The bottle stood motionless on the kitchen table as I approached with the power drill ready to make my attack. My association with this object had started with desire, but had changed into hatred and, as the day had progressed, into challenge. Pure challenge. In my mind this bottle had become almost human in its defiance as this object had resisted all attempts to allow access to its content. Earlier that morning, the clear blue sky and a light, warm sea breeze promised a pleasant day ahead and in all my imaginings, I could never have anticipated how events would turn out.
I left the supermarket in high spirits anticipating my day trip to France with some bread rolls in my sports grip resting close to a bottle of sparkling wine. The image of a late breakfast in France looked an attractive prospect. The trip to the hover port had been uneventful and with my ticket and passport now safely in my bag, I moved on towards the departure lounge. Even though there were no shutters in place, the refreshment bar was apparently closed as I felt a growing thirst-like hunger. Rapidly images flicked through my mind of how to satisfy my immediate needs and the picture of the wine bottle entered my thoughts. I opened the bag and lifted out the bottle, feeling a momentary doubt about what I planned to do. My thirst quickly despatched any hesitation. After all this was a pre-Christmas day out and taking refreshment a little earlier than usual didn't seem to be an issue.
I removed the metal cage covering the cork and prepared to push out the soft material to access the cool contents within. The curved top of the cork bent slightly as I pressed up and down upon it with my thumbs. The cork didn't budge and there was no familiar squeak as the cork should have been twisted upwards and out from the neck of the bottle.
The loudspeaker announced the imminent departure of the flight to France and I put the bottle back in my grip as I joined the small number of my fellow passengers and moved towards the waiting hovercraft. The giant propellers were turning slowly and blowing gently against the light breeze as it stood with its skirt flattened under the weight of the machine on the apron. I took to my seat and waited. The engines grew noisy as the hovercraft was lifted up on the cushion of air and swung around to point towards the open sea. The machine quickly increased its speed and flying over the sea even if only a few feet above the surface was very uncomfortable. I couldn't see anything through the spray all over the windows and thoughts of a car without tyres or suspension came into my mind. Any excitement I had felt about my first trip on a hovercraft were quickly dashed. Travel by hovercraft seemed very functional and not particularly interesting.
Although the journey was very bumpy it didn't affect my feelings of hunger or thirst and my thoughts quickly turned to the image of the wine bottle in my bag. I retrieved it with the full intention of opening it directly and having an early breakfast. I continued to massage the cork to effect its extraction. It still refused to move. I began to regret not having a conventional bottle opener, even though this type of cork shouldn't require one. I pushed it and tried to twist it. I tried a push and a twist together. Nothing. I grabbed the cork head firmly in my hand and more forcefully pulled it. Twisted it. Twisted and pulled it. No movement. I left my seat in search of cabin staff.
I was directed to the car deck where I found a crewmember wearing a red overall. I explained my problem and he disappeared to retrieve his toolbox. While he was gone I looked at the cars in front of me. Never before had I seen vehicles bounce to the full extreme of the wheel springs only held on the floor by the restraining chains. If the chains had been a little weaker the cars would have left the ground and really flown over to France. I vowed at that moment to never bring my car onto a hovercraft.
The engineer returned and we tried pliers, screwdrivers and various other strange looking tools from his box. The cork remained in the bottle. The last action was to jam the cork in the jaws of a closing door and tug on the bottle. The cork would not move. I thanked him for his help and returned to my seat even more thirsty than before all the exertion.
I disembarked from the hovercraft with my unopened bottle of wine in my bag and a grim look on my face. I knew that I should have abandoned the bottle, but it had become a challenge to me. A glass bottle would not beat me though at that moment it did appear to be winning. I bought some water in a plastic bottle after I had cup of coffee, with the bread rolls left in my bag. I had no desire for food.
A thought struck me that the stone kerb would be a good place to crack open my glass bottle until I realised this would not be such a good idea. The contents were under pressure and smashing open the bottle would probably end up with me being showered in glass. It could even be a dangerously explosive experience. I decided to forget this brainwave and simply move on.
The day progressed and I spent a large part of that day looking around shops and noticed that all the local buses displayed a sign in French meaning a Happy New Year. By that time I was in a festive spirit since after several cups of coffee, each being chased by a brandy, thoughts of the wine bottle were almost gone. The bottle was quite heavy so I did get a constant reminder that it was still with me.
The return hovercraft trip across the channel was more bumpy than the outward journey, but I eventually reached my home. I emptied all my bags onto the kitchen table and there stood that bottle with its battered cork still inside its neck. It seemed to be looking at me. And I could see a smile in the glass of the bottle. The time had come for a showdown. I would have the last laugh and the cork would be beaten. I did need a power drill to help me. The bottle stood upright without a cork and the contents still sparkled almost, it seemed, in contempt.
On my lounge wall is a picture of a hovercraft covered by falling snow. A careful look will reveal that the snow is writer's correction fluid painted on top of many fragments of cork.
© Louis Brothnias (2007)