If it’s not screaming kids, it’s police cars. If not police cars then barking dogs, refuse trucks, car and burglar alarms, tree surgeons, or scooters going up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down outside the window. Or loud electric mowers. Or police helicopters flying over at 4 in the morning. Or people parking their car outside our flat, rolling the windows down and playing loud thumpy bass music. Or minicabs beeping, waiting a minute then beeping again. At 3 a.m.
I am actually thinking of moving here. It'd be like the quiet coach on the train....forever.
But instead of this, we went to Denbies Wine Estate, Dave's birthday present, 11 months late. I am unsure if Denbies could organise a piss-up in a winery - the website wouldn't let us book online, the staff didn't return our emails or answer their phone. When we finally got there, there was one woman on reception, dealing with both the people who had booked tickets and those who were making enquiries. Oh, and the cafe had no sandwiches, only a plate of stale crackers, 3 bits of cheese and some grapes for an eye-watering £5.90. So it took a nice scenic train ride up to the top of the estate (which I remember walking through when doing a North Downs ramble some years ago) to calm me down, trying to ignore both the annoying recorded commentary ("Throughout history, people and wine have been entwined in the most romantic way....”) and the women behind us who were theorising that because they'd never seen bottles of Denbies in their local Tesco, that the wine must be sold “in France supermarkets. Y'know, booze”, and when the driver said: “Queen Victoria used to come here, isn't that amazing”, cried out in a determined way: “Yes, yes it is”.
Dave says I should learn to zone out other people, but unfortunately I have very good hearing and when I am not in a heat-sodden irritation, I find Other People endlessly amusing. When I am irritated (85% of the time), I just want to beat them to death with their own stupidity [on the way here, we took the 106 bus, one of the few buses with air-conditioning. We shut the windows so that the air-con would work better. A woman got in and opened the window. I pointed out (in a polite way) that the air-con would work better with the windows shut. She said: “But I'm hot” and continued to fan herself all the way to Finsbury Park whilst the cold air went out of the window.]
Thing is, when we finally get onto the tasting, the wine is really good. If I may be so pretentieuse, it's not the fat fullsome taste of the Antipodes, but cool complex North European flavours, grass and gooseberries. I really liked the Flint and we buy some bottles in the shop (I later find out I could've got it cheaper in Waitrose). The shop only has a small corner dedicated to wine, the rest is lavender soap and coasters and ornaments. The wine tasting involved a film about the estate on a fancy 360° cinema and you go down to the cellars on a mini rollercoaster (I pretended the CCTV was the camera where you do a wacky thumbs up pose and buy the photo at the end). Perhaps the money from the tours cross-subsidises the price of the wine, but it does seem that if you've got a quality product you don't need to dress everything up in tourist tat. You don't have to provide an “experience”. I realise that countries like South Africa and Australia have a bigger wine market, but when we went wine-tasting there, you just paid a fiver (or whatever), and then tried 5 or 6 wines, sitting in a garden and writing tasting notes (if you could be bothered). I enjoyed the visit, but couldn't help feeling that everything about it was a little bit wrong, which seems to be my default emotion at present.
Perhaps it's England that I hate. The Tory-voting, Diana-worshipping, celebrity-gawping, high-street shopping, sweat-shop buying, sheep-like fools.
Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I am a terrible, arrogant, intolerant, broadsheet snob crossed with Victor Meldew-style little Englander moany negativity.
Or maybe it's just the heat.