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Beer, ale … whatever.

Digital planner, likes good pubs. Breaks that rule about discussing politics over beer.

Thornton in Craven to Malham

Day Two. A coffee and a banana were the best Earby had to offer for brekkie and we set out before 9am towards Thornton in Craven, the official start of our second day walking.

Farmland dominates this part of the Pennine Way until the path hits Yorkshire again, and despite a near miss Continue reading “Thornton in Craven to Malham”

Stanbury to Earby

Day Zero. I see my Dad get off the train at Leeds station, a sore thumb amongst the suits and skirts that rushed from the Cross County carriages. We bundled onto the connecting line and stuffed our rucksacks in the ample overhead shelves (funny how local trains have better storage than the national ones). Continue reading “Stanbury to Earby”

Underbelly

Once upon a time Britain was an industrial nation. The population were manual workers, skilled or miners, all contributing towards the rise of the Empire.

Nowadays we work at screens, behind partitions, “in services“. Continue reading “Underbelly”

A torrent of gin of beer

The run up to the 2010 election isn’t looking like much of a beery affair. There may be some lively debate between scaremongering neo-prohibitionists and staunch defenders of personal freedoms, but I’m yet to be convinced we’ll see mandatory tee-totalism as the main focus of the next live television debate.

Back in 1874 the general election was a distinctly beery affair. ” Continue reading “A torrent of gin of beer”

John Lewis: a moment closer to death

IO Shaymen, Shaymen IO

“Mark from Morley has texted in” said Adam Pope, and he proceeded to read the whole text message I’d sent to BBC Radio Leeds (all 500+ characters of it) word for word, live on air. I burst into tears, full-blown streaming tears, soaking my chin and my shirt and blurring the M621 in front of me.

Fuck, it really happened. It really fucking happened.

I’d known since early that Friday afternoon it was happening. On my lunch I’d walked up to Leeds City Square expecting a handful of local reporters and desperate supporters outside the grey, charmless building of the administrators that were deciding the fate of Halifax Town AFC. But there was nothing but disinterested office workers and recruitment consultants in ill-fitting suits wandering around aimlessly. Back at my desk I didn’t do much work that afternoon, between refreshing BBC Football and repeatedly pressing F5 on the Halifax Evening Courier sports pages.

That long motorway drive, listening to my own words read back to me by Pope’s familiar tones, was two years ago, and my tears did little to stop Halifax Town disappearing from the face of English football. I welled up at the sound of my desperation and slammed my hands against the steering wheel in a mix of anger and despair.

Tonight, however, my beloved Shaymen fought back.

FC Halifax Town, the phoenix from the flames of the team that had played at the famous Shay stadium since 1921, recorded a historic point that secured the Unibond Northern Premier League Division One North title. 99 points and 107 goals were enough to fend off the challenge of Lancaster City’s Dolly Blues and confirm Town’s status as champions.

The long road back to Conference and League football is a step closer.

Tonight there are no pathetic tears, no pointless despair. Tonight’s celebratory beer is pure, unrivalled, pride.

This beer helps drown all the joys and sorrows of missed play off finals and the unparalleled relief of staying up on the last day of too many seasons. This beer is for the years, the heroes, the woodwork and the bulging net.

This beer is for Steve Norris, Jamie Paterson and Geoff Horsfield; for Lewis Kileen and Chris Wilder. This beer is for Neil Apsin, all the people who resurrected the club, and the fans who trudge to the ground each week.

This beer is for Tom Baker, because his 87th minute goal – which made me erupt with emotion in the presence of 1,932 strangers – is why I’m not in bed yet and instead, still up late, on a school night, drinking beer.

Why beer simultaneously matters and doesn’t matter

In a world of Top 100 lists and a thousand and one books about 1001 things you’ll never be able to afford to do, us Homo Sapien types often lose our perspective. We had caught up in the whims of our tiny, insignificant lives and convince each other that we are more important than we really are.

