Brian Viner: Cheesy royalism is worth drinking to

Share
Related Topics

My local auction house, Brightwells of Leominster, held a wine and spirits auction on Wednesday that included a remarkable collection of whisky, put up for sale by a man who had been acquiring rare bottles for decades.

Unfortunately, this fellow has now been told by his doctor that he mustn't drink the stuff any more, and presumably, rather than feel like a eunuch in a brothel, decided he'd rather get rid. I'm not a whisky drinker myself – the enduring consequence of an epic night of excess, and emesis, in Edinburgh 28 years ago – but even I could recognise the appeal of the lead crystal presentation decanter of Glenburgie, distilled in 1949, for which someone paid £360. Or the bottle of Mortlach, distilled in 1957, bottled in 1984, which went for £230.

What really caught my eye in the Brightwells catalogue, however, were 20 or so lots relating to the Royal Family. This whisky collector was plainly no republican: items included a limited edition bottle of Prince William "Coming of Age" single malt (estimate £200-£300) and a limited edition Rutherfords decanter commemorating Diana, Princess of Wales (estimate £400-£600), as well as other bottles marking the Queen's 80th birthday, the marriage of Charles and Camilla and the 100th anniversary of the death of Queen Victoria. There was even a Glendronach, distilled in 1960 and bottled in 1986, to celebrate the marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. You'd have to be a pretty blinkered monarchist, or a huge Glendronach enthusiast, to want that in your drinks cabinet.

As it turned out, nobody did. Not enough to fork out the reserve price of £100, anyway. In fact, not one of the royal items reached its reserve. They all ended the afternoon conspicuously, humiliatingly, unsold, confounding the obvious intention of the vendor, and Brightwells, to cash in on next week's royal wedding.

By stark contrast with this apparent show of Herefordshire apathy, however, word reaches me that St Mary's Church in Ross-on-Wye, built at about the same time as Westminster Abbey, is planning a virtual royal wedding a week today, with a screen relaying events from the Abbey, and the same hymns and prayers to be intoned simultaneously by a congregation in best bib and tucker. Afterwards, there is to be a reception, with wedding cake.

Now, you don't have to subscribe to the belief that next Friday's hoopla is a national embarrassment to deem this, at best, a little cheesy, and at worst downright sickly. But let me urge you to reconsider. Guests to the St Mary's do are also requested to give a present to William and Kate, in the form of a donation to the church restoration fund, which seems to me a rather ingenious way of getting some solid parochial benefit out of all that expensive state pomp. Not that I'll be going or anything. But I might just drink a toast to the virtual wedding in Ross-on-Wye. Anything but whisky.

It wouldn't be Good Friday without a traffic jam

Next month sees the publication of a new book of mine, and while I wouldn't ordinarily dream of using my Notebook slot to give it a cheap plug, Good Friday seems like the perfect day for it. The book is called Cream Teas, Traffic Jams and Sunburn: The Great British Holiday, and celebrates most dimensions of the holidaying British, not least, as the title makes clear, our curious capacity for sitting in seemingly endless lines of traffic, so long as there's the promise of a 99 with raspberry sauce at the end of them.

Indeed, what encapsulates that fabled British stoicism better than a 20-mile Bank Holiday tailback? No frenzied tooting of horns, no encroaching on to the hard shoulder, just a massive collective sigh, a few muttered expletives, and an earlier-than-planned unveiling of the cheese-and-pickle sandwiches.

The worst traffic jam in the history of these islands, according to my research, occured on Good Friday 1987, and involved an estimated 200,000 people in 50,000 vehicles stuck on the M6 between Charnock Richard and Carnforth. I have had some dismal experiences myself on the M6 down the years, but I offer heartfelt thanks to the patron saint of motorways, St Moto, that I wasn't trapped in that one.

Of course, Bank Holidays weren't always synonymous with motorway traffic jams, albeit because they predate motorways and, for that matter, traffic. It is 140 years since Sir John Lubbock, a Liberal politician, banker and cricket nut, who felt that bank employees should get more time to play his beloved game, added four new holidays to the existing four.

His 1871 Bank Holidays Act made him comfortably the most popular man in the country, except among the old spoilsports who cited the example of the later Roman emperors who, on assuming power, used to keep the populace sweet by declaring new public holidays. Thus, by the fifth century AD, there were more than 100 public holidays a year, leaving insufficient time to hold the Roman empire together. Lubbock's opponents warned that too many public holidays would similarly undermine the British empire, and I can picture their whiskery ghosts looking down on today's motorway madness, saying "told you".

Looking forward to a culinary ordeal

My wife received the following letter this weekfrom a couple coming to stay in our holiday cottage. "Dear Mrs Viner, we would like to order, if not look forward to, a two-course dinner on the night of our arrival."

Had they written a simple "and" rather than "if not", there would have been no ambiguity. But by trying to be a little more flowery, they imply that they're slightly apprehensive about my wife's cooking.

It's so easy to make a meal of the English language.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - OTE £42,000

£28000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a leading s...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant -Engineering -Renewable Energy

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A church in South Carolina burns after a fire breaks out on June 30, 2015  

America knows who has been burning black churches, but it refuses to say

Robert Lee Mitchell III
England's Jodie Taylor, left, and Jill Scott celebrate Taylor's goal against Canada during the first half in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup  

Women's World Cup: We should be able to praise England's Lionesses without shaming the men's team

Charlie Webster
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map