Many of us pine for a world we once wished to inhabit, only never did.
Life changes and choices, enforced or voluntary, intended or otherwise, can govern where we end up, who we’re with and what we think of that.
Coming across a version of the world you once idolised can cause reflection, thinking about where you are, who you’re with and why.
Many of our sub-cultures and worlds grow around a theme – binding folk through common interest.
Ale is one such binding force, strangely – for a drink.
There is no campaign for real juice, or pop, or others.
Alcoholic drinks are different, many of us share an interest in wine or gin – or real ale.
And that can bind us with societies, an identity and a common cause.
Anyway, please listen to this recording.
Patrick prays at the Sussex Lamb’s altar, at the bar selling ale for informed appreciation, for those who know how it’s made, and where – probably figure even by who – their knowledge insane, accumulated by addicts, but not through talent, telepathy or savantism, some worldly, arcane omniscience, but because the brewery tours are popular
The brewery draws these proud folk in, with the myth and the lore of heavy horses pulling, showing the drays at the regional qualifiers, the horses and their dray the pride of proud folk, swelling chests, inspiring pompous commentary of whose side you’re on, what you remember and know, and which way you lean whilst regarding one person’s dream job, the magic spreading from that person’s singular luck and judgement, all whispered part of the brewery lore.
For the pint is more than mere liquid, it’s a force, a heritage, it’s a statement of politics and world-understanding, of type, of character, of adhesive belonging – get this wrong, in the Lamb, and draw looks from those drinkers, as they commit social murder in an unsaid conspiracy, slaughtering those who’d drink lager or cider, the cold pressed, micro-funked, loopy-juice slurpers.
Sniggers and snides, cast looks and faux-pride, prejudice, in other words, splitting the punters to the ins and the outs, into sorts and holed pigeons, the men and women frequenting the bar as the furniture controlling the judgement and rank of each new pretender and Patrick feels tense in the presence of the preacher.
Opiners of politics, safe sexism – social schism, the perpetuators of fantastic brewery lore, taken in with the myth, the creed and the magic, perpetuating cultures of pint pots and reverence, owners of the pomp that goes with pint-pulling, of the tap, the keg, the barrel and the cellar – all of the artefacts of ale-ceremonies and drafting.
Drawing together a culture, a cult, supported by clubs and weird organisations, with festivals held to celebrate the matter, to try out specialities and varieties unheard of, renowned and myth-spoken ales of the ether, ales that drive lust for a gallon to sate thirst, to sate that hurt, that awkward gut-jam that absence from beer causes in your worldly pub-man.
And Patrick would think himself part of this club, he’d have them all know he’s a taste for reality, the cosy conservative conscience of Lambs, he’d be there with them, to share in their banter, to play in the bar with their unseemly games, to swill the ale and opine on the state, hidden references, smiles, sniggers, eye twinklings, and Patrick’s convinced that he’s missed his calling.
Patrick the pint-vicar, guiding the folk of the pub and the bar, choosing to eat scampi over curry or Chinese, relishing pie and fat home-cut chips, noshing himself up on serious grub, forsaking the splendour of fish fingers or sausages, he’d munch his way through several packs of pork scratchings, reserving the mars bar for the walk back to his gaff.
Patrick knows how these folk do their grooving, the reason they’re there, and he feels in his life there’s not enough beer, ale or bar-repartee, of misfitting shirts and a comfortable jumper, he’s keen to impress with funny remarks, by speaking in terms understood by the beer-swiller, talking in words that the furniture knows, conversing as equals with folk inebriated, soaked and steeped in joy from the pump.
A person’s home provides them soul-comfort, Patrick feels for a rare sacred moment – fleeting and mean, illegitimately generous – that his soul can be nurtured, stood still at the bar, tasting his treasure, sunk into regret and revived by epiphany, homecoming, his true comfort tantalised for he looks round at faces ignoring the alien, he looks round at faces blank-featured and slack, and he realises now he’s outside of the ring fence, outside of the court of the slovenly king.
And there sits the man, the honcho, the gaffer, appallingly dressed and greasy with living, sitting in muck made of grime and persistence, clothes gone threadbare, crisp-stained and stubbed out on, ancient and tatty, and the honcho can drain pints in one go or many, he can tell you the age of a barrel by sniffing, he knows the old boy who lets him into the cemetery, to sleep it off and roll home to solo safety.
And Patrick’s epiphany is in the waste of life’s bounty, in the balance between a pint and the wreckage of an alcy, and Patrick looks round one more time at the faces, recognising folk for their being, their safety, in the bar with few women, no children, so sensibly fenced from the world Patrick lives in, his children, his marriage, the things he holds sacred.
And Patrick’s relieved to return to his table, with some lemonade, a coke and some coffee for Jenny, and no pint for him, he’s drinking tea simply, in a moment foregoing the lore and the creed, stepping out of the culture of beer and pork scratchings, that world’s a place as a child he regarded, high deluded, to believe those folk were the ultimate men.
Friendly, full of wisdom, they made sense when they spoke to him, they’d known how to talk about the things that confused him, and he always reckoned he’d progress to be one of them, but he’d rather be simply another face in the traffic, rather be the outsider whose piss is free taken, whose life is excoriated in the after hours lock-in, when he’s in his wife’s arms, floating and smiling.