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Tag Archives: Christmas

  • The Real Spirit of Christmas

    Christmas Eve at Oddbins is doing exactly what Christmas Eve should do at Oddbins. The Liverpool store is thronged beyond all known laws of physics, and a sweet-natured queue snakes from the counter to the back of the shop and round on itself to the front door. Who in their right mind would think this was a good time to get the tasting samples out?

    CW-Gin

    "Ello darli-er, good afternoon madam!" But of course. Hello, Crazy Chimp. "I see you're feasting your minces on our gins, I've got a lovely one here you'll enjoy. You're not driving, are you? Oh, good, there you are, Christopher Wren Gin from the City of London Distillery. Mmm, nice palate, liquorice and oranges going on there, very Christmassy. Handsome bottle too, looks just like St. Paul's Cathedral. So that's two masterpieces with Wren's name for the price of one! Tell you what, I'll let you enjoy it in peace while I go and pop one under the counter for you..." And he scuttles away on his knuckles, to charm somebody else.

    Crazy-Banner

    At the end of the counter, a whisky lover is being told things by a chimp who has a slight smell of old books and a charming aura of forgotten academia. "...and Masataka Taketsuru, who established the distillery in 1934," instructs Curious Chimp, "was the first Japanese person to study whisky-making at Glasgow University. His Nikka From The Barrel is decidedly high in alcohol - 51.4%! But rather than merely making it hot, the extra abv adds depth, weight and richness, don't you think? Orange peel, cedar, woody spice - true decadence and indulgence, 50cl of Christmas. And the packaging? So stylish. If Blue Note was a distillery instead of a jazz label, they'd have made things that looked like this. Give me a bottle of this and a Horace Silver CD and I'll happily come and make Christmas dinner for you. As long as it's nut roast!"

    Nikka

    In the corner of the room, a roguish chimp is telling a group of rum aficionados about the time he and his old chum Shifty had to flee to Venezuela in a borrowed Jaguar. Crafty Chimp is no stranger "...heh, heh, heh, and no sooner had she finished peeling my banana than in walks her brother - turns out he was the bloody ambassador!"

    Crafty-Banner

    "That's one diplomatic incident I won't be returning to in a hurry, I can tell you, but this Diplomatico Exclusiva rum really is something you can go back to without a forged passport. It has the kind of gravitas that could get a chap out of any scrape - brown sugar and liquorice underneath delicious dried fruit peel and toffee characters - and it rather lends itself to be taken neat. Drunk au naturel, so to speak. Which takes me back rather neatly to the ambassador's sister..."

    Exclusiva

    Wandering around the shop with an empty bottle of Brockman's Gin and a beautific smile is Loveable Chimp. He is trying to get people to smell his empty bottle, and though he hasn't quite got them in the palm of his hand, he isn't giving a monkey's. It's Christmas Eve and his family and friends are all in the one place, and they are in their element, helping to choose gifts and treats for his beloved regulars, and everybody is in the very best of heart and humour. He is surrounded by people and chimps who are giving a shit this Christmas, and this, he muses as his smile grows even wider, is the true spirit of the season.

    Brockmans

    Although, that Nikka whisky was pretty decent, it has to be said...

    Thanks to all of you for another extraordinary year. Merry Christmas! x

  • Chimps Tea Party

    The door looks like it could lead into any pantry. And it does, sort of. A few square feet of crockery, cutlery, non-perishable foods, general kitchen clutter pushed out of the way into one small room. But what's down that little winding staircase at the end? Darkness, perhaps danger, a world of adventure? As our eyes adjust, we can make out wood, glass, a stillness perhaps eternally undisturbed, a sense that the place can get on quietly with its work without our help. As our ears attune to subliminal Gregorian chant, we fumble around the wall until we find an ancient Bakelite switch, and...

