Friday, January 29, 2010

Buckfast Wine and Monks' toe nails

There is a long list of things I ought to be posting about but feel the need to 'lighten up' a little.

My friend 'Pelerin' has reminded me that Buckfast wine was in the news recently as being a favourite tipple of 'yobs' north of the border. Apparently someone complained that there were 'bits' in it, and elsewhere it is suggested that these bits are monks' toenails, left in the winepress after weary hours of monastic grape treading.

All I can say is that the Buckfast quality control must have slipped since I lived in Devon about 15 miles from the Abbey. There were no bits in it that I recall. In those days (1970s) I was teaching in Newton Abbot and used to keep a bottle of the concoction in my staff room locker against the occasional times when things got too much and I needed medicinal fortification. A dear colleague of mine (on the same staff) reads this blog. I hope it amuses him to remember those far off days when we were young enough to recover quickly from the daily rigours of the 'chalk face', with or without the assistance of Buckfast tonic wine.

Don't worry, a bottle lasted me ages and it can't be more than 30/40% proof. I never drank it at home. Benedictine/Chartreuse it certainly isn't, the flavour being marginally less repulsive than other proprietary tonics. As to the bouquet, if I was conscious enough to notice it, then I knew I was not distressed enough to need it.

As for the yobs, on the eve of his feast: Saint John Bosco, pray for them.


pelerin said...

So it's 'marginally less repulsive' than other tonics! That's good news.

I wonder if readers remember the tonic which was called Parishes food? I loved it as a child - apparently it rotted the teeth so I can remember drinking it through a straw usually after recovering from the 'flu. If Buckfast tonic tastes anything like that then I could well get hooked!

Incidentally loved your reference to the 'chalk face'. My own teaching career as a student teacher only lasted one term for various reasons. I look back on it fondly although when I think how old those dear little five-year olds would be now I wonder where the intervening time has gone.

sandy said...

I have to say I never buy any wine with the word 'Tonic'in its title.Only because it is bound to taste horrible...I did however, years ago in Italy,buy some perfume,supposedly made by monks, called "The Air of Capri".I think the name was a flight of fancy,as to begin with, it was fairly pleasant and
fresh,but quickly,within a few days,dissolved to an oily gel at the bottom of the bottle....

Jane said...


Sorry don't remember Parishes food. But I do remember that huge jar of malt at home, and orange juice with cod liver oilat Nursery School. Loved them both and thank Mervyn Pyke to this day, God rest his soul.

As I say, I only had the 'Buckie' at school as a restorative medicine. I think you can buy a product called Pope Pius X's, or is it Pius IX's, Eau de Cologne. Bound to be a better bet than 'Air of Capri' as you describe it!

God bless you both and thanks for your support as always.


umblepie said...

Jane, A little off topic, but interested to read that you were teaching in Newton Abbot in the 1970's. My family lived at Ilsington near Haytor, for about 21 years in total, allowing for a break of about 5 years in the late 1970's. My children attended St Joseph's School, Newton Abbot,during the 1970's, the headmistress was Sister Josephine, and the Parish Priest was Fr Considine. My wife reminds me that Mr Carty was also a teacher there. Good memories! Brian. PS I rather agree with your opinion of Buckfast Wine. I think I've only tried it once and that was enough for me.

Jane said...


I lived first in Teignmouth and then in Lustleigh. Often drove through Ilsington. I taught at Newton Abbot Grammar school and was there throught its transition into Knowles Hill Comprehensive. I left is 1979 and came back to London. I may have crossed paths briefly with your children becuase in 77/78 post-Bullock report I was given the job of writing the Knowles Hill Language across the Curriculum Policy. One of my concerns was to break down the barrier that existed beteen the small primary schools and the 'big' secondary school, so I went round all the primary schools in Newton, trying to build bridges and make the coming transition easier for the 10/11 year-olds. Don't think much happened about it after I left. The policy probably ended up in a drawer somewhere. However, my reason for return to London was private and not professional.

I'll always love Devon, and I often say about this part of France, that it is Devon 'writ large'.

pelerin said...

Jane - oh the jar of malt! I had completely forgotten that. Wasn't it called Virol? One table spoonful a day if I remember rightly - delicious. How could I have forgotten that? Thanks for the memory.

Have not yet had the opportunity of trying out the Buckfast wine. Shall let you know what I think of it when I do!

Jane said...

Pelerin, yes Virol rings a bell.

My former Devonian 'staff-mate' now tells me Buckie is only 13%! I remember checking to see that it was not tooo strong to have in my locker as a tonic! Obvioulsy I would have gone up to 30% before feeling that I was on dangerous ground!