The fact that he is no longer amongst the quick somehow deadens the segue “…..but he isn’t drinking any less.” I have been drinking less of late and I’ve noticed that life without a drip feed of Cotes de Rhone becomes simpler and more pleasing day by day. Our house is not “on the mains”, being in the middle of nowhere, which means that bottled gas is the order of the day. In a cupboard, beneath the hob, looking like the interior of the boot/trunk of an Iraqi parked car in the “Hurt Locker”, nestle, cheek by jowl, two stubby metal gas canisters. One is in use whilst the other waits patiently in reserve, ready to spring into action when his rotund brother breathes his last. The weakness in this simple plan used to be me. In the five years that we have been in this house the changing of the gas bottles has not been as regular an event as the Changing of the Guard but the rage and the obscene language it causes would have persuaded Alice’s parents never to let her go out again with Christopher Robin as she seemed to gain new and more colourful expressions for body parts on each of their outings to Buckingham Palace where they apparently watched guards change. I found it easy to disconnect but impossible to connect. That was the past. Last night, as the flames beneath the pan on the hob began, unbidden, to reduce in intensity, I knew that I had to screw my courage to the sticking point as they or he said. Before you could say “……..” I had disconnected and reconnected with the slickness of a street magician. The eternal flame was once again burning bright at La Moussiere. The moment had that uneasy feeling of being too good to be true and put me in mind of the tale of a very unlucky Jewish man for whom nothing went right. In the life of this unfortunate what could go wrong invariably went wrong. He was accustomed to this and lived stoically amongst his disappointments. The morning that his buttered toast slipped, as usual, from his fingers and fell to the carpet, but incredibly and uniquely butter side up, seemed to him to be an epiphany. He hurriedly imparted the news of this miraculous sign to the local rabbi who went into convocation with the elders to resolve the burning question as to whether the unfortunate man’s luck had indeed changed for the better. It didn’t take a lot of convoking to realise that the poor sap had buttered his toast on the wrong side. Only my next attempt at the changing of the gas bottles will confirm on which side my bread is buttered but the brownies, for whom the chocolate, butter and muscovado sugar were melting over the inconstant flame, turned out to be pretty good.