Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My Christmas

Wordle: My ChristmasI've only just discovered Wordle - it's great.  I did a beer one but deleted it sharpish. That way madness lies.

I predict New Year Resolutions going to pot if I bookmark it. 

And there really are too many resolutions, mostly involving how to avoid beer, to risk it.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Class of '09

We always say it, but it's true.  Hasn't it flown by?  This time last year we were still covered in builders' rubble after the reconstruction of our kitchen and bathroom and were incredibly stressed with last-minute unpacking of kitchen boxes, getting the industrial cleaners in and hiring the only vehicle left - a transit van - to pick my dad up from Victoria Coach Station.  

Exactly one year later, we've had an incredibly chilled run-up to the festive season which has been extra-magical thanks to the sprinkling of snow.  We've got a house full of delicious food and apparently there are a couple of cans of Fosters in the cellar if we run out of wine.  

The joy of having a relaxed Christmas will be offset by the deep sadness of missing my Dad, who passed away in February.  But the festive season isn't just about stuffing our faces and watching the Gavin & Stacey special.  It's time to reflect on Christmasses past, present and future (someone should use that as a story line, I think it might fly..) and we'll be doing just that, marking the first Christmas without Dad with a meal we couldn't have cooked when he was with us, stuffed with garlic ('ooh, not for me'), onions ('I love them but they don't love me'), spices ('I'd better not') and gravy ('it plays havoc').  

Mr PBBB is looking forward to what's already shaping up to be a busy, exciting and beery new year.  I've got a new project that I'm ridiculously excited about and which promises to keep me out of trouble for the foreseeable.

So with the fairy lights twinkling, Johnny Cash's Christmas Collection serenading me and a lunchtime Baileys by my side, I thought I'd join in the spurious-award-giving and bestow a couple of awards to people who've made the whole beer thing a little more bearable this year.

The Beer Delivery Award goes to our elderly next door neighbour who, frankly, is a lot stronger than she looks.  We regularly come home to find she's taken delivery of the latest box of beer and has lifted it in and out of her house and into ours.  She doesn't drink so she doesn't even have a vested interest. Together with the fact that she feeds the insatiable beast otherwise known as Fatbert the Cat (who, together with Mika, exists only to irritate Mr PBBB to the point of incandescence), this also nets her the Best Beer Neighbour of the Year Award.

Beer of the Year definitely goes to My New Favourite Beer which changes pretty much every week, but which this year has included Thornbridge Raven (for one night only, never to be repeated, thanks for asking), CrownBrewerStu's stonking 13% IPA that I think we're having for Christmas Dinner, Otley's Columb-O and the Flying Dog smoked beer which introduced me to smoked beer, winner of My New Favourite Style of Beer Award.

Brewer of the Year would have gone to Stuart Ross if he hadn't shouted 'Beer' every 5 minutes the morning after the Raven incident.  So it goes to Steve Wellington instead because he's responsible for the main ingredient of our Christmas pudding.  This is the same ingredient the Queen gets to use, so I'm bestowing upon myself the title of "Queen for the Day" which means Mr PBBB will have to act all Prince Phillip-ish and intermittently shout racist insults, which should go down well with the neighbours.

Beer writer and all-round good egg Jeff Pickthall gets the Best Beery House-Guest Ever Award.  Not only did he make his bed all tidy when he last came to stay, but he voluntarily loaded the dishwasher AND brought some Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding as a gift, thus ensuring free board in London for the rest of his natural born days.  Jeff, if you're reading this, you left 2 dodgy ties and your mobile phone charger in the spare room...

I'm giving 2 Best Pub Awards: the first to The White Hart in Stoke Newington, which combines great beer garden, excellent Sunday Lunch, shortest distance from home, dog-friendliness and suitably eclectic group of customers (a Peter Kay-as-pub-regular lookalike, some random celebs and the bloke who taught Angelina Jolie to rollerblade).  The 2nd award goes to The Charles Lamb in Islington, mainly because it's got the best pub dog in London.  Mascha (left) is an affectionate, slightly greedy 10-year old Staffie, who has special hand-painted signs dotted around the pub saying 'Please Do Not Feed Mascha'.   It's run by some really friendly people, the food is excellent and this year it was host to one of the best days of the year, a Hophead-fuelled riot of tall tales and side-aching laughing with Billy and Declan, stars of Three Sheets. 