    Snazzy-Banner

    ...welcome to Snazzy's wine cellar! The chant gives way to the Ronettes singing Sleigh Ride, and strings of flashing Christmas lights adorn row upon row, rack upon rack of wines, a bottle encyclopedia of every vinous fascination, a cornucopia of Dionysian ecstasy! And certain gaps suggest that Snazzy is at home, dot dot dot...

    A chimp's tea party is a different thing altogether when Snazzy is hosting it. His guests are nonplussed, having brought along bananas, party blowers, a great many custard pies and even some tea. Instead, Snazzy has laid on some of their favourite wines from their time at Oddbins and they are swirling, sniffing and slurping. And these are truly fabulous wines. While they have all tried any number of wonders from Oddbins' glittering range, Snazzy has gone for the ones we'd normally save for a special occasion. Like a Christmas gathering!

    Notorious-Banner

    Notorious is enthused by a bottle of Gaja Dragomis Barolo"What I like about a good Barolo is that it will age for 20 years, even more, but if you open it now and let it breathe for a good while, it still delivers a profoundly rewarding wine experience. Oh my soul, herbs, spices, berries all coming together on the palate to give you what amounts to a delicatessen in a bottle. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, by the way, which is so named from the Nebbia, an October mist which used to herald the beginning of the harvest. They're rather more scientific nowadays." The other chimps are impressed by Notorious' fondness, unaware that his knowledge stems from time spent with a protective Sicilian family who had looked after him during a couple of, let's say, sensitive months.

    Barolo

    Crazy is enamoured of the Man O' War Dreadnought Syrah"This is from a world class winery, this is, 150 acres over a big spread of plots on Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay. Some of the steepest land in the area, giving the grapes a whole load of sunshine but with a cool breeze from the sea so they don't get too ripe and lose their unique character. Another savoury, Christmas dinner-type wine, with a blueberry and pepper vibe, stylistically not too far from a Northern Rhône masterpiece." What Crazy doesn't tell them is that he was drawn to the wine because "Dreadnought" sounded like his unstoppable approach to his social life.

    Dreadnought

    Snazzy himself is absorbed by a Chardonnay, World's End "Rebel Rebel" from California's Napa Valley. During the afternoon he has been asked once or twice how he funds his lavish lifestyle, breezily replying "oh, friends in high places, you know. And a couple on low places, just in case...". Right now, however, he is utterly consumed. "Now here's a winemaker for you," he announces to the diminishing attention of his friends. "Jonathan Maltus, played a big part in the Garagiste movement of the 1990's. Hugely impressive CV - Château Teyssier in Saint-Emilion, where you can also find his benchmark wine 'Le Dome', and now this." His eyes screw shut in a growing transport of vinous delight. "So complex yet so vibrant, pineapple and even pear drops on the nose, a crisp palate with the merest smidgen of oak, and that finish, it's still going on, it's, it's..." 

    Rebel

    He looks to the end of the table for approval and elaboration, an appropriate end to his rhapsody. "S'alright, I s'pose," concludes Outspoken. Snazzy looks at him as his face crumbles with disappointment. As his friends try to suppress their laughter, a custard pie hits him on the back of the head. Turning, unwisely, to see where it came from, two more hit him on either side of his face. The table falls into screeching, party blower uproar as Loveable pours a pot of cold tea down the front of Snazzy's trousers, and as he tries to back off he falls over a banana skin.

    Chimpmas has arrived.

  • Orang-Utangover!

    The bar has reached a Friday evening peak. Everybody is loud and excitable, Prosecco is flowing and there is love and laughter everywhere. The Headache Fairy will be busy tomorrow, but for now...

    "...So, then I said, right, I said 'And anyway, darlin, that's not a banana you're peeling!'" Mass guffaws. HAHAHAHA HA HA HA ha...ha...haaa...and fade to black. And silence.

    Crazy-Banner

    A chimpanzee is lying beneath a tree. Well, perhaps "beneath" dignifies the picture somewhat. "Underneath" might be better. And the tree is horizontal. On the floor surrounding the chimp are a number of festive baubles, and on a nearby sofa is a crumpled heap of clothes and blankets. Looping on his television screen is a video of a chimp invasion of a wine store. After a BLT he will realise how much fun last night's Christmas party was, but right now he is sulking about a lost battle with a tree.

