‘Here he comes. Crack open the Sherry Armando. He breathes as much of that as he does air’ was the welcome from Lil this week.
She was sitting, as always, at the table in the corner facing the front of the cafe. Armando was clearing one of the tables near the door. He looked up and greeted me with his wide white-toothed grin. Armando has this annoying mop of dark hair; annoying in the sense that he seems to do nothing with it and always manages to look stylish. Residents from the Mediterranean seem to possess abilities of this nature which I covet.
As I sat down, Lil reached over and grabbed my hand. We hadn’t yet become sufficiently familiar to greet with more affection. Multiple air kisses were in our future.
‘I love Sherry’ I confessed.
‘And don’t we bloody know it. You seem to reach for Sherry as others do for water. Is that what a Boulevardier does?’
Armando and I cracked a laugh. Lil was very funny indeed. She looked well and confident with the trusted shopping trolley at her side. She was wearing a woollen checked skirt, thick tights and a bright yellow jumper. A pot of tea was ready to pour. I had converted her to Assam. Two empty cups sat waiting to be filled. Lil preferred to be the one in control.
‘So what is this fascination with Sherry?’ Lil’s questions were often rhetorical.
‘We used to drink Sherry years ago and mostly at Christmas. And it was always Harveys or Croft. I’ve no knowledge of the brands you talk about.’
‘They’re not brands, they’re varieties.’
‘OK fancy pants why don’t you tell us about it all.’
‘I’d rather talk about the lack of variety available in London pubs and bars.’
Armando delivered Lil’s full English and my muffin. I saw an opportunity for a captive audience. As Lil picked up her cutlery I took my chance to share my opinion.
I started to explain that last year when I became ill, I still wanted to enjoy a tipple but had to be careful on the volume. I switched from my beloved red wine to Sherry and Port as fortified and strong wines without needing the volume to achieve a relaxed state. Two of my closest friends, Jane and Karen, who I went to school with, had been preaching the joys of Sherry for a good couple of years (although they still prefer the sweeter variety).
The problem is the lack of choice or even lack of Sherry. In the past week I’d been into two drinking houses and been disappointed with their lack of Sherry selection. Can you imagine walking into a pub and seeing only one type of beer or wine? It’s shocking.
Lil nodded an affirmation as a corner of toast was genteelly thrust between her red lips.
I appreciate that Sherry is currently reviving after years of sitting next to our grandmothers’ lavender, but urgent catch up is required.
‘I do take your point Boulevardier,’ nodded Lil with a mouthful of toast and egg.
On one recent occasion I was in Hampstead and in need of a Sherry after an afternoon of shopping. My friend Alison and I went into a pub and I asked if they had Sherry and if so which varieties. The barman confirmed.
‘Yes we have a medium and a dry.’
‘Thank you, but what variety are they?’ I sought further information. The barman scurried off to look.
‘A VC and an Elegante.’
‘But what variety are they? Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado?’
He looked at me desperately and blankly.
‘Could I see the bottles please?’
As he showed me, one was unrecognisable and the other Fino.
‘I’ll have a double Fino please.’
Two patrons seated at the bar said that they knew exactly what I meant. Alison had gone to find a seat and had left me to my Sherry shenanigans.
‘Pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs need to catch up and stay ahead of my trend.’ I surmised.
‘So is the Boulevardier the head of cool?’ asked Lil.
‘I’m very pleased that Sherry is popular in the UK again,’ said Armando as he cleared away Lil’s plate. He looked proud of his nation’s produce.
‘Sounds like the problems of the middle classes to me.’ Added Lil.
Lil certainly had a good appetite for breakfast and had cleared her plate as she did every week. She reached over for the pot and topped up our cups with long-brewed tea.
‘You two must come in more often, perhaps for afternoon cake,’ suggested Armando.
‘Good idea,’ asserted Lil as she slid a Club biscuit across the table.