Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ivy and Margaret Fall Out over the Cydrax

It seems it wasn't only dinner that could be something of an ordeal chez Ivy Compton-Burnett and Margaret Jourdain. After lunching with them at their Kensington mansion flat in May 1942, James Lees-Milne recalled that 'we ate lentil soup, white fish with sauce and steamed potatoes, a rhubarb and ginger tart, Morecambe shrimps and biscuits. Margaret Jourdain opened a large bottle of Cydrax, poured out Thesiger's* and my glasses and was about to pour her own when Miss Compton-Burnett shouted, "Margaret! Remember at breakfast it was decided that you were to finish the opened bottle of flat Cydrax."' Cydrax - there's classy...
 This stuff, readers of a certain vintage might recall, was a noxious sweet fizzy drink based on carbonated apple juice. It died out here in the Eighties, but lives on in Trinidad, of all places, where Cydrax and, in particular, its pear-based cousin Peardrax are regarded as quite sophisticated drinks that somehow express the exotic essence of Trinidad and are ideal for toasts at weddings and suchlike happy occasions.
 Those of us who grew up in the late Fifties and early Sixties have reason to be grateful to Cydrax. It lured our parents, deceived by the name, into thinking that cider itself was innocuously non-alcoholic, so the real thing was widely provided as something for the children to drink on social occasions. We were more than grateful for this first taste of the pleasures of alcohol. 'The children seem to have enjoyed themselves,' remarked the parents as their flushed, glassy-eyed offspring struggled into their coats for the journey home. We had indeed...

* This was Ernest Thesiger, actor (Bride of Frankenstein, etc), dandy, embroiderer and close friend of Ivy and Margaret. Beverley Nichols said of him 'Nothing is more terrifying to me than to see Ernest Thesiger under the lamplight doing his embroidery.'

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