The Honourable Society of Odd Bottles began proceedings with a report on the activities of our junior branch. These youngsters are not yet eligible to become drinking members, but they are chosen because of their unremitting hostility to vermin and their burgeoning enthusiasm for killing game.
Young Charlie, the Nimrod of his generation, has been prodigiously active. It is surprising that there is a single grey squirrel still alive in Somerset. Any rat that comes his way goes no further. He is also mightily effective against rabbits and pigeons, which he enjoys scoffing, after he has skinned or plucked them. Charlie has inherited a .410: the fifth generation of his family to use it. It is a notoriously fickle calibre, the excuse I always use when I miss with one. To kill, you have to be dead-eye accurate, which Charlie is. It may help that the gun is a Purdey, a beautiful piece of kit. Craftsmanship in the service of sport, a poetic fusion of aesthetics and weapon-hood, cherished over the decades; this is not just a shotgun. It is a piece of England.
Florence, his intended bride, cannot wait for the stalking season and her visits to the gun room. Her parents are postponing the tearful moment when they will have to break the news. At the age of six, she is too young to shoot a stag. But she has wielded an air pistol with joyous success, though so far only against a target. There will be rapid promotion: vermin beware. Her mother, a toothsome little minx who looks too tiny to handle a gun, is rapidly emerging as one of the best female game-shots in the country — and not just female. It will not be long before the rivalry of mother and daughter re-echoes from moor to forest.
We moved on to military matters. One of our number served in a Guards regiment. Returning to barracks one night, he heard a noise coming from the parade ground. Investigating, he found one of his guardsman running round the square, holding his mattress above his head, repeating, ‘I pissed my bed.’ The sergeant supervising the punishment confirmed that the said guardsman had indeed been undisciplined in micturation, and had been atoning for it throughout the day, when not required for other duties. The Bottle sent everyone to bed and in the morning, the sergeant got a rocket from the CO, who told him that you cannot do that sort of thing in today’s army. (Why not?) It was unclear whether regimental public opinion was on the colonel’s side. For the rest of his army career, the unfortunate laddie was known as ‘Swampy’.
We accompanied our deliberations with a selection of wines. Two stood out, the first from New Zealand. In recent years, that admirable colony has been playing better and better cricket while making better and better wines, especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We drank a Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, 2012, which could have stood comparison to a Puligny or a Chassagne. Beautifully made — butter, honey, hay, flint: full and succulent, but also crisp and incisive — it was barely ready for drinking and will keep. Farr Vintners are charging under £20 a bottle. That is a bargain.
For red, we stuck to Pomerol: the 2000 Vray Croix de Gay. This is a true Pomerol, mostly Merlot, some Cabernet Franc, no Cabernet Sauvignon, but for all that disciplined and harmonious. The bad news is that it is a small property which is becoming increasingly well-known. No bargains here. The Bottles adjourned: next meeting in the Highlands, with a columnar report to follow.