    "Oi, Snazzy", he says to the sofa. The crumpled heap moves a little to show the head of another chimpanzee, this one topped off with an angel. "How did we get here?"

    "I think we started off with a couple of aperitifs, Crazy, Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, £27 a pop. Christmas has come early at that price..."

    LP

    "No, here!" I was a tree climbing aristocracy not so long ago, now I'm pinned to the floor by a Norwegian Spruce wondering how I'm going to get to work. I should be sitting in the sunshine picking fleas off my girlfriend, not working in a wine shop in Clapham!"

    "Well for a start, I warned you against putting your Christmas tree up after a night on the Brasso. You should have savoured some Bourgogne Blanc Girardin with me - elegant, pleasantly aromatic, and appealingly fruity. The wine's not bad either, boom boom!"

    Bourgogne

    "And as for your job, well, think about it. People want a shop with character, and they want the best of everything. The confused man with ten quid who'd never been in the place before - you gave him Coteaux du Pont du Gard - fruit, structure, intensity and complexity. And a rather saucy joke. Think how some small part of his life may have been changed by a wine of such quality. He might have had a Road to Damascus moment with a country wine from Avignon."

    Pont-du-Gard

    "...and the lady wanting a change from boring, boring Pinot Grigio? Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier - a lovely flowery nose and tropical fruit on the palate, balanced with a dash of citrus. She didn't think wine shopping could be such fun, and now she's looking at the more generic offerings with something approaching pity. You see, we send out little ripples of love and affirmation with every bottle, and though you can't see them, they cross your path with every step you take from the shop to Clapham Junction station. Every cosy looking, lamp lit window may have a Coudoulet Viognier behind it. If only you knew!"

    Snazzy-Banner

    "Cor blimey, Snazzy, you don't half talk some cobblers. And there's nothing elegant or pleasantly aromatic about you while you're piled up on my settee! Now get yourself out and get us a banana, lettuce and tomato, while I sort some coffee out."

    As the front door closes, Crazy Chimp's mind drifts to Snazzy's comments. To the tables he may have enriched in some way, to the laughter he's brought to unsuspecting shoppers, to the enrichment of his own mind and so many others with knowledge of the seemingly obscure or opaque. Clapham has become a beautiful place, and Christmas is his, for him to give to the world!

    Well, that's if he can get from under this tree now Snazzy's gone out...

  • The Chimpossible Dream

    Outspoken Chimp is sitting with friends watching himself on a video for the umpteenth time. The video concerns the seasonal takeover of a chain of wine stores by a bunch of likeable, if unruly chimps, and Outspoken has convinced himself and all around him that he is by far the star of the show. A former tabloid journalist, he has a great flair for persuading people to believe the clearly improbable. As another bottle of Girouette Sauvignon Blanc is passed around, the rather surprising finale takes him back to his journalistic heyday.

    Girouette-Sauvignon-Blanc

    'MUST WE FLING THIS FILTH AT OUR POP KIDS?' blared a headline in the Sunday People, back in the punk era, above a hysterical piece that accused the New Musical Express of covering the new music's attendant hysteria in tones verging on the hysterical. Even by tabloid standards, this was award-winning gobbledegook! Not to be outdone, Outspoken swung straight on to the bandwagon. Picking randomly on Mancunian no-hopers, Primate Scream, the Daily Spud's front page article 'PUNK ROCK DRUG HOUNDS BEAT UP VICAR' carried nothing to substantiate its headline, but seethed with enough ill-conceived outrage to drive the band's record sales through the roof. Outspoken subsequently left Grub Street behind, making the trek to Manchester to work as the band's PR. Tied up in the boot of their Austin Allegro, by his own account...

