Miles Kington: How to put the zing and zoom back into a marriage

The first time a barman tries a Margarita, it tastes very good. The hundredth time, it still tastes good. But the five thousandth time...
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The Independent Online

The reason that all agony columns tend to sound the same is that they are all written by agony aunts, who, naturally, tend to all sound the same.

Our agony column is always different, because it's always written by a different expert from an outside field, and today, to tackle your emotional problems, I am pleased to welcome Alfredo, the internationally known barman from London's top cocktail rendezvous, Bar Melba.

And the first problem is from...

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: Hello. My husband and I have now been married for 30 years, and I feel the savour has gone out of our marriage. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but routine has taken over from pleasure. Sometimes I can spend hours in my husband's presence without him saying a word, so I wonder if you have any ideas for putting the spice back into our life and gingering it up a bit. And another thing...

Alfredo says: Maybe, Mrs Gastard, your husband would say more if you talked less? It's just an idea. But I am interested in your problem, which you state very suggestively. You say the savour has gone... you need more spice... more ginger... you see? You are talking of taste, of zing and zoom! Just like cocktails!

But note one thing. When you see a cocktail expert mixing a drink, it looks exciting, because he is shaking the mixer like a maracca going mad, and you think it is special, but for him it is nothing, it is a routine, it is going through the motions. He is doing it without thinking. You see what I mean...?

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: No, not really.

Alfredo says: Put it another way. The first time a barman tries a Margarita, it tastes very good. The hundredth time he tries a Margarita, it still tastes good. But the five thousandth time he tries a Margarita, he thinks to himself - Huh, just another Margarita. So he starts to think of ways to make the Margarita a little different. You see now?

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: No, not really.

Alfredo says: I am beginning to sympathise with your husband. No, not really! As you say yourself! Look, Mrs Gastard, life is very like a cocktail. There is always something sweet in it. But to balance that, there is also something sour. Sour and sweet. If a cocktail is all sweet, like one of those creamy vanilla ones, it is unbearable. If it is too sharp, misma cosa. But the balance - that is what we need. You understand?

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: No, not really.

Alfredo says: Then please get out of my cocktail bar, Señora, pronto. And the next!

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: Not so fast, Alfredo. I am not leaving here until you have helped me. So far you have been all hot air. I want some substance!

Alfredo says: And you are right, Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton, wherever that is! Life is like a cocktail bar, after all; all are welcome and all must be treated with courtesy until funds run out. So let us consider your married daily routine. And do not forget one thing. Life is like a cocktail; most of it is melted water. You put a lot of ice in the shaker. You shake, shake, shake. Where does that ice go? It goes to water. It dilutes the cocktail. And this is good, because if it were not diluted, it would be too strong. A cocktail with no melted ice would go boom! in the mouth. In married life, the same, but here it is not water, it is routine which keeps it safe. You understand?

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: I think so.

Alfredo says: Bueno! Ahora comprendes... Nice to see you. Call again any time.

Mrs Gastard of Nuneaton: Thank you. I fear I have monopolised you, Senor Alfredo.

Alfredo says: Señora Gastard, for a barman, a lady customer is always the only lady in the world, at least while she is being served. It has been a pleasure. De nada.

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