Frank

My sister, on seeing pictures of our clutter neatly arranged on shelves in the basement, was lamenting her own lack of basement. K suggested giving her husband a pick-axe and a miner’s helmet, which made her yelp with horror, because her husband is exactly the kind of guy who would grin and go for it.

Then she reminded me that we have a friend, Frank, who excavated his own wine cellar underneath a ground-floor terraced flat in Edinburgh (gosh, the neighbours must have loved that).

I had completely forgotten about that until now, probably because it didn’t surprise me at the time. Being a wide-eyed flat-renting student at the time, I tended to take in new experiences with little surprise, and I must have assumed that tunneling under your kitchen was just the kind of thing grown-up home owners did.

As I recall, he started digging a hole in the corner of his kitchen one day and what had been a little pantry turned into an entrance to a wine cellar. He also built a trailer for their car and hauled it (and the wife and two small kids) to France, just after the trade borders opened, filled the trailer with luscious and duty-free French wine and then wobbled the lot back to Edinburgh, which is at least 590 miles and a sea-crossing one way, even if you even just stick your toe over the open border.

A trailer full of wine seemed so decadent at the time, that building a wine cellar to house it just went with the territory. I received a couple of bottles for my 21st birthday, something that also seemed quite decadent.

Frank once made me a fabulous creme brulee, finished by blowtorch — and I’m not talking about one of those wimpy culinary ones, either.

He keeps bees now.

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