Back in the summer of 1985 I resided on the grounds of Osbourne House, Victoria's palace on the Solent. I shared a cottage with Vonelli, a retired CIA agent.
His cover was that he was an art dealer.
No one believed the native Floridian, but the hotel was a special place and attracted special people. One of them was a Danish sailor married to a Saudi princess.
Kurt’s Harley Street doctor's had advised the elimination of vodka from his diet and the bearded Viking decided to take the cure on the Isle of Wight. It was the sunniest isle of Britain.
“I’ll only drink from dawn to dusk.”
“Good thing he didn’t pick the dead of winter for this regime,” Vonelli muttered from behind me.
The days were very long this far north of the equator.
At the hotel Kurt instructed the help to only serve him rose wine. Every day the broad-bellied sailor sat on the porch in the same kaftan. It was a warm summer for England and after a week his outfit smelled of an animal was trapped underneath it.
His presence was tough on our sense of smell, so we avoided Kurt throughout the lengthening day.
One very early June morning I descended to the dining room for a solstice breakfast. The sun was breaking through the trees. Birds were greeting the dawn. The sea captain was sitting with his lovely Saudi Princess wife. I couldn't hear thier conversation. Her words were whispers, while Kurt's elocution was already in deep distress.
“I’m celebrating the longest day of the year.” He raised a glass of Rose.
“You’ve got a good start on it.”
Four empty bottles lay at his feet.
“I might score my personal best.”
“You know when your doctor said to stop drinking. He meant everything.”
“No, he said a little wine was okay.”
His wife shrugged and Kurt quaffed his wine.
That day we finished seventeen bottles.
We had to carry him to bed.
“You’re no fun,” he said lying on his bed like a beached whale.
“He’s not wrong.” Vonelli sniffed at his jacket sleeve, as we descended to the dining room.
Our clothing smelled of him and we washed them that evening.
We drank wine till midnight. We got drunk, but not like Kurt.
And the next morning he was in the dining room with four bottles at his feet.
Drunk before his time and while Pliny the Elder said, “In vino veritas.”, Vonelli put it more simply, “In magma vino oblivio.”
Or in wine truth, but in more wine oblivion.
And that’s the truth.