    Outspoken-Banner

    The band went from strength to strength, or at least from stunt to stunt, until their singer, Passionate Chimp, began to feel restless. The sincerity with which he dealt with the band's subject matter - creationism, species-ism, dodgy Clint Eastwood films - was beyond reproach, but he was wishing the audience would show their approval with something other than phlegm. Maybe they could leave flowers at the front of the stage, like they did for Barbra Streisand, or a bottle of deliciously elegant wine like Domaine Condamine Syrah-Mourvèdre, or even throw their...ahem, that's quite enough now...

    Syrah-Mourvedre

    On a night off in the middle of a tour, he wanders into a cabaret club in Liverpool. A listless turn has the audience tapping their toes politely while eating chicken in a basket and gazing into glasses of Vin Tres Ordinaire. During the interval, Passionate Chimp takes the stage and starts cautiously to sing 'The Way We Were', an evolutionary favourite. The bouncers move to throw him off until they notice that people are paying attention. He glides into '(They Long To Be) Close To You', an anti-creationism classic, and people are looking fondly into each other's eyes and swaying gently while they push the boat out with some Anxo Albarino.

    Anxo-Martin

    By 'Ape-ril In Paris', the original act has packed up and wobbled home, having drowned his mediocrity with Kavalan Concert Master Taiwanese whisky; and as Passionate brings the house down with 'Lover Come Back To Me', the man with the bucket of 'roses for the lady' has sold out completely, the whole lot piled up at the front of the stage! The audience are on their feet, grown men are in tears and the club is in uproar, and as Passionate Chimp gathers up the flowers, buried among them he sees - yes! - underwear! A Littlewoods panty girdle with a phone number written on it in lipstick. Passionate hasn't been here an hour and already he has arrived!

    Passionate-Banner

    Making notes in a dark corner stands Outspoken himself. Even he has never convinced so many people so unequivocally of his own greatness. He mooches over to a man in a sheepskin coat, his hands bedecked with sovereign rings, and starts making arrangements.

    Is this the end for Primate Scream? Will Tom Jones be dethroned by a chimpanzee? Will our hero dial the number on the Littlewoods passion killers? Tune in next week, and in the meantime keep the heat turned up with a bottle of La Multa Garnacha, a hot blooded continental with a powerful body that you won't want to share with anybody else!

    La-Multa

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • Existence, Nothingness and a bottle of Oddbins No.8, please!

    A chimp walks into a bar and asks for a pint of lager. "That'll be £8 please, sir. I must say, we don't get many chimps in here.", "I'm not surprised at £8 a pint. Anyway, am I in the right store here? I'm supposed to be talking about Oddbins No.8, and you seem only to have a selection of every day beers, most of them as predictable as that joke."

    No.8

    "Oh, right," said the barman, polishing a glass. "You should be in that wine shop just across the street. Dunno what's going on with those places, they're full of monk - er, apes, at the moment." In the snug, an orangutan looks up from the crossword in the Daily Spud and nods, sagely.

    Abandoning his beer, he knuckles his way to Oddbins' Chiswick store where his cousin, Curious, is reading a book entitled '5,000 Things You Should Know About Stuff'. "Did you know," says Curious instead of hello, "that the venom fangs of a Montpelier snake point backwards?"

    "Which makes them a sight less poisonous than what they serve behind the bar down the Hammersmith Gorilla," remarked Thoughtful. "But might you not want to swot up on craft ales, given that Oddbins' new collaboration beer will be here today?"

    Thoughtful-Banner

    "I have given it some thought, actually," mused Curious looking up from his book and rubbing his eyes through the empty frames of his pretend glasses. "It sounds like a fairly recent development, but the Campaign for Real Ale has been knocking about since 1971 to protect traditional ales and pubs from the tide of long hair and psychedelic depravity. Nowadays it seems some of the craft breweries have gone so far out that what would recently have been considered real ale might now seem like..."

