Friday, December 16, 2005

Drinking mice, winter smell, what's finished

Among the "..and finally"stories with which the newscaster, Trevor McDonald, who is about to retire, ended ITV news over the years, there was one (quoted in today's Independent) about mice that drink sherry. It concerns the Sherry producer Gonzalez Byass, which was troubled by mice gnawing at the barrels in its vast cellar. Instead of buying a cat or laying traps, the company found that making the mice drunk prevented the damage. So they placed copitas of sherry on stands accessible by a mouse-sized ladder. The mice climb the ladder to get their reward. I can vouch for the truth of this story, because when, as a wine writer, I visited Gonzalez Byass in Jerez some years ago, I was shown one of the mini-ladders and a wine glass. The mice at the time must have been sleeping it off, for there was no sign of them.

There is a smell of wood-smoke in the cold, afternoon air, tainted, I think, with a suggestion of burning plastic. It seems oderiforously appropriate for the blend of traditional wellbeing and tinselly excess, which accompanies the festivities.

Clearing leaves from the garden with the help of a vacuum machine is rewarding. Perhaps the best bit is stuffing the leaves into dark green, garden refuse bags, which become big, springy cushions.

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