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When I had my houseguest down last weekend, from Edinburgh, we were in a rather desperate search for a drink after 11pm– officially the witching hour here, that terrifying hour when the bars stop serving drink. Now, I had, as usual, not heeded The Mom’s frequent lessons on being a good host in that I had forgotten to get any drink in. I did have a bottle of white wine, but it was stored where The Mom always kept her wine: under the kitchen sink. I know not why The Mom always stored her wine under the kitchen sink, but there you are. In any event, it did us not a lick of good as, though we were desperate for a drink, we were still civilized. I mean, we’re not heathens.

Anyhow,  I remembered from my time living up in Scotland that the hours in which a little shop could sell booze were perhaps more stringent than they were down in England. So I therefore felt confident that we could find somewhere – especially in a town with two universities – where we could get a drink. However, as we walked from where we were toward mine, our options continued to diminish. Eventually, when we went into my local shop, in search of at least something in an excessively salty snack, we found someone willing to sell us a bottle of red, a full twenty minutes after the witching hour. Playing it cool, we duly made our purchase, and as we walked back to my flat, we praised ourselves for our good fortune.

And what kind of wine did we buy? Knowing absolutely nothing about wine, beyond that my friend The  Artist likes to drink Malbec, nothing. So I did what I always do in such situations: I devised a set of criteria by which wine should be purchased. It was late, I was tired. I decided that as long as it had a picture of a nice bird on it, it would do. And do you know what? It did.

This has long been my way of choosing a lot of things. I chose to live in CatLady’s flat because the room she was letting out had bird wallpaper. Admittedly, not my best choice, but it was a nice enough flat for two years.

Recently, when I was in London, The Artist and I were charged with bringing back three bottles of wine. We went into the local Budgens, and perused the aisles. The criteria this time were a bit more involved: the wine had to be cheap but not too cheap as we were taking it to a party, we had to get a red and a white, and there was some talk of considering fizz. The Artist and I were a bit tired, as we generally are, usually having spent the previous night up til all hours, drinking merrily away, and putting the world to rights. And during the day we’d wandered clear across London and back again in a futile search for a bus that had been taken over, guerrilla style, by some artists and some kind of a jazz band. Anyhow, we were not necessarily at our best, but had often been in a worse state.

We were not in the mood to make these kinds of high-level decisions, and we were at risk of turning up late. We could not spare anymore time dithering about.

“Right,” I said. “We’ll get wine with birds. We’ll do a theme.”

“Err…” The Artist replied. “Really?”

“Unless you have a better idea.”

And so it was that we scoured the shelves for wine with bird labels. We got one bottle with a Sanctuary bird, no idea what that is actually, but never mind the picture looked good. Another one called Three French Hens (laid in France no less), and something else with, I do believe, a robin on it.

We were unsure as to whether or not our hosts would notice and appreciate our theme, but nevertheless, trundled off into the night, deep into North London. We arrived and produced our bounty and the host – bless him – cottoned on immediately and praised our creativity.

When I’m at home, The Mom will frequently add ‘go to the liquor store’ to my list of chores. She’s not as specific here as she is with the supermarket shopping list (which is freakishly precise, at my insistence, as I don’t want to come home with the wrong thing and it has been proven that even sending me out for something as simple as beef can end badly). So I have free reign at the LCBO. Which is just as well, because then I get to do some really excellent shopping. In fact, The Mom still remembers when I was too young to drink but fought tooth and nail to get her to buy a particular kind of Australian wine because it had surfers on the label. Yes, I am that easily swayed.

Besides, wine tastes like wine unless it’s too old in which case it tastes like vinegar. Beyond that, who cares? And having heard of all the funny new labels at the LCBO, I am very much looking forward to being told to go to the liquor store at Christmas.

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