Brexit has ruined one of the greatest pleasures in life. The dinner party. Let me demonstrate by deploying just seven words. I voted to leave the European Union.
There. Imagine this column is a dinner party. If you voted to remain, I just ruined your evening. The chances of me winning you back are limited. For ardent Brexiteers, you might be mildly excited that there is another lonely exiting voice around the table. But I suspect all of you might unite in the view that it’s not Brexit or Remain which is damaging our economy most. It’s the indecision.
We’ll move on to the levels of frustration with politicians who think it’s their place to interfere with the decision of the British people and our epic boredom with a subject to which there appears to be no solution. See? We almost got stuck down a rabbit hole. And that’s before I even offered you a glass of fizz and a canapé.
I love a good dinner party. It’s an art to mix and match guests to inspire great conversation that progresses into the early hours. Selecting the wines to accompany whichever culinary masterpieces you may be creating is a deeply personal decision. To ensure focus, an easy starter such as smoked salmon or mushroom soup is often a winner. If you do go simple, always have a novelty on hand — say, finger limes with the salmon or whipped cream mixed with lumpfish caviar for the soup. Often, the wines you pair will represent great investments you’ve made, trips to vineyards or journeys punctuated by a particular tipple, best enjoyed as a shared experience.
I am not a wine buff, but I have made a few good selections along the way. Like the time my brother and I bought some Alter Ego, the second wine of Château Palmer. Purchased in bond, it sat for a few years. Having spotted that the vintage might be a good one, we had invested in some extra cases. I cannot remember the exact numbers, but I do know that we sold half of what we bought — and still made a massive profit. Sloshing down a £300 bottle of wine that you got for free is even more enjoyable.
Sadly, any wine chat is now ruined. Ruined because someone has to drop the Brexit bomb and start talking about how difficult it will be to import wine after Brexit and blah blah bore-off. The next hour is spent arguing over red buses. Taking back control, £350m, Gammon, Farage as in gar-arrrrge. Or Farage as in gar-age?
A good dinner party helps you work out the business plan for life. The decisions we take, very often the most profound and expensive ones in our lives, are driven by the actions and reactions of our family and friends.
Conversation to accompany a main — a spatchcock chicken or roasted wing rib of beef is unbeatable — used to be the housing market and house prices. Everyone knows Country Life magazine is porn for rich people. And just as porn was released to the masses via the internet, so was property. We went mad on it for a while, but we can’t discuss it any more as Brexit has killed off the market. Now it’s a very delicate subject. Falling house prices make people feel poor, and if you feel poor, you’ll economise in ways that won’t make rational sense. But do make sure you get the spuds right: quite crispy and cooked in goose fat.
Meanwhile, the real scandal is the evil and wicked increases in stamp duty — notably the extra 3 per cent on second properties. Hardly anyone buys or sells unless they have to. The market is clogged, so we talk about renovations instead, which inevitably leads to discussions about eastern European builders — and back round to Brexit.
After dinner chat usually turns to matters of the soul — and pudding. If you can master the art of rolling sponge with a damp tea towel (as taught to me by my mother), you can make a chocolate roulade. Mine’s better than Mary Berry’s. It has more whipped cream.
A quality pud used to be the answer to life, the universe and everything. Now Brexit is the new religion. It’s unlikely that you can prove the existence of God. Similarly, it’s unlikely you can prove what will happen once we leave the EU, though many people seem to think they can. We have made the terrible mistake of assuming that specialists can predict the future. They can’t. And as we have now learnt, all their knowledge is being squandered because we have added “so-called” in front of the word “expert” — as we do with climate change if we don’t believe it’s happening. (Note to any US readers who have stumbled across this column: simply substitute the word “Trump” for “Brexit”.)
Any decent dinner party will have either cheese or chocolate at its end, maybe served with coffee or something a little stronger. Travel is a good subject to tackle at this juncture, because if you are a bit trashed, you’ll probably commit to spending a stack of cash on a few weeks of luxury.
We are planning an autumn road trip across eight European nations to Croatia. Usually this would spawn a great deal of dinner party chatter about which car to take, insurance levels required, places to stay and interesting roads to drive on. But no. Will we be able to travel? Or be held up at borders? And the exchange rate is horrific. Once again, hijacked by Brexit.
The Brexit impasse over Europe has well and truly arrived at my dining table. I now have only one piece of advice of how to break the deadlock. Thunder. Not a blazing row in which Remainers talk about their future, another referendum or any of the nonsense they usually spout. No. Thunder is a toffee vodka produced in small batches the UK and available for around £19 a bottle on the internet.
Stick it in the freezer and serve it up should the conversation take a wrong turn. It’s absolutely delicious and hugely alcoholic. It won’t be long until the haze envelops you and your guests in such a way as to rescue your evening. You’ll be dancing on the table, not arguing across it. Perhaps I should send some over to Mrs May to serve at the next meeting of her Cabinet?