Monday, November 13, 2006


“’Twould ring the bells of Heaven,

The wildest peal for years,

If Parson lost his senses,

And people came to theirs.”

Ralph Hodgson’s little verse could have applied equally well to the recent US elections, where it might be said that the parson, George W. Bush, if not totally losing his senses, may have been checked by the good sense of the electorate. Whilst it may not be the end, it is, perhaps, in the words of Churchill, the end of the beginning. Or, rather less eloquently, as has been described a boatload of lawyers and politicians at the bottom of the ocean, a pretty good start (you can pick your own favourite group for this).

My relief was great, since I had been detecting a degree of misanthropy in myself recently. Not so much with my fellow men, but with those that now order the lives of mere chaff such as myself.

And then there comes news from Britain that will be welcomed probably more than would be the deposing of Tony Blair. The EU, so often berated in those islands and to which they normally only pay grudging lip service, are on the point of telling G. Brown and his Customs and Excise Gestapo that Brits can telephone their friendly wine man in Paris and have as many bottles as they liked of Beaujolais Nouveau shipped across, duty free, and sucks boo to you.

It does seem about time, although the innumerable booze outlets in Calais, along with the ferry companies, won’t see it that way, I suppose.

The pantomime that takes place daily at the port of Dover, where the officers argue with the citizens (who are paying their wages) just how much their personal consumption is, will now be ended, with any luck. But since the shortfall in revenue will have to come from somewhere, the rejoicing can only be of limited duration until the Chancellor thinks up another way to rape his flock. The wealthy will not be much affected, since they might possibly become donors to the party, although whether this will secure them much of an honour in the future seems doubtful. Perhaps the Freedom of Islington or an exemption from London’s congestion charge will be substituted.

The impact on the binge drinking culture is hard to determine. Whether the determined partygoer will be prepared to wait for his shipment to arrive or not seems debatable. He or she may well feel that the savings are not worth bothering about when you really want to embarrass yourself.

But for those who enjoy the better things in life, such as a good wine, it is cheering news indeed. Much of the wine sold in the UK is sold on price and therefore comes from areas where the production costs are low. This does not mean that all such wine is of poor quality, much of it is excellent, but it does tend to eliminate or discourage the sale of the better wines from other areas. For instance, the growers of Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley should benefit since their products, available at a sensible price here in France, will now be equally available in Britain except, of course, for the cost of delivery.

And, necessity being the mother of invention, it must be remembered that when the British, who had become addicted to what they referred to as Claret, were careless enough to lose control of the vineyards of Bordeaux during the Hundred Years War, they turned to the wine of Portugal for solace. Apparently this was pretty terrible stuff in those days but, in what has been described as somewhere between a brilliant invention and a desperate remedy, the addition of brandy to stop the fermentation not only made it drinkable but desirable. And port had been created.

Now, unless a frantic government find some way to stop it, you will be able to buy excellent port (I don’t mean the Ruby that Aunt Mabel drinks at Christmas) at a reasonable price and Britain’s opposition to full-fledged membership of Europe must look far less sensible in the eyes of any reasonable toper.

However, I’m sure they (and you all know who “they” are) will find a way to punish you. So while you are sitting, waiting for the blow to fall, I suggest you jump on the phone and get your order in fast – before there’s an embargo on phone calls to wine merchants on the continent.

Now if the parishioners of St. Albions would only come their senses, it could be like Christmas all the year round.

It gets better. The Christian Muslim Forum has roundly criticised the stupidity of the City of Birmingham (and it can only be called stupidity) for renaming the Christmas holiday, Winterval, in 1998! Let’s hope they don’t do it again.

So perhaps the world is coming to its senses. I’m cheered.


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