Finally, 2009 wouldn't be complete without a Beer Husband of the Year Award.  This category, only having one eligible entry, wasn't the most hotly-contested of the bunch, it has to be said.  The only entrant didn't even complete his own application - I had to do it.  There were also a lot of points deducted from the overall score.  Points lopped off for endless yanging about neo-prohibitionism, Alistair Darling and supermarket pricing.  Lots of points lost for the moaning every time we've walked into a pub and there's only been one - or worse, no - handpull on the bar.  Several points hacked off for numerous trips in the car to the sorting office, only to find a parcel with a bottle of beer in it.  Another swathe of points gone for red pointy promotional beer hats with bells on, an overflow of promotional beer glasses in our otherwise stylish kitchen and Spitfire bottle-openers that scare the bejaysus out of me every time I use them (they make a noise like a, er, Spitfire which makes me duck).  

But despite all the deducted points, the entrant made up for it with his sincere  efforts to ensure that beer doesn't take over too much (that's 'sincere', not 'successful' by the way). For every beer event that I've been invited to and enjoyed, I had to add some points. The people I've met along the way who've become friends also ensured some extra points. And if I'm really honest, I have to acknowledge that the winning entrant has opened my eyes and taste buds to some beers that I now often choose over a glass of wine.  So for all of that, and the fact that on a good day, he's the cleverest, kindest and loveliest person I know, the Beer Husband of the Year Award goes to.... Mr PBBB.

And as the Awards come to a close, I'd just like to wish everyone a very splendid Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.  


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

I thought we'd agreed...

I had this conversation with Mr PBBB last night, who'd chanced his liver on an event at The Rake and who was phoning me to announce his departure:

Mr PBBB: Hello I'm coming home now.
Me: Excellent.
Mr PBBB: It was a great event.
Me: Excellent.
Mr PBBB: I've got you a present.
Me: Is it beer?
Mr PBBB: Yes.
Me: .....
Mr PBBB: But it's your beer, I won't drink it.
Me: .....
Mr PBBB: I'll just get my coat.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Ooh ooh look at this!

I'm not someone who needs a big fat excuse for a drink.  Flimsy ones do just fine.  'You've stubbed your toe, you say? Let's nip over to the White Hart.'  So this handy pad firstly legitimises my approach to casual drinking and secondly provides even more imaginative excuses to knockknock.biz a couple back.  Do you see what I did there?  The name of the people who make these clever things incorporated into a sentence.  I need a lie-down.

So this one I'd quite like in my own stocking this Christmas.  And please see below one for the more tickerishly minded....

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Elephants in Rooms

We're finally back at Beer Towers after our northern leg of the pre-Xmas rellies tour and Tuesday night's opening of the wonderful new bar at Sheffield Station, during which I discovered my new favourite beer - a black IPA called Raven by Thornbridge.  I also learned a very valuable lesson which is that thou shalt not drink Raven all night, even if it is in half pints, if thou dost not want the hangover to end all hangovers the next day.  Not even a whole jug of coffee, 2 orange juices, baked beans on toast, cornflakes with sugar on them, 4 jelly babies, half a bag of Maltesers and a bottle of Lucozade helped.  And I wonder why I need to go on a diet...

Anyway, what a week it's been, what with me becoming the first lady of beer writing and all, even though I missed the Twitter update announcing it as I was watching the re-run of Strictly Come Dancing.  Lovely news about Mr PBBB (or Mr PBBWOTY) winning a gold tankard - just what we need - and, even lovelier, the spondoolies that come with the award.  Some people might think that a cash prize gives them the opportunity to treat their lovely 'the wife' and in thus doing wipe out some of the accrued debt they've earned over a year's worth of beeriness....see what you think.

A couple of months ago, the DAY OF THE DEADLINE FOR THE AWARDS, to be precise, Mr PBBB asked me if I'd mind photocopying his entries and 'popping them in the post', as he was off to a beer tasting.  Seriously.

