With the world’s volatility at fever pitch, one could be forgiven in taking out of the lockable glass door cabinet, the special festive balloons. I don’t mean the blow up types. In the past, people used the brandy snifter as an art form, especially those who read Somerset Maugham’s novels, with being on polite coughing terms with members of the House of Lords or those who went through Cambridge and became professors. I am not aware if that art ever became common in the US’s Harvard. I have heard in American movies the expression, ‘he is an old Harvard boy, you know.’ It (the art) might have gone trans Atlantic seeing John Harvard was an alumnus from Cambridge. Sniffing out of balloons might well have travelled with him.
The Oostermans never managed to reach that elevated level. I wonder why? It just seems so nice to read about it. Napoleon Brandy conjures up a world of its own. Plush, deeply buttoned leather chairs. The Lords revelled the absence of women. The smoking room and clubs for the privileged! Remember a few weeks ago, a bowling club was disqualified and their license taken away for refusing women as members. Was it in Queensland again? Pauline Hanson with her anti-Islam and Halal certification got 4% of the National vote. Now likely to have three seats in the Senate.
How on earth did clubs came about refusing women? I know that in the past women and children were not allowed in public bars. There was the ‘Lady lounge.’ A room of sherry and shandy sipping, blue tinted hair and rouged cheeks. Back in 1956, my dad, who was an astute observer, noticed this separation of the sexes. It was another one of those features in our new country. It would now be called ‘a challenge’ or finding ‘a solution.’ Today, of course, we all mellow together. Now we would not know what sex people belong to anymore. There is a bewildering variety of choices and sexes out there. You would not know what to find after a romantic evening out, and the question, ‘your place or mine?’ It might be wise to keep the light on very diffused and both hands around the brandy balloon.
The balloon glasses were used so that it would allow hands around it to warm up the brandy. It then released, ever so subtly its mouth-watering aged burnished aromas. Some brandy sniffing enthusiasts used to draw up the brandy through their nostrils, hence the name taking ‘a snifter.'(sniffing) This resulted sometimes in coughing. That’s why in those excusive men’s clubs in England and India, even still today, the polite form of men acknowledging each other was through a well practised cough behind the left hand while holding the balloon behind the back in the right hand. It would be considered bad manners to cough over the balloon. Eye brows would be raised ever so perceptively.
All this apropos to the world being in such turmoil. Countries are exiting long held alliances. Here they are still counting votes. No one is sure anymore and small groups are talking in hushed tones on street corners. In the US, assault weapons are selling like lamingtons here. The Bahamas have issued travel warnings for the US. Some say, if people had more weapons the likelihood of getting shot would be less. One would shoot first. But the last two killings were done by police who thought they were reaching for a gun. Which one is it?
The world would be a better place if more people went for a good bout of polite coughing, and taking a snifter of Napoleon Brandy instead. Of course, in our case it might well be a couple of herrings and a drink of buttermilk.