If I was compiling a list of photographs that you must see before you die, there is no doubt that Pale Blue Dot would be somewhere near the pinnacle of my list. The photo, taken by NASA in 1990, illustrates just how insignificant our little Blue Planet is in the vastness of our solar system. The image of a small dot – less than 1 pixel wide – does not even illustrate what a microscopically tiny part of our galaxy the Earth is, let alone the Universe.

Carl Sagan, at who’s request the photo was taken, summed this up beautifully. He cooly points out that every life, every birth, every death, every war, every fight, every breath, every human thought, all took place in this infinitesimally tiny piece of rock amidst an infinity of rock, gas and nothingness. And that includes every pint in every pub.

So, in the grand scheme of things, beer really doesn’t matter. All the beer ever brewed, ever drunk and ever dreamed about amounts to a relatively tiny bundle of charged particles, given energy by the star we call our Sun and ultimately delivering intoxication to a teeny bunch of people who are doing their best to put their everyday lives and strifes behind them.

One day, that same Sun will eat the Earth in a mind boggling display of unstoppable solar bravado, dwarfing it’s heavenly subjects as it accelerates towards it’s ultimate fate, collapsing under the weight of the universes’ weakest force and destroying, potentially, all the life that there ever will be or has been.

So in some ways, human fate is ultimately doomed. There’s no point to anything we do, we may as well drink, get fat and fuck off, leaving a dead planet behind to rot and burn.

But, as we all know, size isn’t everything.

Our human lifetimes which flash by in an instant are a speckle on the astronomical time line, but to each and every one of us, those moments when we breathe, think and drink are all we will ever have. They are our own personal time-constrained eternities. We will never have any one elses moments, we will never be able to see everything in the world. We will spend our lives missing out on everyone elses moments and clinging desperately to our own.

There are times we come together and share in our (utterly pointless and insignificant) lives. We celebrate the fact we have each other. We celebrate our health and happiness. We counter our grief and illness by coming together and offer our company to those in despair.

And during these moments, at these good times that we remember (and often at the bad ones we can never forget) many of us have beer as the focal point of our communion.

Beer is touted as the most social of our tipples, a drink for the masses, for all of the classes, with simple, earthy ingredients, served in community centres  for the local people, ‘public urban boundary systems‘ where people come together and network, socially, without the need for technology nor pixels.

Beer is arguably no more important than wine, than vodka, whiskey or cider. It’s rarely shared in the same way as the sambucas that you set on fire or the tequilas that we neck along with salt and lemon. It doesn’t have the shock and headfuck kick of a jagerbomb.

It is though, the most popular of all the alcoholic lubrications1. There are beers of various different levels of potency. There’s a beer for every occassion. A gueze to share, a kriek to start a party. A bitter after a long walk, a porter to sit in front of an open fire with. There’s a beer to cool you down in summer sun, a beer to warm you up after a cold winters day.

There’s a beer for a chat, beer for a session. Beers to knock you for six and beer to stay up all night with. There’s beer for drowning our sorrows and beer for celebrating milestones. There’s beer for beer geeks and beer for John Smith down the local WMC.

Arguably no other drink shares this diversity – no other drink can match beer for depth, diversity and refreshment.

‘Nothing ever lasts forever’ sang Echo & his Bunnymen. Not even the sun, this Earth or maybe even time. But in each and everyone of our worlds, our lives are our eternity and to us, everything matters. If beer matters to you, then beer matters.

1 So says a source on Wikipedia, and who am I to argue. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer#cite_note-1

The Misfortunates

The Misfortunates

I’ve been meaning to write something about this since I saw one of the best films I’ve seen for ages at the 23rd Leeds International Film Festival earlier this year.

The Misfortunates follows the trials and tribulations of a highly dysfunctional Belgian family, the Strobbes. Gunther lives with his father, three uncles and grandmother and looks set for a ne’er-do-well adulthood just as his male heroes, all veritable Frank Gallagher types. Through copious amounts of alcohol (including a World Cup drinking game involving only Trappist ales), girlfriends, arguments, tears and more beers, the film is a retrospective look back from Gunther on his childhood and a peak into how he ended up.

Continue reading “The Misfortunates”

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