TN: London

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    N_Neocleous

    TN: London

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    It was Tuesday 20 July 2004 and an e-mail popped up on my PC at work. I glanced at my ever so slightly battered (my recent USA wine tour had taken its toll) simmering silver watch with the light and dark blue face. 5.15pm. My eyes focused on the contents of the e-mail and I cursed. I rarely use the District Line (green on the map) on the wonderful London Tube system and today that I need to take it to get to an offline, there were bloody problems. The e-mail had come courtesy of a colleague who is the unofficial Tube problem watcher who notifies us of daily ‘;issues’;. Who said people with legal training were boring?

    Still, I had plenty of time to get to the restaurant in Chelsea. Although laden with the usual excess numbers of wine bottles, glassware, pads, pens and assorted rubbish (dark chocolate [70% cocoa content], loose change in several currencies, matches from strange far away cities like Seattle, etc), my recently enhanced fitness regime had ensured that this would not be a problem. Of course, nothing could really prepare me for standing in a stiflingly hot Tube carriage for over 30 minutes holding all this gear. My lengthy strides from the station to the Argentinean steakhouse meant that I arrived early. Having unloaded my bottles and briefed the charming staff on our detailed requirements, I set off to meet my guest for the evening. Mobile phones are a wondrous invention, for ten minutes later I returned hurriedly, having heard that she would be late.

    Now, the players in any offline can almost certainly make or break its atmosphere and tonight would be no exception. There was a dangerous and heady mix of diners, from hardcore veterans (myself included) to offline virgins. Throw in a ‘;two bottlers per person’; requirement, plenty of food, a warm summer’;s night, Latin American music and Ron Colvin, and the scene was definitely set for revelry. When everybody eventually sat down, I counted up the numbers and there were thirteen of us. We were in luck! If you will permit me to mention my guest briefly, that would be kind. Having enjoyed a Sunday lunch as her guest two Sundays ago, and very nearly a glass of 1963 Taylor’;s Vintage Port, I was pleased to have Miss Penny Johns sitting beside me. Her first offline with the crazy London crew and she was as pleased as punch.

    The Players

    The offliners participating in tonight’;s Wine Olympics Marathon were as follows:

    - Nicos “;ever humble scribe/joint organiser/veteran of Euro 2004 Football Championships hosted in Portugal”; Neocleous
    - Penny “;ITB/extremely charming and very entertaining company”; Johns
    - Ron “;still mad as a hatter/joint organiser/party atmosphere never far from him”; Colvin
    - Nigel “;usual sparkling self/tanned and relaxed from a recent trip to France”; Williams
    - Gavin “;usual dry humour/congratulations on the recent addition to his family”; Rankin
    - Rani “;focused and witty all night/Italian wine specialist”; Osnat
    - Phil “;party animal/good palate/my photography guru”; Wilkins
    - Linden “;loves London/extensive wine knowledge”; Wilkie
    - Emma “;enchanting as ever/uses a digital pad instead of paper to take notes/legal eagle”; Dalton
    - Jeff “;always good to see him/worthy offliner”; Warren
    - Steve “;cheerful smile/I’;ll bring Super Tuscans”; Matteo
    - Russell “;happy personality/hopefully see him again”; Faulkner
    - Jim “;Aussie wine specialist/guest of Ron’;s”; Freeman

    The ambience

    1) Ron did his best to order food for everyone but mistakes did happen. Why did all of the steaks initially arrive with a fried egg on them?

    2) Although I was the official photographer for this event (as well as official scribe), Emma delighted in her paparazzi role. She has told me that the photos of me are going to be posted on one of her several pay-per-view websites so that she can help fu

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