    "Yeah, whatever. What gets me is, what is the opposite of craft beer? I mean, what is an un-crafted beer? If it hasn't been crafted, it doesn't exist, right? So, what I had earlier, which was patently untouched by human hand, was in fact not there. It was in an existential quandary, that's where it was, and it should have stayed there!" He rubs his tummy and emits a rumbling burp. "Pardon me! Better an empty house than a bad tenant, as they say!"

    Curious-Banner

    "Tsk, really, Thoughtful! Look, here's the delivery, let's open a bottle of Oddbins No.8 and make our own minds up." From beneath the counter Curious brings a well-thumbed volume entitled 'Everything You Need To Know About Things That Haven't Happened Yet!'. Opening it at a post-it note bookmark he advises: "A blonde style, brewed with a proportion of smoked wheat, using a yeast called bastogne, as used in the Orval Trappist brewery. A collaboration with Anspach & Hobday of Bermondsey, who started with what was little more than a home brew kit in a tiny railway arch". He raises his eyes and fondly inspects his beer. "I told you things were getting far out!"

    "Mmm, thicker texture than you'd expect from a blonde," enthused Thoughtful. "Bit of smoke to it as well. Still a fairly light body, nice fruit and a lovely sort of brioche feel on the finish. Absolutely delicious, possibly their best one yet! D'you reckon we could get the Hammersmith Gorilla to take some of this, as it was obviously crafted, therefore it is a concrete entity and they won't have to do refunds on sales made in an existential abyss."

    "We could just tell them it's gorgeous, you know..."

  • The Chimpmas Season is Upon Us!

    Glasgow, a city of contrasts; of culture of confusion, poetry and folklore, melody and melancholy, comedy and grit. All of human life is there, every incandescence of its beautiful cosmic infinity!

    And so it would seem, is the odd chimpanzee...

    In a dusty and forgotten room above a branch of Oddbins in Glasgow city centre, a chimp is reading a book about wine. He is a chimp with a thirst for knowledge, and is entranced by the section about the wines of Bordeaux. The differences between the two sides of the River Gironde, the great classification of 1855, the way the region can produce such accessible everyday wines while also being a byword for quality, luxury, history and so much more.

    Smart-Banner

    Just as every facet of humanity can be found in Glasgow, he muses, so can every aspect of wine culture be found in this one region. He checks the time. "It's getting dark early", he says to a now-closed book. "Soon be Christmas! Time to go downstairs...". He types out a message on his smartphone, amused that the technology bears his own name, Smart. Pressing send, he sneaks down a staircase and out onto the shop floor.

    In a stock room in another branch of Oddbins, in London's Crouch End, another chimpanzee is opening boxes of wine. Many of the bottles hold little interest for him, but hold on, this looks more like it. Let's see, Matetic Coralillo Winemaker's Blend, with a lovely picture of a, what's that, a cow?! No, it's Chilean, it'll be a llama.

    Matetic-Coralillo

    Notorious, as the chimp was baptised, knows and loves Chilean wine. He's been over there quite a few times while things cooled down on his manor. A quick look at the label tells him the wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, and he gauges, quite accurately, that he's looking at a brambly red fruit compote held up by toasty oak and vanilla notes. His wine acumen is an unsung part of his character.

    Notorious-Banner

    He's about to slip a bottle into his pocket when his phone pings, and as he reads the message, the bottle falls by the wayside. It's from Smart. It's time to get out on to the shop floor and sing the unsung.

    And in that moment, every branch of Oddbins unleashes its inner chimp, and the #12ChimpsofChristmas take over the estate. Loveable, Crafty, Thoughtful, Passionate, Snazzy - no, not the staff, those are the names of the chimps. And so are Curious, Hilarious, Outspoken, Sassy and Crazy; like daemons of folklore, each branch has a chimp that embodies its character.

    The #12ChimpsofChristmas will be quietly taking control of all of our stores as you read this. Visit your local branch to discover their inner chimpanzee, and stay tuned to see what they'll be getting up to as Christmas approaches.

