It happened one Sunday morning soon after eight when I was on my way to the Bulletin offices to read the day’s papers: I had a sudden yen for drinking a large glass of ice-cold Guinness. This was the middle of July and ice-cold drinks were very much on my mind.
There was nothing unusual having abrupt nostalgic feelings about British foods and drinks. I do it all the time. Guinness, of course, is Irish, not British, but I drank it in Glasgow, Reading and London…which is why it has a strong British connection for me.
Somerset Maugham said the best way to overcome a temptation is to satisfy it — but where could I find an ice-cold Guinness in the centre of Palma at 8.15 on a Sunday morning?
I immediately remembered I had seen cans of draught Guinness at the small Supercor supermarket in Calle Ramon i Cajal, almost next door to the restaurant Made in China.
I was heading in that direction and Supercor opens at 8am, so I dropped in to pick up a draught Guinness. There was a rather good selection of Spanish and foreign craft beers…but no cans of draught Guinness.
But that was a minor setback, not a major disappointment, because I knew I’d be able to nip out later on to get a can of Guinness from El Corte Inglés in Jaime III, which opens at 11am on Sundays and fiesta days.
But before leaving Supercor I had a quick look to see what they had in the way of the drinks in their refrigerated display units — and on the top shelf were about a dozen cans of draught Guinness. I grabbed one and carried on towards the Bulletin offices.
When I arrived, I put Guinness into the freezer in the office cafeteria and sat back looking through the papers. Half an hour later the alarm on my phone told me it was time to open the Guinness.
Among the motley collection of cups, mugs, tumblers and wineglasses in one of the kitchen cupboards is an English style half-pint tumbler, which was also in the freezer to get really cold. It is the exact size for a 440 mls can of Guinness, leaving space for a head of slightly less than one centimetre.
Well, that ice-cold Guinness in its freezer-cold tumbler tasted better than any I had ever had in Glasgow, Reading or London. I had forgotten that the very special bitter taste in Guinness is so scrummy.
I had one gulp to start with and then I took it in gentle pensive sips, each one better than the previous. Even drinking it at such slow rate, it was all over far too soon: when I savoured the last drop I wanted another can of draught Guinness.
That was when I decided I’d make a can of draught Guinness my Sunday morning treat — and the following Sunday I’d have it with a tin of mussels in brine.
From that moment on I was thinking non-stop about my next can of Guinness: I woke up with mental images on my mind of a glass of Guinness with its yeasty creamy head and my palate yenning for its delicious bitterness produced by the yellowish powder found on the female hop plant’s glandular hairs beneath the scales of its flowers.
I had become so hooked on the Guinness taste that I couldn’t wait until Sunday to have my next shoot — there was an ice-cold Guinness in my shoulder bag when I arrived at the Bulletin offices the following Saturday morning…and also a tin of mussels in brine.
The mussels went down very nicely with the Guinness, their natural sea taste being ideal because it in no way detracted from the exceptional bitterness of this unique Irish stout. And once again, as soon as I had swallowed the last sip I wanted another Guinness. I’d be having another the following day, so this time I wouldn’t have so long to wait until the next one.
By now I was so hooked on the bitter taste of Guinness I decided a can on Saturday and Sunday would be my weekend treat. I even thought that it would be especially nice to have half a dozen oysters on the occasional Sunday — easily obtainable because they are always on sale at the fish counter of El Corte Inglés in Jaime III.
And I’d do a picture of the glass of Guinness with its lovely foamy head standing guard over the plate of freshly opened oysters.
But my sense of values stepped in and put an end to that little idea — six oysters cost €18 and that would get me a two-kilo leg of lamb. I’d rather have the lamb and invite five friends to lunch.
However, the can of Guinness as a weekend treat wasn’t enough — I started to have one every day. That was what my tastebuds were hankering for, that was what my brain accepted. I didn’t yen for my next Guinness because I knew it was going to be there the following day.
That went on for a couple of weeks…and then something strange happened. One day for lunch at a restaurant specialising in Moroccan dishes, I had a half litre bottle of San Pellegrino mineral water. I had forgotten how lovely and fizzy San Pellegrino is…and I had another half litre bottle to remind me.
Next day on my way to the office I called in at an Eroski where I knew they had San Pellegrino and I bought a litre bottle which just happened to be on special offer.
That went into the freezer for half an hour and I had it instead of the Guinness — freezingly cold and so frizzante it almost took my breath away. How could fizzy water possibly taste so good? Anyway, San Pellegrino absolutely captivated me and Guinness was no longer part of my morning routine.
But the craving for San Pellegrino lasted for less than a week and came to an end when I rediscovered the joys of PG Tips — even when made in a microwave. And that’s what I’m drinking at the moment — with a couple of Swedish rye crispbreads thinly spread with bitter orange marmalade.
But I haven’t abandoned Guinness (or San Pellegrino) and I could have a date with Guinness one day next summer. I have made a bet with a nephew on an aspect of hereditary law: my €1,000 against his £100, the loser to pay in pints of draught Guinness and large portions of fish and chips.
As I never bet unless I am 100 per cent sure I’m on a winner, I look forward to collecting six draught Guinness with six extra large fish and chips in a central Glasgow pub next July or August…assuming the virus will be under control by then.