles from the Palace of Westminster, and believe me, I can feel as alienated and distant from what goes on there as anyone from Cornwall, Yorkshire or the Highlands. So I hope, if Scotland does leave the Union, this will mark the start of a new era in politics where people are more engaged, and those career polticians who tell the rest of us loftily how to live, serve a long apprenticeship in jobs outside politics.
What I fear is that it will mark a rise in nationalist sentiment; something that I find abhorrent. Nationalism in any shape or form worries me; just look at the example of Hitler. People like Margaret Thatcher muddled nationalism with patriotism, and accused anyone who didn’t agree with her policies of being unpatriotic. Tha’s confusing and manipulative. But patriotism is not about unquestioning acceptance of everything in your country and believing it to be better than anywhere else, it is about loving your country, wanting it to be a good place and striving to make it so, and being prepared to admit when it has got things wrong without looking to blame a third party.
There’s an inch of cider left in my glass, so I’ll take that as a hint to stop here and give you a break if you have read this far.