    Twelve Chimps Of Christmas

  • ATTENBOROUGH ON CHRISTMAS: THE HUNT

    *Adopts hushed David Attenborough voice* Behold, the Christmas Shopper! This strange creature emerges once a year, on its winter migration down the High Street, to hunt down presents for its family. Whilst not essential to the group’s survival, they appear to do it for fun.

    The crew here at Oddbins have been studying their feeding habits and, along with their well-documented preference for raw salmon, turkey and Christmas pudding (although this last one seems to make some Christmas Shoppers confused and angry), we have noted their favourite Christmas drinks, which reveal a remarkable sophistication.

    Ever ritualistic, the Christmas Shopper always tracks down a sparkling wine which they pair with the salmon. Extraordinary. The particularly skilled hunters know the best hunting ground is in Oddbins and are able to track down rare Champagnes such Drappier Carte d’Or NV. Made by a family House, with a large proportion of Pinot Noir, it has incredible flavours of peach, quince and spice that make the perilous High Street a risk worth taking.

    Rush

    The circle of life is sometimes cruel and, whilst it giveth to the Christmas Shopper, it taketh away from the turkey. These two groups – mortal enemies – only ever do combat at Christmas and it only ever goes one way… Once the group has its turkey, they will only settle down for feeding time once the parents have found a decent bottle of Pinot Noir. Tagging devices placed on the parents suggests a favourite is the Cuvée G Burgundy from Albert Bichot. Experts believe it is a hit owing to the fact that it was made in collaboration with the renowned Bernard Loiseau restaurant, specifically to go with food. Yet again, we can only marvel at the skill of the Christmas Shopper.

    For the past two years, outside influences new to this species sent them into an unseasonably early frenzy on ‘Black Friday’. A curious phenomenon with worrying consequences, you can see the unique footage of the confused Christmas Shoppers captured by Black Friday experts below…

    Attenborough

  • PEPITA'S CHRISTMAS REVOLUCIÓN

    Let me tell you a story. It is my story. It encompasses microwaveable burritos, FIFA-style investigations, plebs at gates, Brangelina and wine. Bienvenida…

    It was three years ago to the day that I first stepped off the Ryanair plane (following another ‘successful Ryanair flight’ as they enthused over the tannoy), after a 12-hour flight from Mexico with a stopover in flipping Málaga. For a small penguin with big dreams, Luton was not what I expected (I can see why they call it Bedfordshire… zzz) Anyway, I said to the cab driver, ‘take me to Kentish Town, I hear this place is full of intellectuals and artists’ and he muttered something that sounded like ‘depends what century you’re living in’. When I arrive at my new ‘gaff’ as he called it I realised what he meant. Also, I thought ‘studio flat’ meant it would be lovely and bohemian but it does not mean that. So, when Christmas came, I was alone and depressed and all I had to eat was a microwaveable burrito. On New Year’s Eve I watched the Hootananny with Jools Holland by myself, with only half a bottle of tequila for company. Lo siento, if I hear the word ‘Hootananny’ one more time I swear I’m going to hurt someone.

    Pepita Banner for Blog

    This is me, Pepita. Brains and beauty, what can I say?

    A couple of months later I was walking around London and wondered into a wine shop. Crikey, the people spoke to me like they were reading an extract from the Holy Book. I didn’t like it. Then I went to the supermarket, but this time there was no one to talk to at all – so I went to the frozen fish section to cheer myself up. Then (I am aware I am sounding like Goldilocks and the three bears) I went to Oddbins in Kentish Town and the man (Ian was his name) has a big smile and says do I want to try this wine from Portugal. And it was at that moment, as our eyes met over a glass of ‘FP Branco’ that we fell instantly in love. Not with each other! I am not like that soppy love-sick Monty the Penguin and, anyway, I don’t go in for that inter-species business, unlike some unmentionable Arctic cousins of mine. There is just no accounting for them. Anyway, over time, I also kind of fell in love with Oddbins – with the wines (eclectic), the people (mad) and the way they don’t do all that smoke and mirrors pricing like “was £12.99 now £5.99” when, in reality, it's not even worth £5.99 (the British people are getting wise to that one). So I asked Ian if I could get a job with Oddbins and he asked me what my ‘skill set’ was. “Ian,” I said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am a penguin. My skill sets are principally eating fish and swimming.” But I could see that they’re not just going to give me a job out of sympathy, so I make a video showing them my wine journey. They rang me up, said they love it and asked me to come back in two years’ time to be The Face of Christmas 2014. I was so happy! I even made Ian point at me like Alan Sugar and say ‘Pepita, you’re hired’.

