Grapes: Vranac, Grenache
Source: Catherine, Chris’s friend
Source: Hannah Savory
‘If anyone were to draw a caricature of you, you’d definitely be standing just like that – with a book in one hand and a piece of cheese in the other!’
And I was absolutely charmed that Chris would say that about me, particularly as I’m not certain that it’s true anymore. Yes, I love to read and, yes, I have read a lot in my life but I have not read that much in the last few years. I worry sometimes that I’ve lost it; that my need for books has become a casualty both of my busy schedule and of the way my life works nowadays. Because I’ve not stopped reading, I’ve just stopped reading books. I spend every free minute of every day reading Twitter or blogs or short stories or opinion pieces from online newspapers. I read when I’m walking and when I’m on the Tube or when I’m standing in queues, but I don’t read books.
I know this because I’ve been keeping count. Unlike the rather vague numerical questions that I have inexplicably been contemplating recently, like how many ham sandwiches I might have eaten in my life or how often I have watched Cliffhanger, I do actually know how many books I have read this year because I have an app for that! I downloaded the Bookling app 488 days ago and, in that time, I have read 16 books and have started a further 6. I know this because I am still only 398 pages through The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and it is sitting at the top of my list, its snail logo judging me at my ‘less than a page a day’ reading speed. I first downloaded the app to keep track of the books that I’d started and never finished, adding 5 books immediately, but it has instead become a bit of a sad testament to my diminished reading habits. Of those 5 books, I have only finished The Handmaid’s Tale so far and it took me 444 days.
Looking at this year’s stats is even more demoralising. In 2017, I have read 8 books and 2 of them are by Lee Child. Don’t misunderstand me – I love Lee Child but even I admit that he isn’t of a quality to justify a full quarter of my reading this year! And it seems that I either binge or I really drag my feet. Three of the books this year took over 100 days, including the mammoth Handmaid’s Tale marathon, whereas another two took around a week. I read Jaws over 8 days and literally devoured Hadley Freeman’s book about why 80s movies are awesome, Life Moves Pretty Fast, in 48 hours (this was the book I was reading while walking and eating cheese – it’s incredible, everyone should read it!). Half of the books that I’ve read this year are because of connections to the author – I went to school with Daisy Buchanan so was thrilled to read her book, How To Be A Grown Up (24 days, it’s very good!), and Malin James is a very important person in Chris’s life who I now know very well too, so I bought her anthology of short erotic stories, Roadhouse Blues, as soon as it was published (46 days – this one needed to be savoured!). I’d also met Hadley Freeman and Meg-John Barker at conferences and events over the year so bought and enjoyed their books immensely. Meg-John wrote a great educational book with Justin Hancock called Enjoy Sex (How, When and If You Want To) – that was one of the longer reads at 125 days but I read it around the other books rather than in a lump so is not indicative of the time it actually took to read.
And that’s it. That was/is 2017’s reads. I have pulled The Wind Up Bird Chronicle off the shelf to try and finish it, but the prospect doesn’t exactly thrill me as I wish books would. It’s been too long and I didn’t enjoy it enough to finish it the first time so…
But I miss it. I miss curling up with a book and losing myself in whatever world I’m reading about and I miss the thrill that comes with reading something exciting and new for the first time and feeling like I’m learning. I miss reading an old favourite again and falling back into the comfort of its pages. I don’t know if I need to find more time, or just better books! Whenever I find something that grabs me, there is always time to read but I keep prioritising other shorter stories or articles above proper books and I don’t think I want to do that anymore.
So this has been a long-winded way of asking for your reading recommendations! 2017 is nearly over and so we’ve been thinking a lot about what next year’s challenge will be (and I adore Chris all the more because doing another challenge was never in doubt!).
We’ve decided that it was time for a reading challenge!
We’ve decided that we are going to read 26 books together – one a fortnight – and we’ll probably be blogging about them too once we’ve both read them. As an advanced warning, we will be contacting 26 of our closest friends and family to ask for a recommendation (one book, ideally less than 300 pages but open to negotiation) for us both. It doesn’t have to be a literary classic or anything highbrow, but I’d love to read the books that you’ve not been able to put down or that have palpably changed you or have made you think or made you cry or love or laugh or feel any of those emotions that only books can draw from you and that I have missed so much.
I can’t wait to see where the year will take us…
You may have noticed that both of these wines have come from the same winery, despite being supplied by two different people at different times. It clearly is the premier wine producer of Montenegro!
On the Rosé, taken from the producer’s website:
Vivacious and elegant dry wine, pink colour with the reflection of the crystaline limpidity. It is made of the grapes of the red wine grape varieties, grown in Ćemovsko polje, by the technological procedure, applied in the production of white wines.
Intense scent of raspberry, currant and wild rose. Mellow and balanced on taste. The acids are mild, fruity, giving the impression of pleasant crispness, while the silky texture highlights the feelings of mellowness and savouriness, resembling rose-flavoured Turkish sweet delight. Long lingering refreshing taste of the raspberry bonbons in the aftertaste.
And on the White, also from the website:
Krstač is the autochtonous Montenegrin white grape variety, grown from ancient times in the vineyards of Podgorica viticultural area. It originates from Beri and now it exists only in our vineyards in Ćemovsko polje and all efforts to transfer it to other areas were fruitless. It has a characteristic berry size and form of the cluster, resembling a cross, after which it got its name. It is of a particularly selected grapes that the authentic white wine of extraordinary freshness has been made.
This wine is on the edge between Mediterranean and continental type. It is light golden yellow colour with greenish reflection. Light, potable, crisp and balanced wine with the characteristic varietal flavours of peach and pear and tones of flowers and Mediterranean spice herbs , complemented with mineral, salty notes in the aftertaste.
Oh, this is just the kind of white wine that I love! Golden and creamy and buttery and so so smooth! It felt weighty and thick, almost like a syrup, but the freshness of the flavours prevented it from being sickly. There was a biscuity finish that I really enjoyed and that added to the soft richness. It was a wine that was better when colder, with a sharpness sneaking in as it warmed, but it was still very, very good!
9/10, would drink again and again!
Drinking this straight after such a great white almost feels like it was a bad idea; that we did the rosé a disservice by comparison. Because it was very good…but just wasn’t as good. As rosés will be, it was fruitier and sweeter, which made it sharper and fresher. I wonder whether these descriptions would have been more positive if I hadn’t just drunk one of my favourite wines of the year – it was fruity and sweet, but it certainly wasn’t sickly as rosé can be as the freshness successfully cut through it. But drinking another wine from the same producer lead to somewhat unfavourable comparisons.
8/10, would drink again but on its own!
This was surprisingly delicious! It smelled really fresh and lively, but tasted much richer; in fact, it turned out to be a pretty full-bodied white, with lots of buttery, toasty flavours released on the palate. Great on its own in the bath while really cold, but also worked just fine with sausage & mash. I could drink this in lots of different situations, and now quite want to get hold of a few more bottles.
It’s perhaps indicative of my general feelings about rosé that the first thing I felt after drinking this was relief! And that’s because it’s a perfectly enjoyable, summery wine. It’s dry and pleasantly citric, which is very much the kind of rosé I like – no excess fruit or sugar to ruin it, basically. It would work just fine as an outdoor drinking wine, ideally somewhere really warm – if you brought me a bottle of this to share in a pub beer garden, I’d be very happy indeed.