Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Champagne, sex or the Tories: what could you live without?


In idle chatter the other evening, somebody pooh-poohed champagne. He was a brave soul because in certain circles — and this was among them — one is presumed to think the presence of champagne a mark of opulence, extravagance, a special occasion, a treat. In even more exalted circles, of course, a display is made of not thinking it a treat but a staple, and babbling in a familiar manner about ‘Bolly’ as though one had proceeded straight from the breast to the bubbly without passing through lemonade on the way.

‘To be honest,’ said my friend, ‘if Fate were to touch my shoulder and whisper that I would never drink champagne again, would I be bothered? It’s perfectly -pleasant of course, but not something I’d miss much.’ To everyone’s surprise almost everyone, emboldened, agreed with him. A discussion followed in which we volunteered other famous pleasures we could, if we were to be honest, easily do without. And some, of course, we could not. We did not all agree. I could live without white wine, but hardly, I think, without red. I could live without brandy, but life without whisky would be seriously diminished. Beer would be an essential, as indeed would lemonade. But the absence for the rest of my life of cake would scarcely be noticed — while the removal of meat pies would leave a deep hole.

We grew bolder. I mentioned that I hoped it was not my advancing years alone that encouraged me to admit that life without sex would be perfectly tolerable. Someone else dared confess that she could do without other people altogether, but not her retriever. I’d horribly miss swimming, and for me life has already been made significantly meaner because I can no longer run. Big drinks receptions? Sweep them away and see if I care.

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