Day 39: Sniff, Swirl, Sip, Swish & Swallow. Breathe. Analyze.

I am, to this day, a “Frasier” fan.  The affected antics of two psychiatrist brothers raving about their less-than-stellar chocolate shavings atop their cappuccino cracks me up.  The show’s writers blended a well-developed group of characters and scripting with the perfect mix of snobbery, culture, uncomfortable situations and physical comedy.

Take, for example, the ongoing desires of Niles and Frasier to become “Corkmaster” of their wine-tasting club.  Watching their over-the-top “sniff, swirl, sip, swish and swallow” routine always sent me into helpless giggles (while wrestling with an uncomfortable anxiety – could they really be that ridiculous?).

So…I was watching a British couple decked out in their after-five attire walk down the sidewalk last night, her white feathered headband bobbing to and fro, and I thought of Frasier, Niles and their perpetual “dressing up” for occasions…and then the aforementioned wine-tasting episode as I noticed the couple was entering a posh hotel – a massive picture window view of diners eating and drinking inside. “Yes,” I thought.  “There is my Day 39 inspiration.  Perfect.”

Bag purchased on my last day in Oxford. One of my "final three" tasks to complete.

Sniff – When I arrived in England I was completely disoriented. I had to breathe in the culture and test the question of whether or not to embrace my new adventure.  The aroma of London was promising enough, so I raised the glass of my 40 Day Trek to chin level and pressed on.

Swirl – The nice thing about swirling your drink is that you are in control of the velocity, therefore having some influence of the blending process as you prepare for partaking.  I took my time, met with those who were important to me, my research and my energies, and agreed that this was a good thing.  Not too much, not too little; a manageable schedule with appropriate velocity.  I swirled, ramping up my culture intake, and went on to Oxford.

Sip – A gentle taste of things to come was helped immensely by the staff at Oxford.  “Here, my love, let me take your bags.”  “There you are now, dear, new fresh towels.”  “Oh no, you can’t find the bus in that direction.  You’d best turn ‘round and head the opposite way.  That’s right.  All better now.”  Sip too hard, your wine goes straight to your windpipe.  Sip too softly, and you annoy those around you with a horrible noise [aka – too many questions of too many people].  Read the Law Conference Manual, ask for directions occasionally, go to class, take advantage of what’s around you…and your drink is appropriately consumed.  Nice.  Very nice.

Swish – The purpose of swishing is so that you leave no cultural taste-bud unstimulated.  You fill every nook and cranny within your head, in this case, with aromatic information of the grape, vintage and year you’ve chosen to drink.  “Oxford, Summer, 2010,”she requested, “One bottle please.”  Included in this swishing were day trips, special lectures, events, studying, cramming and taking exams.  The final and most intense swish was accomplished through my Family Law final – a culmination of excellent lectures, incredible reading load, and an exhaustively complex three hour test that took us through marriage, divorce, child custody, international jurisdiction and the utilization of the Hague Treaty on child abduction.  Wait for it……[*gulp*].

Tea and freshly baked Scones. #2 of my final three tasks to complete. Yummmm.

Swallow – on the evening of Day 39 the wine trickled down my gullet as I walked the streets of Oxford one final time.  I had three things to accomplish on the journey.  1) Purchase a souvenir handbag for myself I have been eying the entire stay; 2) Pay a visit to an establishment rumored to serve the best baked-when-ordered scones and tea in town.  The spread did indeed live up to the recommendations; and, 3) say goodbye to Oxford.  As I walked down Queen’s Lane that last evening, the warm afterburn of my drink in my throat turned to emotion-filled pressure…the kind you feel before a cry begins. I was going to miss this place.  I’m glad I came.  And, I was glad to be going home.

Breathe – On the first breath taken after a drink, the “finish” is revealed.  Rustic flavors of ancient walls and scholars, berries from the bushes, cherries from the trees, and apples from the garden of knowledge filled my head and sinuses.  The finish was a good one; in the economy of payoffs vs. investment, I deemed my drink a winner.  I am the Corkmaster of my own journey, so the Frasiers can continue to argue all they wish.  I’ll be enjoying my wine for years to come.

Analyze – This category is still a work in progress.  As the information from my 40 days in the UK settles, gets categorized and utilized as needed, I may think about it differently than I do now.  Right now, my analysis is that I’m terribly grateful to my family and my place of employment for supporting my decision to come.

As I ended my evening walk, I metaphorically put the cork back into my bottle for safe keeping.  It was time to pack, time to rest, and time to think about returning home.

Oxford, Summer, 2010.

An excellent wine, a bountiful year, and if I were placing the value for the market listing, I would put “Sorry – unavailable.  Upon examination, owner renders a ‘priceless’ judgment and refuses to sell.”