A few days ago I went truffle hunting in Piedmont. It’s been a bumper year for white truffles in northern Italy — the best ever, according to some experts — thanks to climate change and an exceptionally wet summer. My guide was a brilliantly sharp-eyed Italian, Mario, whose dog Rex did the snuffling. Mario told me that dogs are better trufflers than pigs because pigs often eat the truffles before you can get your hands on them. We (or rather Rex) found two, and I have been devouring truffle since I returned; I’ve had it with scrambled eggs, mashed potato, pasta and even just straight onto toast. I didn’t think it was possible to get bored of something so expensive, but I must say I’m a bit truffled out, and my flat now smells of truffles. That’s what people call a first world problem, I know.
I’ve just passed my Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) advanced wine exam with distinction. I spent lots of time swotting up — quaffing, essentially, but with pen and paper to hand — and hanging out in an excellent little wine shop near my office called The Sampler. I tried to sneak in when no paps were about; it might have been a bit embarrassing if I’d been photographed repeatedly entering an upmarket offy for several afternoons running.
Anyway, I fancy myself as a bit of a wine expert now, and am contemplating taking a full diploma, described on the WSET website as ‘the stepping-stone to the Master of Wine qualification’. From party planner to sommelier — now that’s what I’d call career progression. I hear The Spectator has a very good wine club. Maybe I should sign up with a view to taking over.
The church in which I was baptised is to close. St Andrew’s, Bradfield, is a handsome flint building, extensively redesigned by George Gilbert Scott in the 1840s, which sits in the middle of Bradfield College, a thriving public school. The school was originally founded to provide choristers for the church. Now the College is reportedly in talks to buy St Andrew’s from the Diocese of Oxford. I’m sure the school can be trusted to look after the property well; nonetheless the story makes me sad — passing of time and all that.
Recently, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I tried my hand at western dancing. Wyoming is real cowboy country; the mountain scenery is stunning. Everyone wore cowboy boots and the men had big, non-ironic moustaches that curled upwards. It’s easy to get carried away with the whole free-riding atmosphere. My dance partner was about 80, and I did my best to keep up. But it turns out I have two left feet, at least as far as moving to rhythm is concerned. Embarrassingly, my cringe-inducing moves were caught on camera and posted on the internet. I now worry I’ve dashed my chances of making it on to Strictly Come Dancing, which is a shame as I’ve just bought a military-style costume like the famous one worn by Cheryl Cole in the video of ‘Fight for this Love’. It includes a pair of satin slip-leg trousers, V-body leotard and fingerless gloves.
I am an enthusiastic, albeit rather amateur, salmon fisher, and recently I was thrilled to catch a ten-pounder — my first English catch, too, on the river Tyne. I used a fly called ‘simply red’, because I’ve always been a secret fan of Mick Hucknall and his vivacious ginger locks. What wonderful names we give these little fish lures: ‘wee monkey’, ‘hairy mary’ and ‘posh tosh’. For a spinning rod there’s even a ‘flying condom’.
Christmas is coming fast, and I’m feeling full of cheer. Nothing better than a bit of biting cold outside and fun indoors. Best of all I like to do the crossword while listening (and singing along) to carols on the radio. Does that make me old? I’d already bought most of my presents online well ahead of ‘Cyber Monday’ last week. Like many women, I tend to buy far too many things and then return about two thirds of them by post. It’s strange how consumer culture now means that we buy things before making the decision as to whether we actually want them. Men are different — at least the men I know are.
No year is complete without a bottom story, and the ‘Rear of 2014’ award undoubtedly goes to Kim Kardashian, after her posterior exploded all over the internet last month. I must say that mine — though it has enjoyed fleeting fame — is not comparable. But the Kim butt story did make me pause. What is it with this American booty culture? It seems to me to be a form of obsession. Kim’s aim, apparently, was to break the internet, but I’m not sure she’s going the right way about it.