Lucy Caldwell: The Story So Far...

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The Independent Online

The word that occurs most frequently in my non-fiction writing is, apparently, "champagne". Obviously, I'd rather it was something like "Proust", but I can live with "champagne", though, I must admit, it plays an aspirational rather than an actual role in my day-to-day life.

I once overheard a certain grande dame of the theatre saying that, when she got home, she might just crack open some bubbly and put her feet up. Then she yawned and said that eye masks and Bolly were the two constants in her fridge. And I thought: I'll know I've made it when I can off-handedly contemplate staying in and drinking a bottle of champagne - and not even cava - for no particular reason. After a typical day, the closest I get to cracking anything open is snapping the toggly-thing on a can of baked beans.

That said, this week there's been a lot of champagne - or, at least, white-wine spritzers. Firstly, at the opening of the revamped West End restaurant Scott's, then at the party celebrating the culmination of the Royal Court Theatre's 50th-anniversary year. At the former, I made a world-changing discovery: cod's roe on hot buttered toast, which is joining my rota of comfort-food suppers: cheese on toast, sardines on toast, and - er - beans on toast (what a repertoire).

But better than this epiphany, better even than dancing giddily until dawn, was receiving this column's first fanmail. It was an unexpected package, addressed - intriguingly - "c/o The Independent". Inside was a beautifully designed book: The Enthusiast Almanack. It's a "best of" assortment from the past three years of the cult periodical, and it's a work of genius. There's no mention of champagne, but alongside a practical guide to making a mermaid, a piece on itchy internal organs, and a quiz entitled, "No, Really, How Are You?", is a recipe for mangelwurzel wine, which sounds almost as good.

The champagne statistic was brought to my attention by my surrogate auntie, Jo, my mum's best friend from childhood, who lives in a village called Hagley and cultivates worms. They're not your common-or-garden variety: last May, they were awarded a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. (Although it was, technically, the garden that won, Jo insists that her wormery and its compost were crucial.) She won't divulge her secret, but I gather that, aside from their usual fare of raw food, leaves and shredded paper, they're partial to a dash of elderflower cordial, and they seem to like champagne corks, of which they were fed many at Chelsea: Jo says that they've been reproducing like mad ever since.

The periodical's so good it's not going to happen, but I dread to think how excited they'd get if I fed them pages from The Enthusiast.