My parents used to have parties, usually in the Summer and at Halloween.
With my mother’s near-desperate need to have the furniture moved regularly, the table and the desk switched places on an almost-weekly basis, and the partygoers never really knew what shape the living room would be when they arrived.
When my dad was living, he cared for my mother very deeply and didn’t resent, even in the slightest, her hope to have the upright piano and the weighty sideboard swapped over, nay juggled, and quite often.
A few years into our move to Devon, I was the one to move the furniture. I have a build which suggests that I am made for the lifting of things and indeed, that was the work to which my mother put me. However, when my shoulders started to bulk up, she became convinced I was on steroids. She wasn’t naturally suspicious, she was just worried. It’s what it is to be a mother, I think.
In order to move the heavy sideboard, it was necessary to remove all the drawers and the contents of the side cabinets, or risk pulling something for which I might find a use in later life. In the left hand cabinet of the sideboard, were the drinks.
They were the leftovers and remnants of parties held in the preceding years, and my barmaid imagination caught fire.
I had no recollection of which of my parents’ friends had drunk Benedictine, but clearly somebody did because there was only a dribble left.
I had only ever seen my mother put Tia Maria in a pudding with chocolate, amaretti biscuits and glucose syrup, but she didn’t make so much of it to use up half a bottle.
Those of her friends who came to see my mother when she was sickly usually brought a bottle. Almost always sherry. There were seven bottles of the stuff in the drinks cabinet. The Baileys was so old, it probably came with us from Croydon, and had a crusty dusting of desiccated liqueur around the lid.
When they were a new couple, my mother threw a birthday party for my father, and invited all her friends to meet him up in central London.
None of them knew of his interests and thus, quizzed my mother for some weeks before the party to try to get a handle on this man they hadn’t met.
They knew he smoked a pipe, that he was a carpenter, that he made my mother laugh. As a shopping guide, this only went so far. My dad wound up with six new pipes, twenty storm-proof pipe lighters and a scarf.
I cannot know if the Benedictine goes back to those days. Having never served it in a bar, I don’t actually know what type of glass or measure it is served in.
If it does date back those forty years, I suspect it has a bit of a tang on it by now.
It may be the strongest thing in the house and if I am right in that speculation, I think I’ll save it for my fortieth.