Measured Extravagance

2000-12-14 - 10:04 p.m.

In spite of my excesses last night, I did not wake up with a hangover. That is because it was already in progress when I crawled beneath the comforter, shortly before midnight. When I woke up at 4 a.m., it had fled - but with it, the desire to sleep. So I padded downstairs and did a load of laundry and wrote some letters and lo, it was 7:30 a.m. soon enough, and now it is almost time for bed again.

But before I venture back upstairs, let us indulge in another excerpt from Bill Richardson's Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast:

When the pox-ridden sailor was asked how he came to such a sad and sorry state, he answered, "I should have stayed at sea. Port was my poison." I, too, am a victim of port.

I know very well that I have no one to blame but myself for my excesses and their consequences. Mea culpa, a thousand times over. But some atavistic, lizardly part of my brain keeps trying to lay the responsibility for the whole beastly business at the feet of the four members of the Jane Austen Society who are presently our guests. These women - friends of very long standing - have a regular booking with us. They come here each September. They make a retreat to enjoy each other's company, to reread Emma for the umpteenth time, and to carry on in the way of Janeites the world over.

In addition to their interest in Austen, they share a passion for cookery and can be counted on to take over the kitchen to fix feasts of the food Jane herself might have enjoyed. They are good enough to invite Virgil and me to join them, which we are always happy to do. A joint of beef; potatoes roasted in drippings; Yorkshire pudding; peas and carrots boiled, in the time-honoured English way, into squishy submission; sherry trifle: these are the delicacies, nostalgic and largely discredited from a dietetic point of view, that our guests prepare for their Austen revels. There is a certain guilty pleasure that comes from eating such things: rich, grasy, and heavy. A kind of licentiousness settles in, in a sense of invulnerability in the moment.

"Another glass of port?"

"Oh, why not?"

"Encore du porto?"

"Maybe just one more."

"How do I like it? Any old port in a storm, I always say! Bottoms up!"

Before you know it, you're taking part in a game of charades and doing all manner of unseemly things to communicate the idea of Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility. And then the morning comes...


For another dose of Bill Richardson, see my entry on Christmas cactus.

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