The bottle

“We’re married,” I whispered, like it was a secret, and we peeked at each other over large brown menus, the evening air still duvet-warm.


It had been an early sailing and long drive, but we were here, and it was just as he said it would be. We were sitting in the square, surrounded by cobbled pavements and stone buildings and canopies, and the vineyards, all around, stretching out into the far distance.


We breathed in that intermingled smell of vine and pine and char-grilled duck and salt and damp stone and sweet chocolate.


“Qu’est-ce que vous voulez?” the waitress asked, and sensing our hesitation, rapidly segued into English, “how can I help you?”


We ordered our food and Jon picked up the wine menu, three-times heavier than the food menu.


“What would you recommend?” he asked.


The waitress shrugged in a manner that is uniquely French, and pointed to a name on the menu.


“Roc de Cambes,” she said. “It is a Blablabla, so not so well-known as the Blablabla region but it is made by Monsieur Blablabla who produces Blablabla.” Our wine education was just beginning so we were a little unfamiliar with the various terms that would have vastly impressed us in three years’ time. She shrugged again. “Bof – zees wine is excellent. It is not well-known zees wine, but for me” – and she kissed her fingers in an exuberant gesture – “eet ees a bomb.” She pronounced the end ‘b’ of bomb, as if to emphasise the explosion.


“We’ll take a bottle,” Jon said, and shut the menu – but not before I’d caught a glimpse of the price. My mouth did an involuntary stretched-out grimace at the sheer extravagance of it all, but Jon shook his head. “I’m treating my wife,” he explained, and I smiled and looked into his eyes, because that would not grow old, him calling me his wife.


The soft sunrays bounced off the yellow stones, light echoing everywhere along with the guttural laughter of French men and the clip-scrape of stiletto shoes on cobbled stones. We hid ourselves in the bustle and light, like we were in the cinema together, sharing popcorn.


The wine was excellent – we’d never tasted anything so good. We would extravagantly buy two bottles the next day to take home and we would pay more than we had ever paid for a bottle of wine before: 200 francs, then about fifteen pounds. (And then eight years later we would see that those bottles were now worth £150 and wish we had bought two cases while we had had the chance.)


We swirled the wine around the glasses and sniffed it like grown-ups. Jon took my hand in his, rings still shiny-new on our fingers, and we clinked our glasses together and drank deep of the purple richness, saluting our future.




He came in two minutes before visiting hours officially began. He was holding his scooter helmet, creaking in his biker jacket, all black and bold against the bleached walls and starched sheets. He pushed the IV line carefully out of the way, and I felt the slight tug of the needle in my hand, reminding me of that drip-drip of a stranger’s blood entering my veins that would gradually make my breath return. I smiled and slowly moved my head a little higher on the pillows to see him more clearly.


“I brought you a sandwich,” he said, and kissed me on the lips. I watched him as he busied himself around the room. His cheeks were more hollow than I remembered and there were tiny lines around his eyes that hadn’t been there the week before. A tenderness, too, and he lifted our 9lb baby as though he were holding up a squiggling gold trophy for all to see. Reaching for a fresh white muslin, he sailed the baby onto his lap and settled into the chair. He took the pipette in his fingers, gently pushing and squeezing the tube against tiny lips all pursed-up in sleepiness. He sat there, one hand cradling our baby’s head, the other drip-dripping in the thick gold-white goodness, one drop at a time. His hands looked so large, so gentle.


I slowly unwrapped the foil, still warm. It wasn’t just any sandwich. He’d cooked me fillet steak, rare, perfect, with dark green leaves and nutty-brown bread. After three days of beige stodge, to eat something with colour and texture was remarkable enough – but this was our finest steak. It looked huge but my mouth took over and I tore into it with my teeth, devouring it with increasing speed, biting even as I was still swallowing. It felt like nourishment, like strength, even as I chewed it. He handed me a carton of orange juice. “They say the vitamin C helps with the iron absorption,” he explained and, too weary to use words, I smiled my gratitude.


After a while, the midwife popped her head round the door to let us know it was the end of visiting hours. Jon took the baby and wrapped him in white, kissed his pink forehead and laid him down to sleep. He handed me a card. I had forgotten.


“Happy tenth anniversary,” he said, a shy-proud smile, and walked out.


I opened the card. Inside there were a few scrawled words, characteristically understated, allowing the picture to talk for him. The photo on the front was of that same bottle we had drunk from a decade ago, that vintage now so valuable.


