25th May 2020

Darling Paloma,

Paula, who makes my morning coffee and greets me every day with the kindest of smiles, handed me the recipe to a cocktail called Paloma. It is a tequila-based mixed with lime juice and pink grapefruit soda:

Sounds delicious. And perhaps there’s a clue to your personality in its formula.


My favourite bar in the Bay Area or should I say favourite barman was George. He had a reputation for mixing the best drinks in town. He took a great deal of care over the mixing and shaking, each drink of particular importance.

Someone once said that planned merriment never works, but my visits to George prove the proverb wrong. The bar had a series of alcoves. They were occupied by the solitary and the seducers. The solitary would slink away with their resentments, while the seducers conjured casuistry. George made good drinks but was not the happiest man. I listened as he wallowed about lost love, his lost children and baseball. He spoke in between serving customers and taking sips from his reddish-black cocktail on the sideboard. After a couple of visits, he insisted I get into the bar through the back door. More welcoming, he said which I wasn’t sure about but thanked him for the gesture. It’s happened a few times in my life. Perhaps it’s my definition of success; being allowed in the back doors of bars throughout the world.

Aunt Roberta

‘ You sure about that?’ he asked.

How dare you! I thought. It looked pretty harmless to me. I gulped it down rather than take a moderate sip. There’s a lesson for you to learn, never try to compete with a seasoned bartender. Wow! It was a clap of thunder that pulled me off my barstool as I tried to catch my breath back.

“What the hell was that!?”

‘ Aunt Roberta,” George laughed, ‘ gin, vodka, brandy, blackberry liqueur and absinthe. A prostitute called Roberta concocted it to help her clients drown their sorrows.’

When I returned to San Francisco a couple of years later, the bar had changed. Although still dark, it felt lighter. George’s sorrow had disappeared. He had found true love and was going to be a dad again; thirty years after his first child! I remember being so happy for him. He was a changed man.

George ( where in the world are you ?) once said Aunt Roberta suited me. Was never sure what he quite meant? I was not obviously depressed, was I? I hadn’t thought of the dark cocktail for a while, well not since yesterday when the recipe for Paloma was handed over. So if you are to have characteristics similar to the Paloma cocktail and I have peculiarities like George’s clap of thunder, I wonder what drinks describe best some of my close friends or even our present leaders. It is a good question that may just reveal something.

I’m heading out to the park now and will spend my walk on this last bank holiday before you arrive, thinking about it.

Three weeks to go now.



Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th, 2020.

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