You might say this was an historic meeting, the first one of its type anyway. A powerful force of Yorkshire vinters gathered together to plan our strategy for world domination? Well, not quite, in a number of ways. The first problem was me. The thing is there is a part of my soul that does not believe. I do not believe. I am not a believer. I do not in my heart of hearts believe that we will ever get grapes or ever make our own wine. Which is kind of OK, we always saw the project as experimental, but it makes meeting up with our Yorkshire vintner colleagues slightly awkward. A bit of an odd experience in fact. Our lives have been so changed in the last few months – retirement, dogs, other things, that we feel we’re on shifting sands (and it seems to me it’s a very fine line between shifting sands and quicksand) a lot of the time. A night away like this one only adds to the feeling of ‘we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto’. But also, as I’ve written before in these vineyard blogs, I feel a bit of a fraud. All except one of us, if I may use that pronoun, have much, much bigger acreage than we do, are making wine or at least seem to have a fair prospect of doing so.
So who would have thought we’d be spending an evening in a nice hotel as a group of actual or prospective vintners. Well I say nice but my room didn’t have Sky Sports even though that ubiquitous item – the guest directory – said we did, apparently you only got it in a superior room, but I digress so here we were on a Sunday evening . Ten of us, all united under the common heading of vine growers – sort of.
Much was discussed almost none of it related to our vineyards. As one colleague put it you’d think we didn’t like vineyards. Any inclination to discuss Yorkshire vineyard strategy was negligible. The thing is (and this is the second issue) we’re all very different – big and small vineyards (10,000 to 200 vines), long established, at least in UK terms, to very recent planting; professional, hard-nosed business people to amateurs like us. We all have quite different occupations although there is a strong theme of self employed / business people my good self excluded that is. We’re probably more divided by our differences than united by any common interest. This would explain why the conversation ranged across topics as varied as –golf, holidays, blogging, teaching, willow growing, psychology, management styles, dogs and so forth. There is a bond of support, (these people would and have helped us) but you need to search for it.
Predictably, on this strange evening, wine was drunk. But other than an Argentinian Malbec, none of the wines were acclaimed – American, Merlot, Verdicchio, Valpolicella all rubbished. Much Black Sheep was drunk, we are in Yorkshire after all. The bar bill, as you would expect, was large – about £250 I calculate. The evening ended, at least as far as we were concerned, with an activity that might broadly be described as snooker (see right) – I think. I’ve ‘blacked out’ the participants to protect the guilty. The bit I watched was like an on-going scene from some surrealist film entitled Endless Night or Endless Pain, Endless Balls or some such. Some balls (very few) were pocketed but when they were they were not the colour or in the pocket or for the team you might have predicted. The balls were a confusing combination of pool and snooker balls – there were two pinks and two yellows (see photo) but one of them is a red it was explained, which one I asked, don’t know, it depends, came the somewhat slurred reply, tips were missing from cues, cheating was rife, gamesmanship (again see photo) a given, balls were moved into more or less fortuitous positions depending on who was doing the moving, bad language flowed seamlessly from the lips of the players. Fortunately the only witness to this scene of indescribable mayhem was me and I stayed only to be able to compile this report. After half an hour or so of this chaos I left and headed for the sanctuary of our bedroom. Sky Sport or not.
We, surprisingly, met at breakfast and the talk turned to the next meeting. We would meet at Yorkshire Heart – fine. The topic would be pruning – very sensible as it needs doing now. I must admit being somewhat taken aback by the date of next meeting – next Sunday! Bloody hell, anybody would think we liked each other. We do of course, and as I say, pruning needs to happen very soon hence the immediate date of the meeting.
One other thing about this rather bizarre evening, it would be remiss of me not to mention that this was the first night away from the pups since we got them – late September. As luck would have it, I had left them feeling extremely cross with them because of their behaviour in the park that morning. This anger worked well because it meant I didn’t have any qualms about leaving them, in fact I felt they deserved to be left. They are not left on their own of course, number one son is looking after them. So this morning there has been no wild leaping and cavorting on the bed (with the dogs) while I try to drink my tea. No attendant fascination when I blow my nose, no tip-toing around when they are asleep on the bed. You might say there’s a void in our lives. Yes, we miss them and yet yesterday morning I could cheerfully have strangled them. And now this overnight stay. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, this retirement business has thrown me all out of wack. It’s just unpredictable.
Finally by way of another digression, I had one conversation with female A, as I shall call her about Ian Mcwhatisname – The Bard of Barnsley – who writes a column in the Saturday Yorkshire Post. Since I have started blogging on a regular basis I have grown to admire those regular columnists who produce some kind of story every week. I quite liked Ian’s column on the rare occasions we buy the Yorkshire Post but my companion did not (being the Bard of Barnsley cut no ice with her). He never tells you anything, she said, he meets somebody in a shop and never tells you any more about him. Now normally a conversation like this would be simply light chatting but, in this case, her remarks reminded me of my own modest writing efforts. Admittedly I don’t expect or receive money for my efforts but there is no doubt that some / many of my blogs are definitely flimsy. I fully admit that it was in my mind that the evening with my new colleagues would produce for me a blog in my vineyard series – blog 10 it is. But would it be flimsy? Well, judge for yourself.
Incidentally and definitely finally, I have not put names to this report, not because I intend to say anything unpleasant about my colleagues, but just because it gives me more licence to embellish the events of the night. We writers need to be able to embellish. As it turns out I haven’t needed to.