I'm a man with few vices.
The fact that I feel a little uneasy referring to myself as a 'man' despite being within spitting distance of 30 is something that I should probably go into some other time.
But as I said, I'm a man with few vices.
I don't take drugs, don't smoke, rarely touch the booze and for a couple of months now I've committed the pleasures of our friend chocolate to the misty realm of memory.
However, after coming across it in some shop or other last year, I've become a big fan of Diet Coke Vanilla.
I am aware that this news may shock and even disgust some of you, but with head held high I can admit my fondness with no shame.
After a stint in the mid-90s where 'normal' Diet Coke would habitually substitute water as fluid of choice for warding off dehydration (you can swig it from the bottle and thus no tiresome glass washing, see?), I cut back the Coke-related intake to the occasional bottle where a shop offered little alternative for thirst quenching. In the last couple of years juices became a firm friend, and added the leering mask of 'healthfulness' to the consumption so henceforth I skip along blissfully content with all the goodness flowing freely into my maw.
However, the appearance of the new Vanilla variety caught my attention and demanded a sampling, aided by the happy memories of an alcopop I had ten year ago, a clear liquid involving the taste of vanilla ice cream but with an alco kick. I bought it in a 7-11 type place in North Finchley, it was a warm but overcast day in the approach to summer. I suppose I should be worried by how vivid that is but chuckling, I brush it aside and pretend it isn't there, on with the story...
So there I am, with my half litre of Vanilla Diet Coke probably in some cinema or other because why pay their prices, right? And it's a delight. Sweet, tasty, refreshing, the vanilla is evident and I become a fan. From then on, If I'm out and about and thirsty, I check out the cokes in the shops before juices to look for my seductive vanilla temptress.
Towards the end of 2005 I notice that I'm coming across the brown vanilla goop less frequently, and the new corner shop that opened down the road is selling their cans and bottles off in some special offer, hinting at the end of the line for my fizzy friend. Still, I didn't dwell too much, and seeing as I still found the odd can or bottle every couple of weeks, I wasn't too worried, but just recently it seems the supply is drying up.
Just about every beverage purveyor I frequented has come up wanting, and so I am left with one last outpost of sugar-free sweetness, shining like a beacon in my travels. I don't know how long the supply will last or if the bottle I had today will be my very last, but such is the understanding I have for those of you who may share my affection, I'll let you in on the location of what may be our last hope:
On Shaftesbury Avenue is what I think is now called a B2, the Budgens shit version of a Tesco Metro or Sainsburys Local, (basically it's a 7-11) and it's opposite the back of the Trocadero on what I think is the corner of Rupert St. The entrance is in the corner of the store, and if you head to the back you'll find them on the far left side of the stacks of coke bottles in the drinks cabinet-thing, £1.09 per bottle.
No, don't thank me, I share your pain.
So farewell Vanilla Coke, we've had some good times. It's never easy saying goodbye, but times change and we must move with them...