    Japanese

    My poster for Nikka From the Barrel. Those turkeys are for it.

    I had two years to prepare, so I went on a wine course and worked on my English but, as a smart penguin, I wanted to do more. So, I followed Angelina Jolie around the world. I thought about following Bob Geldof but Angelina manages to look tidy as well as talking about serious things, so I thought she would be a better mentor. I was right – she was fantastic. She took me under her wing, gave me lessons every day and told me I was part of the family. I felt like Oliver Twist. However, it turns out that she has a wildly possessive PA who decided that I am the devil incarnate and paid off the security guard to evict me and dump me at the zoo. (It’s OK – you can cry here).

    It was there and then, outside Los Angeles Zoo, with kids patting me on the head, trying to force-feed me sardines, that I realised I wanted to get back to Dear Old Blighty, have a nice cuppa tea and start my new job. But, when I returned last month, it was not the same country I left. The whole place has gone mad for penguins, because of that cheesy hombre Monty – that was my act! He’s stolen my act! OK I have no proof, but Oddbins think there might be a spy in their marketing department who is giving JL intel, because two years ago they just so happened to run a Christmas ‘Love’ campaign at the same time as Oddbins. So Oddbins have launched an internal investigation and my guess is that the outcome will not be dissimilar to the recent FIFA report if you catch my drift.

    So anyway, Monty has got heart strings twanging everywhere with his search for love. The UK seems to have imported that daft American sentimentality – whatever happened to a stiff upper lip? Tell you what, if Monty comes wondering my way looking for love, I’ll do us all a favour and put him out of his misery. Talking of rubbish American imports, what is Black Friday doing in the UK? Some company bosses must be rubbing their hands with glee – it’s like they’ve managed to secure a frenzied removal team for all the rubbish they couldn’t get rid of.

    Bordeaux

    Best use for bears, if you ask me.

    Dios mío the whole UK is like a big jar of pickles at the moment. One thing I’ve noticed is getting all the politicians worked up is immigration. You’ve got a Labour MP sneering at someone for hanging the St George flag – she should know better than that. Then you’ve got a Conservative-turned-UKIP MP who thinks everybody except the Anglo Saxons should be rounded up and shipped out. Nice. Then you’ve got the Lib Dems who… well I can’t recall their position on immigration. You know what? A plague on all their houses – they’re all as useless as each other. I just hope that they remember that immigration can have a positive effect on the economy. My cousin Carla was trying to explain that to the American officials at immigration and I think it would have gone better for if she hadn’t got angry and called them plebs. But she’s always had a mouth on her. I also hope the politicians realise that penguin migration is a different kettle of fish and we don’t get tangled up in this. Although, if they want to deport Monty, I am here to help.

    Beer

    Christmas with me will be present-filled and magical. Except if you are a pig. Or a bear. Or a turkey.

    Anyway, Ian is now standing over my shoulder and says I should probably step away from politics and tell people what I am going to do this Christmas. Fair point. Good head on his shoulders, Ian. So! I will be hijacking the Oddbins Twitter account (@Oddbins) and I am on the posters (Kate Moss has got NOTHING on me). I have had tête-à-têtes with all the Oddbins Managers and have rounded up the best wines and the best Christmas tips, so I will be dishing those out throughout December. As you’ve guessed, there will be a fair amount of ranting – I haven’t even got started on those blinking bears in my windows – and, lastly, I will be giving out gifts to people who make me laugh (I warn you I am a tough bird to please). Think of me as a kind-hearted, fork-tongued, wine-loving agony aunt.

