Love and Games and Walter James

17 Apr

An excerpt from the memory banks [2008] of La Donna del Vino

Zorro, scene, movie, black and white, tumble, fall

Precariously climbing barrels. Scene from Zorro’s Romance.

I was in the winery and grabbing samples of red wine from various barrels. These vessels were perched on their metal racks, stacked six-barrels high and lined up from front to back like pretty maidens all in a row. The space in between each barrel was barely wide enough to fit my body through. If you can picture me extending my arms and legs in an attempt to climb these barrels in such squished conditions, the image becomes a little unsettling. Try doing that one-handed while carrying a beaker, a plastic siphoning tube in your mouth and several bottles stuffed inside your Hard Yakka work pants, and you could say it becomes a tad more precarious.

drawing, black and white, dangerous climbing, climbing barrels, wine

Climbing the wine barrels. Dodgy sketch by La Donna del Vino.

This is how I was, positioned four barrels high, looking like some agile monkey with one arm and leg cocked to reach the next stomach-turning level, when, lo and behold, my phone rang with my sisters name flashing on the screen.

The beaker and tube were immediately placed on the barrel before me and jiggled as I tried to get my body into a less compromising position.

Hey sis, I’m just climbing some barrels, it’s a bit dangerous so I can’t really talk“, I answered breathlessly.

What the #*%$ have you done?!” came my dear sister’s voice bellowing down the other line.

Uh oh.

What do you mean?” I hurriedly scrambled through possible explanations of horrid things I may have done to upset my sister. I was at a loss.

I just had a phone call from the producers of Farmer Wants A Wife. They told me that YOU, my sister, submitted my name for consideration.”

Oh that…

Nervous laughter and the delightful sweaty palm syndrome began developing. “Yeah yeah, I thought you would find it funny, bit of a joke y’know, they must have liked the photo I sent them! Haha…” My hands were starting to slip from the bottom rung I was grasping hold of, but I was so focused on preventing my sister from hating me, I chose to ignore my own safety. Jokes always seemed to work at this stage… “OK OK OK, I get it. You’re upset. So…did you say yes?”

Stupid question.

“Are you SERIOUS? I’m not desperate! I would NEVER go on TV. Are you kidding? I’m not one of those women who….” ….And the ranting continued.

At this stage my hand slipped. Fortunately my back fell onto the barrel full of wine positioned closely behind me, but my sister and her ranting fell so kindly to the floor.

Problem solved!

The moral of the story?

Don’t enter your siblings into love games, even if you think it would be funny. You just might get hurt, especially if awkwardly positioned and climbing barrels at the time of confrontation.

This allows me to flow into a story by one of my favourite kooky wine writers, the late Walter James. See the excerpt below on a similar story about the dangers of wine.

Barrel And Book‘ [1949]

by Walter James

Walter James, wine, glass, drinking, writer, Australia

Walter James

WHILE SLEEPING UNDER MY FIG TREE this afternoon I became drowsily aware of some unusual noise in the cellars, where noise of any sort is rare. But sleep is sweet by day and it must have taken me some time to wake up and see one of the women whom I employ about the place to do the heavier work dancing at the cellar door and screaming her head off to attract my attention. Not wishing to be disturbed, I like a good city business man had let her assume that I was “in conference” somewhere.

I had left her racking wine – pumping it from one cask into another. The pump suddenly had collapsed, and with wine gushing as it will gush from a five-hundred gallon cask through a two-inch hose, the silly soul had lost her head and dashed off to find me instead of pulling the intake hose out of the bung hole. From top to toe she was drenched with the spirted purple of the vat, and stood there with wings a-droop like a rained-on fowl. Wine was inches deep over the cellar floor. I consoled her with the thought that we had almost realised a common ambition of some day being able to swim in wine.

Apart from my broken rest and broken pump, it cost me eighty pounds.

I was actually closer to this particular ambition during last vintage when I had to adjust the strainer at the bottom of a seven-hundred gallon stone vat in full fermentation. The dive into half-made wine under its blanket of carbonic acid gas was taken with neither the confidence nor anticipation of a dive under blankets of a more domestic kind.

But I don’t believe death will seize me in a wine vat. Soon after I bought the vineyard I came across a package with a dozen sticks of gelignite which I viewed with some distaste and wished to be rid of. I said to my pruner, an old countryman and accustomed to handling such things, “How can I get rid of this stuff?

“Oh, just drop it down the well, boss, or put it in the fire – it’ll only burn.”

So I nonchalatantly tossed the lot into a fire where other rubbish was burning. Unfortunately he had not thought to say anything about detonators and I was too stupid to know what they were.

I felt the noose tightening.

2 Responses to “Love and Games and Walter James”

  1. Lisa Menegazzo April 17, 2012 at 8:47 AM #

    Oh yes, what fond memories I have of you, my little sis 🙂 I still remember the horror like yesterday when I got the call haha…classic!

  2. Dan Sims April 17, 2012 at 5:56 PM #

    Funny …

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