Avoiding parentheses

David Clarke, sommelier and Australian – but not a bastard, he assures me in a tweet – has just hinted to me, in kindly Antipodean fashion, that I use too many parentheses. This is a posh word for brackets, but Australians are understandably insecure and like to demonstrate that they know fancy stuff. David emails cuttingly: “I think you average around 12 per post. Perhaps time you invested in an em-dash or two?” Trouble is, I confess, I already also use too many dashes – even if they are often ordinary hyphens rather than the more generous em-dashes.

I admit to being rattled by this charge, as well as amused. I did initially larf. Out loud-ish. Being a very secure, non-Oz person. But I am determined to use no parentheses at all this whole posting. Please realise, David, that I have already grimly and resolutely deleted half a dozen. Just to show that I can avoid them, if I choose.

It reminds me somehow of when I spoke confidingly to Angela Lloyd recently and wondered whether I was perhaps drinking just a little too much wine these days. It was after I confessed to drinking a whole bottle of Boplaas Port, amongst other things – though one kind person did have the kindness to email me and point out that it was a very small bottle. Angela was sure I was fine, so long as I observed an alcohol-free day each week, as she claims to do.

perecA whole day! I was aghast. Well, it’s an ambition to cling to, along with the plan to use no brackets. I think the latter might prove the easier challenge. After all, a literary hero of mine, the Frenchman Georges Perec, author of the great novel called, in translation, “Life: A User’s Manual”, wrote another novel without a single instance of the letter “e”. That novel was called, not in translation, “La Disparition”, and I haven’t read it, though I’ve read his long, brilliant, fascinting and entertaining masterpiece twice in English, and even bits of it in French. Incidentally, I believe there was. previously, a 1939 novel in English also written without a single e: “Gadsby”, by Ernest Vincent Wright. If two novels, and various translations of the French one, can be written without the most common vowel, then surely a second-rate wine-blogger can write 600 words of rubbish without using brackets?

But this has all derailed me. I was this evening intending to write a deeply serious, and potentially interesting, piece comparing two very different, but both first-class, wines: Craig Hawkins’s Testalonga El Bandito King of Grapes 2013 and Rust en Vrede 1998. With my mid-evening precarious state of balance attacked, that now seems too formidable a task, so let me postpone it and instead tell of my delight in discovering the old brandy-still at the Myburgh’s Paarl farm, Joostenberg, which I visited last Saturday.

Joostenberg-stillI shall be writing more, enthusiastically, about Tyrell Myburgh’s wines fairly soon. Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the still. What is remarkable about it – the still, not the photo –  is that it is intact. After the KWV claimed and legislated a monopoly over distillation after 1924, inspectors used to go around rendering inoperable the stills that existed on most Cape winefarms. They punched holes in them, or removed vital parts. Illegal, and no doubt pretty pernicious, brandy flowed. Tears flowed.

Somehow, as a result of a valiant stand-off, according to the tale relayed to me by Tyrrell, the Joostenberg still survives intact, and Tyrell has plans to one day modernise it and set it to work. Trouble is, I think he’s too ambitious, and wants to make good brandy, which is not an easy thing to do. Whereas the glorious Cape tradition is to make BAD brandy. What’s wrong with that? (Or with brackets, for that matter?)

6 thoughts on “Avoiding parentheses

  1. Pffft! I have the same “problem” when I write. Thing is, parentheses are pretty damn practical i.t.o. adding tone and colour to the written word. It would have been a much, much worse issue to deal with had you lived in a country where you had to support the Wallaby rugby team.
    I’m looking really forward to read about that Testalonga El Bandito King of Grapes, because I’m pretty sure Craig didn’t find a cool Swartland pocket planted to some old Riesling vines.

  2. Ha ha! Very good Tim!

    Leave it to you lot to transform a humorous observation on grammatical habits — in a personal email — into a chance to broadcast some vitriolic xenophobia!

    See you at the bottom of the barrel!!


  3. Tim, the bad news is that you need 2 consecutive days per week without alcohol to get any benefit from abstinance (or so I’m told)!

    • The immediate benefit is to your wallet, so only in times of great financial stress.

      But think of all the antioxidants you miss out on then (you may need to spend even more on supplements too mantain your health).

      I stay with my rule that life is too short to drink bad wine, but too long to drink only expensive wine.

      Tim – as the kind person – a pleasure. I bought one of those small Boplaas Tawny’s 9+ years ago on honeymoon and we will definitely open and finsh it on our anniversary next year. My wife may even help out with a small glass…

      Ellipses, parenthesis & dashes covered!

  4. Have to admit I’ve been lax about that alcohol-free day-a-week recently. It’s done more to prove ‘yes, I can’ than any material health benefit, though I do drink copious glasses of water as well as wine with meals.

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