The Cocktail Hour

We have maintained the tradition of a cocktail hour for many years, say about the past twenty years.  Things do change though.  For one thing, I no longer have a cocktail poised to my right, just a plastic bottle of Perrier “carbonated natural spring water”.  My hors d’oeuvres are perhaps a bit more cumbersome than I would have preferred years ago when reading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (poor dear drowned herself in 1941 at the age of 59, bipolar disorder apparently).  Rather than snapping up crackers and smoked oysters or cheese from the mahogany side table, I have instead an ample bowl of pickled herring in sour cream under which are hidden halves of cherry tomatoes and pieces of fresh red radish all topped with Tabasco sauce.  A small spoon is of course required and the entire affair is conveniently suspended upon the oak dining room table where I sit in front of my MacBook Pro computer.  Gone is the blazing hearth.  But in view of my industry the accommodations are quite appropriate.  I have swapped the CD player for a Bose SoundLink mini speaker to which I now pipe downloaded music wirelessly from my iPhone.  The dominion I have over my immediate environment is quite magnificent!

Although I seldom tire of writing in favour of other more improving artistic endeavours, I regularly oblige myself to read important authors, writers who because of their antiquity are beyond the grasp of copyright and whose works are therefore available without cost from the internet (even though I can’t imagine why they are there in the first place without the prospect of compensation for somebody).  Nonetheless this unexplained privilege affords me access to some of the most celebrated writers of all time including for example Plato 347 BC and Aristotle 322 BC and as well as those modern upstarts Edward Gibbon 1794, John Keats 1821, Anthony Trollope 1882 and Mark Twain 1910.  Of course the device which I use to read these downloaded electronic books is either an iPad or Amazon Kindle.  Hard covered books – once my exclusive literary vehicle – now fill the ignored shelves of the old oak bookcase which I expropriated from my former law office.  My how the cocktail hour has changed!

My model for the cocktail hour derives from Louis de la Chesnaye Audette, QC, OC. Louis had the cocktail hour down to a fine art as was especially evident in the summer when he switched from his winter highball of whiskey and soda to the more glamorous Tom Collins prepared in an adjoining room at a small table on which was displayed a silver platter outfitted with sugar in a silver bowl with a silver spoon, a small crystal pitcher of lemon juice and of course gin and carbonated water.  Louis never asked or permitted his steward Jeffrey to mix the drinks; and when entertaining others, Louis only mixed the first drink for you (thereafter you were on your own and at complete liberty to pour away to your heart’s content).  When alone at his home, Louis could be guaranteed to be found at precisely six o’clock every evening in his withdrawing room seated in a comfortable armchair below a Henri Masson painting, side table to his right (on which was perched a drink and usually salty peanuts adorned with green olives) and a stack of books piled in a column on the floor.  At one time Louis had a Steinway piano but apparently he abandoned it when his elderly widowed mother died and Louis gave up their Sandy Hill residence (formerly the Bishop’s Palace) for relatively smaller digs on Besserer Street.  When not editing law journals his past-time was booze and books.  I once discovered in a cluttered corner of the drawing room a relic sound system but its obvious incongruity with the Victorian furnishings spelled its demise.