I’m currently sitting here nursing a hangover and listening to a cassette of the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy (although I don’t believe the Conspiracy had started at this point) playing a live gig in Oxford in around 1984. A gig where I was standing in the front and got a (kind of) name check during a riotous rendition of A Few of My favourite Things. I realised that it’s been at least 15 years since I played this tape and I’m quite impressed by the sound quality; even if me, the wife (girlfriend at the time), Joolz, Mitch and the rest of our small entourage from Northampton were the only noisy people in the crowd.
Anyhow, all this nostalgia is not why I’m here today. I’m here to talk about my hangover and how I came about it.
One Ell and I went for our customary weekly drink up the Queen Adelaide and Paul the landlord asked us if we wanted to be two of the judges at this year’s BIG Beer festival at Delapre Abbey. I realise that’s like asking if the pope is catholic, but sadly One El couldn’t do it because he has to earn money, so I roped Roger into it and we got to Delapre for 8pm. I was like an excited kid all day – what a result!
Except Paul got the times wrong and we needed to be there for 6pm; far too early for either of us and therefore we missed the judging and therefore the free beer... So we bought some tickets and decided to get drunk anyhow. Except, neither of us were particularly enamoured by the 300 odd beers on offer. Yes, you heard that correctly. Blonde Volupta from Oldershaws was a divine beer, but at 5% isn’t for a session unless you want to be praying to God on the big white telephone at 2am. Salopian Lemon Dream is still a good, zesty pint and at 4.3% is borderline session ale. But, of the other 8 beers we tried, none of them could really compete. Even my White Squall from the hallowed Newby Wyke Brewery was below par and it was the only one of the 4 from the Lincolnshire brewery that was ready to drink; so I didn’t get to try their new Summer Session 3.8% jobby.
It was cold; there was rain in the air; there was barely a seat available and yet it was about a fifth of the attendance that will be there tonight and tomorrow and my sciatica decided to play up and on top of a massive curry and biryani for dinner, by the time I got to my 5th half I was feeling bloated and uncomfortable. So we decided to go home. Neither of us was impressed with the beer on offer; disappointed that yet again there was no Oakham beer and a tad underwhelmed – the beer festival, which we’ve been to four years on the trot now, seems to be declining rather than improving and that’s a shame considering all the great beers out there.
So we began the long walk back into town – the Abbey for those who don’t know is about a mile from the town centre, maybe a tad more, but the last ¼ of a mile is up hill. Not a steep hill, just a debilitating one for a fat, half pissed bloated bastard. Except, I wouldn’t have been half pissed if Roger hadn’t, quite easily, twisted my arm about having a swift pint in the Malt Shovel. The Beer festival might not have had any Oakham ales, but the Malt did; my favourite Bishop’s Farewell and their new beer Akhenatan, which is essentially like their funky Citra beer but with massive hairy balls! We had a pint and a half in there and would have had more for fear of not having enough money to get the taxi that Roger had declared we were getting home.
There was more atmosphere in the Malt than there was at the Festival; there was a very fit young lady playing in the darts team, which we struggled to keep our eyes off; especially her cosmic leggings and feeling drunk enough not to feel like a lecherous old git, we left without a pang of voyeuristic guilt. The walk from the Malt to the taxi rank means walking up the hill and by this time my new trainers were screaming at my feet and the extra beer had not made me feel any less bloated and I trudged past the big church, I wondered if I was actually supposed to have enjoyed myself. Roger keeps things buoyant, but even he couldn’t compensate for the cold, the wind, the decidedly February like conditions and it brought back memories of our 2000 Trees festival in 2009, where July transformed into January just for us (and countless holidays where monsoons have hit parts of Scotland and Wales).