They do that, the best things in life: wine and love. They just get better and better.


Over to you:

  • Which things in your life have got better over time?

Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a horse, a book, stairs – and today the bottle. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment.


I’ve been hosting concrete words over the past four weeks while Amber took time out. This is my last one! A BIG thank you to everyone who has linked up over the past three weeks – I’ve so enjoyed reading your posts! Today the prompt is
Mar 11 – the bottle

Won’t you join me? Link your post below and read and comment on others’ abstractions on the bottle. For more info about ‘how to’ use the concrete to write the abstract, read Amber’s introduction here.



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32 Responses to The bottle

  1. Tolu 14th March, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    Me like!

  2. bluecottonmemory 12th March, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Beautiful memories. Food always adds wonderful dimension to a memory:) I don’t like to lie about my age – because they would be like denying the goodness of life. Life gets sweeter and sweeter – not that the challenges get easier and easier:)

    • Tanya 14th March, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Thank you – and thanks for linking up, too.

  3. Liz Eph 12th March, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    It sounds corny but my faith in Jesus is what has really grown most over time. All sorts of ups and downs with churches and things, but that’s only humans giving it their best shot, well most of the time. God has stuck with me 100%.

    Will I be able to join in next week ? Do you know what the subjects are ?

    • Tanya 12th March, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Hey there – I think that’s probably the best thing to have grown over time!

      Re: concrete words – dunno if there will be another one next week (or at all), I’m afraid. 🙁 Sorry! Maybe a bit later?

  4. Melinda Viergever Inman 11th March, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    Tanya, you write so movingly. A lump is in my throat. Let me pause a moment to compose myself. You’ve stunned me.

    Like you, our expressions of love have grown more concrete with time, yet, as a result, more real and immediate. As the end of my homeschooling career loomed (6 kids, 28 years), I began to write for publication. While only two remained at home, I started writing bible studies for our church. When our son graduated and headed off to university, with only one at home to educate, I began writing fiction, too. Fiction consumed me. It seemed I could barely organize my life while homeschooling AND writing fiction. I forgot to cook. I forgot to shop. I forgot appointments. The two priorities–our daughter and fiction–took all my mental abilities.

    One day I was hunched over my laptop at our daughter’s ballet class, writing in between her performances, pausing to look up at her beautiful pirouettes, then hunching again to pour out words. My cell rang. It was my husband.

    He had a full cart of groceries and was at the store calling to ask if I needed anything. I was stunned. This had been my job until the fiction. I had no idea if we even had food in the house at all. I was completely overwhelmed by the thoughtful consideration he had just shown.

    I blurted out, “You love me!”

    “Yes, I do,” he said.

    I practically danced home, ballerina daughter in tow.

    • Tanya 12th March, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Thanks so much for sharing a snapshot of your own love story! It’s beautiful – I would be dancing home too. Since this series has been ‘concrete words’, making the abstract more concrete, I love the link you make with making love concrete in this way too. Thank you!

  5. Bethany Bassett 11th March, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    This is just… beautiful. It always warms some extra-vulnerable part of my heart when I read about marriages with such love; it reminds me to notice the same in my own marriage, and this story had me floating all day.

    • Tanya 12th March, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Oh yay!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment – this post meant a lot to me, and so I’m really chuffed that it touched you too. 🙂

  6. Karmen White 11th March, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    So beautiful, I love your writing…. I mean LOVE it. You always move me.
    Q. Which things in your life have got better over time?
    A. My knowledge, my life, my home, my happiness, my faith! 😀

    • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

      Thank you Karmen, that means a lot!

      Cool to hear all the things that have got better in your life over time!

  7. Mia 11th March, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Hi Tanya
    After 28 years of marriage it still brings so much joy to my heart when I can talk of my hubbie as my husband. I still remember the day when our first one was born, my husband had to write an exam at the university. He was so thrilled with his now son that he was totally unable to concentrate or study and had to ask to write the exam in January. The people just laughed and told him that he was not the first one that has had that problem and gave him permission.
    Much love to you

    • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      I’m so glad the exam people understood! And 28 years…Wow! Congratulations!

  8. Janice 11th March, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    This is just so lovely! I’ve been travelling and missed out on a lot of blog posts, so it’s so good to be back and hear your voice again! Such a beautiful description of how different the important moments of our lives are – beautiful and elegant at a wedding, exhausted and happy after a birth. Yay for love!

    • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Yay for love, indeed!

      Hope you had a good time travelling? Xx

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