Five o' clock is the hour. Aldi's Precious Earth sauvignon blanc is the bottle. I pour a glass, and I swear it makes a sound like no other liquid. The first sip is always the best, by far. Cool, sharp, and tangy, it seems to burst in my mouth like a sherbet lolly. All subsequent sips fall short.
I rarely have more than two glasses, and unless I'm having lunch with a friend, I don't drink at any other time of the day. (Christmas morning excepting. There may be other exceptions.)
I look forward to this time of the day though. I'll survey my progress through the day from time to time - time for a nap, good job done in the garden, what to take out of the freezer for dinner? - and I'll think of 5 o'clock, anticipate it, as if it might be a reward for my endeavours during the day.
'I just like to have a glass while I'm getting the dinner,' I tell anyone who I feel needs an explanation. No one really does.
Sometimes, I miss a day. Usually when I've been in to town all day, and I get home tired and not feeling at all like cooking, and somehow all I really want is toast and a cup of tea. (I think this phenomenon may have its roots in childhood, when we had been out all day on a Sunday drive, picnicking, blackberrying, picking flowers and the rest, and when we got home, Mum would serve 'tea' instead of dinner, and in the lounge by the fire instead of in the dining room, and it would be hot buttered toast, homemade jam, and a pot of tea.)
People say you should have one or two alcohol free days a week, and if you can manage this without feeling strung out, you're probably OK. After the family returned to the N.T. a few weeks ago, I had four straight alcohol free days. It was fine. Really. I drank sparkling mineral water. There was a bottle of wine left in the pantry, but it was a quite expensive one, and I didn't want to open it 'just for me.' I felt happy, and relieved, that I didn't miss my little five o'clock pleasure at all. When I next went up to town, I restocked with Precious Earth, and got right back to where I had been.
Years ago, when the kids were little, or thereabouts, I would drink sherry at 5 o'clock. Sherry! What kind of an oldies, outdated, weirdo drink is that? Well, the one my mother used to drink. And cheap. And amazingly pleasant and drinkable. And a pretty small amount can make you quite squiffy, (as my mother used to say she was, after a few.)
I used to just have one glass of sherry. Part of the pleasure used to be the glass, actually. I would either use the sherry glass that my father hand painted with delicate coloured flowers round the rim, or one of the cut crystal glasses that my nephew gave me once. (I have this one present from him, and one from his father, and I value them both very highly.)
It was so nice having that glass of sherry, that I started having another one after it. And at some point I noticed I was having a third, and I said, 'This must stop.' And I did stop entirely, for a long time. Then I discovered wine.
I have been reading the writer Joyce Maynard's recent articles about her 'relationship' with wine. She too was drinking two, sometimes three glasses every night. She decided to give it up completely, and now describes herself as 'a hundred days sober.' Although she stops short of defining herself as an alcoholic, she does raise interesting questions about where the line lies between her kind of drinking and alcoholism.
Sometimes, reading her, I thought she was making a song and dance out of not very much. I read articles on health sites that tell me a glass or two is actually good for you, (I'm vague on the details.) I could stop, just like Joyce Maynard, and like I have already done, several times, in the past, without any difficulty. But its too nice a little thing, why should I?