    I look forward to meeting you.

  • HERALDRY, ORNITHOLOGY AND SPACE EXPLORATION

    Isn’t the retail calendar shamelessly predictable? Christmas has only just finished when the inevitable January sales roll round, next up is Celebrate Couples Day, soon we’ll be reminding you about your Mother (like you could forget) and before you know it, you’ll be knee deep in chocolate eggs and fluffy chicks, lambs, bunnies and the like. So we’re going to break free from the trade clichés that shackle us to this hamster wheel of holidays and tell you about heraldry, ornithology and space exploration instead……oh sorry, the powers that be have told us we can’t, we’ve got to tell you about Valentine’s Day, kissing and mushy stuff like hearts and flowers. Sorry we tried. How does one get off this infernal cycle?

    He may rival Cupid with his penchant for loosing arrows, but did anybody else notice how everybody’s favourite albino elf used the plural there? Nothing says “hopeless romantic” like a firm grasp on the concept of monogamy. If, like Mr Legolas Bloom you have a different lover for every day of the week, although Oddbins cannot condone this kind of behaviour, we are still on hand to help you out with Valentine’s Day gifts…

    We have six incredible new wines from a South American winery whose name rather fittingly means “beautiful heart”. Pora Py’a own vineyards in both Chile and Argentina, where they create a series of stunning wines made from single grape varieties. From Chile we have Carmenère, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc and from Argentina we have Malbec, Shiraz and Torrontes. Each one is an Oddbins classic in the making, but the standouts for us are the Torrontes, which is so jam packed with jasmine and rose notes that you won’t have to buy a bunch of flowers for February 14th, the Sauvignon, which is like a veritable tropical honeymoon, and the Malbec, which our buyer Ana described simply as “love at first taste”. And if you are counting them and thinking “that’s only six, didn’t you say a lover for every day of the week?” then please remember that although Orlando Bloom may be some kind of modern lothario, even that smoothest of operators: Craig David, had to chill for one of the seven days in the week.

    Mr Leno owns approximately 190 vehicles, including 90 motorcycles, so it is little wonder he resents spending a little extra on his wife, Mavis, on Valentine’s Day. Now, we may not be quite as cynical as Mr Leno, but there’s no denying that around February 14th prices on flowers, chocolates, underwear and restaurant menus seem to take a step in the wrong direction from a consumer perspective. Not at Oddbins though, we’re doing the exact reverse. To celebrate passion, love, companionship and all that mushy stuff, we’re knocking money off the most romantic of beverage of all: Pink Champagne. There’s £10 off the iconic Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne and £13 off the spicy and rose gold-hued Heidsieck Monopole Rosé Champagne. But our top tip is the Oddbins exclusive Antoine Remy Rosé Champagne, down to the unbeatably good value of just £25. By purchasing this glorious fizz, you aren’t paying for fancy marketing, celebrity endorsement or elaborate packaging, no, you are simply taking home pure boutique craftsmanship that has turned humble grapes into wild strawberries and cream, raspberry sorbet, cherry blossom and bubbling stars. Forget Jay Leno, when it comes to the most romantic night of the year Antoine Remy is the Tonight Show.

    If you don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day, don’t worry about it, it is just a day like any other. Except it isn’t this year, because this year it’s a Friday. So iron your best outfit, pour a gin and tonic (into yourself, not the iron) and hit the town. Caorunn is our gin of choice (currently £4 off), a crisp tipple made from a mixture of rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, Coul Blush apple, dandelion leaf and other botanicals. With that list of ingredients, the recipe sounds like a love potion, and to be honest it is: you’ll fall head over heels…

                                                                                                                       …for Caorunn.

    That’s all from us, except to say a very passionate and heartfelt toodles and to let you know that the next edition of Oddnews will definitely be about heraldry, ornithology and space exploration.

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