The last time I stepped in to get his submission sorted out was when he was on a ship without photocopier, stapler, postal service, that sort of thing.  That year, he'd been reasonably productive and had some trade articles, a couple of national pieces and that was about it.  Yet it still took 2 people most of a day to photocopy and collate the 4 separate packs that are required for the judges.

This year, Mr PBBB's been much more productive than that.  Much, much more productive.  When announcing the winner, Zak Avery mentioned the 'elephant in the room' which was the sheer volume and quality of one particular entry.  Indeed it was, Zak, indeed it was.  We had 5-page articles that started on a right-hand page, followed over a double-page spread then finished in a couple of spurts between full page ads that we obviously didn't want to replicate.  We had the gargantuan weight of his blog: taking on the BBC, waxing lyrical about some beers, berating Alistair Darling, raising the issue of neo-prohibitionism, celebrating bar snacks..you name it.  We had a year's worth of Publican columns.  We had his book, which luckily I didn't have to photocopy as we had a few knocking round the house.

Being the supportive wife I sometimes am if I'm offered a decent enough bribe, I very grudgingly agreed and cancelled the rest of my plans for the day.

I started at the newsagent round the corner, who Mr PBBB said was 'lovely and very helpful'.  That particular gentleman must have had the day off: I was cramped in the back of the shop with a very old and wonky b&w photocopier with no place to put my bag, no surface on which to rest either the 'to copy' pile or the 'have copied' pile, a surly and unhelpful replacement newsagent and some of the most irritating fellow customers in the world.  First there was the loud shouty girl who JUST WANTED TO PHOTOCOPY HER CV INNIT so I let her interrupt my gargantuan task to do so, then the elderly West Indian gentleman who 'just wanted to copy a form'.  I swear it would have been faster to train up some apprentices to recreate it in copperplate script.  First he didn't know which way to place the paper on the scanner, then he didn't know which button to press, then he forgot which side of the form he'd already copied, during which time he'd re-forgotten the first two lessons in how to photocopy, then just as I thought he might nearly be finished, he answered his phone and engaged in a lengthy conversation about his bowels.  I'm honestly not kidding.

By this time, having pretty much lost the will to live, as well as two whole hours of my life, I phoned Mr PBBB to do some yelling.

He suggested I take the whole thing to the photocopying shop in Islington, which I grudgingly accepted was a Very Good Idea Indeed, and more practical than my idea, which had involved quite a lot of inserting of piles of articles and blog entries into his underpants.  The people in the photocopying shop were quite surprised.  They looked at the pile of entries, my complicated instructions about which bits went where, looked at me with trepidation then looked back at the pile.  "Are you sure?" they said.  "It'll cost a fortune.  And it won't be ready until about 4."

My mental health and the state of our marriage on the line, I said 'It's FINE.  And I'll see you at 4.'

At 2 minutes past 4 and £130 lighter, yes you read it right, £130 lighter, I was in Islington Library with a stapler, a huge box, some paper folders and 88 minutes to get it all collated, in the right folders, up to the Post Office where there hopefully wouldn't be a queue ha ha ha and registered for next day guaranteed delivery.

At 50 minutes past 4, with all the above looking distinctly unlikely, SURROUNDED by more photocopies than I ever want to see again and with my stress levels elevated to somewhere near Jupiter, I got a phone call.  "Hi lovely, how are you?" For a clever man, Mr PBBB sometimes astonishes me. "Anyway," he continued quickly, as he heard my large and dangerous intake of breath, "I've got good news which you might think is also bad news but it really isn't." At this point, all bets about him winning ANYTHING writerly were off.  "What?" I snapped.  He replied "The deadline's been put back til next Wednesday."

So, I'm thinking that the prize money that accompanies the Michael Jackson Beer Writer of the Year Award (which always prompts a bewildered response amongst those who haven't heard of the other Michael Jackson) might go some way to buttering me up in time for Christmas which I've just realised makes me sound like a turkey.

Suggestions on a postcard welcome.

And for goodness' sake don't tell Mr PBBB, but I'm so proud of him that I'd do it all over again...