Christmas snuck up rather quietly this year which I don’t think was terribly fair.


Thus I was left with the familiar last minute problem.  Ultimately nature has a way of solving problems, it balances things out. In my case I’m fortunate in having a small family and a small, close, group of friends. And I have a small budget so the balance was taken care of. A form of natural attrition.




My grandson was 21 on Christmas Day. Josh is a content sort of bloke and doesn’t seem to want for much in life. However I thought he was old enough to be given a decent lethal weapon so I bought him a Leatherman. You know the things, they have enough tools hidden in them to perform major surgery. Screwdrivers, scissors, spanners, a very sharp knife and pointy thing which I concluded was a marlin spike. I believe they are used to fashion the frayed ends of rope into flashy knots. I find that small truth disappointing as many years ago I was told they were for getting Boy Scouts out of Girl Guides. But let’s not go there.


That was an important problem solved.  The present, not the Boy Scout, Girl Guide, bit. I then had a quick mental survey of family and friends. What to buy for whom? The simple fact is that without exception they all have everything a person could possibly want. They’re hard to impress.

Years ago I had a friend, an English nobleman. He was a dinkum connoisseur of wines and travelled the world to judge various competitions, all expenses paid. Not bad work if you can get. Anyway when at home in his rather grand country house he had regular dinners for friends and colleagues.  The only real rule was they were black tie affairs – dinner jacket, bow tie, the full nine yards. I think that’s a very civilised practice. If you didn’t wish to dress for dinner you could go to the local pub and have a pie, chips and beer. I have to say most of my other friends, the hoi polloi of this world, are very happy in budgie smugglers and T-shirt and, like me, know little about wine.


My noble friend had a wonderful and very expensive trick. There would be a number of wines during the course of an evening but there was always a surprise lurking on the table. Most guests did know a decent wine but this one was decanted – a blind tasting, no label. The trick was to identify the wine. All agreed that it was truly delightful. They would swirl the wine around , immerse their noble noses into the glass, inhale deeply, hold the glass to the light, slurp the content and gasp breathless phrases. I’d simply hoped for another glass. Those were in the days when Australian wine hadn’t gained the world wide attention it has now. The wine in question was from a collection of Penfolds Grange.

It never failed to impress. Try one if you have spare thousand bucks. And at that price it has no medals.  Imagine how good it would be with a few golds.


So my problem was solved. I simply wrote a list of names of family and friends and beside it scrawled ‘Wine’.

But I’m no judge. Well I am actually. I judge by label and price and I can distinguish a red, a white or bubbles from a considerable distance.

I’m also inclined to assume those  medals seen on wine bottles are hard earned and well deserved. So I rode my old bike down the hill to my local wine store. It’s an independent outlet with a wide selection of labels, prices and colours. Some bottles were wearing little Christmas hats and there was a large plastic blow-up reindeer, complete with a red nose, lurking in the corner. The breeze blowing through the door rendered him a little wobbly on his feet. It did cross my mind that wine, red noses and an unsteady gait go hand in hand.


For my son and his wife I chose a bottle decorated with enough medals to put a smile on a Russian General’s face. Then the list descended through silver, bronze and ‘Sorry, you didn’t quite make the grade’. So anybody who received a bottle of wine from me this Christmas has a clear indication of where you fall in my hierarchy of friends. All I can say is look upon your medal count, or lack of medal, as an incentive to be nicer to me in 2018. You have a couple of days to add that thought to your resolutions.

Having made the selection I loaded the wines onto my treadly and pushed it home, uphill all the way. Pushing stuff uphill seems to be a habit these days!

With that I’d like to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.