Saturday, 14 January 2012

the tale of ale

Back in my halcyon days - the early seventies - we spent much of our time going to parties as young people are wont to do. Nowadays I spend most of my time trying to avoid them.  Generally I find parties quite awful affairs, I think I did back then too. Don't get me wrong, I'm a very sociable person and I love spontaneous get-togethers and, as one or two readers may be happy to agree, I'm in my element as mien host.  However, parties have always instilled some general feeling of misgiving, a feeling that I would be better off somewhere else.

Anyhow, I haven't been to a party for ages and will continue to try to wriggle out of one if it comes along.  So why mention them? Well, I'm sitting here next to a "mini cask" of Adnam's finest which I bought for Christmas and never got round to opening - well, until about half an hour ago, anyway. It is full of a flavoursome ale that I am enjoying as I write.  The quality is excellent.  But it is having a similar effect on me as Proust's Madelaines had on him. My mind has whizzed back to those awful angsty parties we used to gatecrash - actually, sometimes we were invited.

Of course, when you go to a party you are expected to take along a bottle of something or some cans of beer.  This is only polite.  What we did was to take along a Watney's Party Seven. I think we bought one for one of our own parties (obviously ours were the exceptions to the awful parties we endured) but somehow never opened it. Now, young men and a large amount of beer, why on earth had we not opened it? Well, for the simple reason that it was disgusting. To be perfectly honest, its very existence probably single-handedly kick-started the CAMRA movement.

Basically, we kept it hanging around for months on end purely just to take to parties.  Normally you would leave the booze you took to a party at the host's house, it is simply the polite thing to do.  Well, except in the case of  a Watney's Party 7.  The hosts usually asked you to take it away with you - its reputation was that poor!

Eventually, we tired of lugging this rather large tin of beer that nobody wanted around with us so we decided to get rid of it.  Now this all happened getting on for forty years ago so my memory is a little hazy on the particulars. What I do remember is that after a discussion about it we decided to get rid of it forever. No we didn't just leave it at someone's house and let them deal with it.  Oh no. That would have been far too simple. No, we took it outside of whoever's house we were partying at and buried it in the garden.  A far better idea.  A sort of buried time capsule if you like.

So at some stage, some poor sod was digging the garden with a garden fork and most likely pierced the said can and was sprayed with stale 1970s beer.  That must have caused a few scratched heads wondering how that got there. 

So, apologies to whoever that poor soul was.  They probably still wonder about it to this day . . .

Confession over.


Martyn Cornell said...

At least part of the reason you constantly bought it home, I suspect, was that no one ever had one of those metal openers with the triangular pointed end to punch a hole in the lids of the fecking things to get the beer out.

But it was awful, though - and we didn't like it.

Talking of beer, apologies if I've mentioned this before, or you've already seen it, by I love the Richard Thompson quote from a year or so ago about stage technique -

Interviewer: "In the early days of Fairport you were always so shy you skulked at the back of the stage with your back to the audience – how did you transform yourself into the strutting front man we now know?" RT: "Six pints of Abbot Ale always helps!"

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Martyn, I always wince a little bit when I've written about beer and you make a comment - purely because usually I've said something ridiculous that you can disprove so easily. Your comments are always welcome though!

I remember those metal opener things - popular, for some reason, with campers, I believe. A version exists on most Swiss Army Knives, too. I think we wouldn't open them because we had once been at the opening of one before!

RT was a great drunk in the early days - a totally reformed character now of course - now a Muslim since about 1974. My previous dealings with him both at and at Stevenage College when I booked him as support to Al Stewart were quite less than sober occasions. He'd know about Abbot, I suppose, because of living in the old Angel at Little Hadham.

I guess a little bit of artistic licence is at play in that comment - but evidently he was a major imbiber.

Martyn Cornell said...

Yes, I'm sure you're right, and the Little Hadham connection was where he picked up the Abbot habit - I can imagine Dave Swarbrick was fond of an Abbot or six, too, and the Nag's Head at Hadham Ford was a Rayment's tied house and would have almost certainly sold draught Abbot. When the Stevenage Folk Club was at Bowes Lyon House, it had casks of Rayment's BBA and Abbot on the bar, and I, not knowing much about beer then and not realising how strong Abbot was, used to get completely blotto on it.

Strange synchronicity: I was helping my Irish sister-in-law set up a VPN on her laptop here in Hong Kong so she could watch BBC iPlayer, and the server we were connected to in the UK, the IP address revealed, was in Stevenage: so there we were, in the Far East in reality but virtually, at least, in the heart of North Herts.

Dave Leeke said...

Well, you can take the boy out of Stevenage . . .

So, you're in Hong Kong, now - for a man who likes English beer, you seem to put a lot of distance between yourself and it.

I used to drink Rayment's in The Roebuck back in the mid-70s. I must admit to not really being an Abbot drinker, I've always tended towards the 3.8 - 4.5% beers. We've had a pub taken over in our town by a micro brewery (St Jude's) so I'll be checking them out soon.

I can't remember drinking at Bowes Lyon - I may have been a bit young. Ha! This from the man who started drinking at 15 . . . The New Resurrection Club at The Hermitage and The Marquis of Granby - neither worried about ID in those days.

Andy Wright said...

To be fair Dave, we felt certain you didn't need ID because you were so tall! Such simple times......15 years old but he's tall,we reasoned so they will definitely think he's 18....'Here's 11p Dave, can you get me a pint of Mild please?' 'Cheers mate'.

Dave Leeke said...

It always worked! And we got into X films.

I was half expecting you to tell me that it was only a Party 4!

11p a pint and 18p for Harp lager. Ah well, I'm off to the St Jude's pub to try it out . . .

Martyn Cornell said...

Actually the beer scene here is surprisingly good: there's even a microbrewery doing a very acceptable pint if handpumped ale … watch out for blog mentions …