Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Little Afternoon Whine Wine

A week or two ago, I received a phone call from our friend and fellow gin & tonic poker-aficionado Mr. N who was bursting with good news. He saw, on a rather grotty side street (Dayat Aoua to be precise) in lower Agdal, just past Dirty Label Vie (as opposed to Clean Label Vie in Souissi), a brand-spanking new, yet-to-be open Nicolas wine shop. Its location on this particular street ... in this particular neighbourhood of Agdal ... in Rabat ... in Morocco for that matter ... was about as incongruous as a Carmelite nun at an Al Qaeda bootcamp in the foothills of Afghanistan, but there it was. A spiritual oasis - an oasis of spirits - in this otherwise dull little city. Not to be thwarted by a locked door, Mr. N had knocked on the plateglass and was told that the store would be open soon. His confidante was true to her word.

Mr. Cat in Rabat and I have a personal connection with this wine shop - a handful of years ago when we had eloped to Paris, we would pass the Nicolas shop located near the École Militaire métro stop every day as we set out to explore the city. So today, we decided to make the onerous trek to pay our respects, to pay homage, and to pay for a bottle or two of wine at Rabat's own Nicolas.

The walk through lower Agdal will never be featured in "A Walking Guide to Rabat", nor should it be. As readers of my blog are well aware, the sidewalks of the city are fraught with urban landmines that ensnare walker's ankles and feet in their nefarious maws. If one were to look hard enough, I suspect that the entrance to Hell might be found lurking among the city's ubiquitous gaping holes. Nonetheless, off we went, winding and wending our way, with virtually no incident. Yes virtually. Although we would amazingly not have to jump into the bushes to avoid becoming road paste (that would be on the return trip), we would have to watch as a 12-year old girl repeatedly rolled a large rubber ball at a cat - at the cat's head to be exact - while it was eating its lunch. A local hanoot owner had kindly set out a dish of chopped meat for the cat and the girl, who by all rights should have been cut up and fed to the cat, stood a few paces away. And rolled her ball, aiming squarely at the cat's head. And hitting the cat's head. Then repeated the process.

Poor puss. Vile child.

As we approached, the child's mother was standing a few metres aside shouting something to her, presumably reprimanding the girl - or possibly telling her to lob the ball overhand - who knows? When she did it again - again hitting the cat - I asked her what in God's name she was doing. I would have to check with Mr. CinR but I may have raised my voice. I'm not certain. For good measure, I added a hand gesture known the world over to indicate that I thought she was fucking insane. She stared at me blankly (perhaps my suspicions were well founded) and her mother glowered at me as we passed by. Yes, I know that it's one thing to censure your own child and another thing for a stranger to do it. It's also yet another thing to hit an animal repeatedly in the head.

We continued on our way. The Devil Seed Child continued rolling her ball. The cat continued having its meal interrupted.

We arrived at Nicolas. It was as exciting - and woefully empty - as we had anticipated. It is a veritable candy store of wine and spirits, and although today we could only afford its more modest offerings, we walked out blissfully content with two bottles from their Les Petites Recoltés collection: a rosé and a white, sun-kissed summery wines of pink and chartreuse from the Languedoc. For 30 dirhams each. Can life get any better? Undoubtedly, but not in Agdal.

Thanks to Mr. N. for his excellent eyesight.

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