Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Bitter and twisted

I'm not as young as I used to be. But then again, who is?

I'm getting more reminders of my advancing years. Some of them are quite obvious. I find it impossible to get out of a chair without making involuntary noises, for instance. My casual wardrobe appears to have rather too much beige in it for my liking.

Come to think of it, I have something I refer to as a 'casual wardrobe'. God, I'm old.

But the key thing that tells me I'm getting old is that I can't do the things I used to do. Which is a little worrying, to be honest, because the list of things I used to do wouldn't have needed much paper in the first place.

I was reminded about this a few weeks ago, when two friends and I made the fatal error of having a drink or two at lunchtime. I know. It's hardly Touching the Void, is it? You have your personal challenges, I have mine.

I remember when things were different. I've never been what you would call a heavy drinker. No, really. And it's not something I claim as a badge of honour. But I at least used to be able to function after a pint or two in the middle of the day.

The day started out with promise. Chris, Mike and I had a fun day ahead of us. A tour of a local brewery in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter was the centrepiece, and perhaps the alarm bells should have been ringing at this point. Our train had got us there a little early,so what did we do to kill time?

"Oh, this is a good pub," I said, indicating The Lord Clifden. "Perhaps we can nip in here for a quick pint."

So we did. For we are men, and this is what we do. The 'quick pint ' is one of mankind's greatest inventions. In that 20 minutes and 568 millilitres, the issues of the day can be discussed and resolved by right-minded men. There was even some football on the TV at the time. I believe Everton United were playing Tottenham City, or something like that.

Suitably refreshed, and having made some pertinent points about Everton's command of the midfield, we made our way to the brewery. I've done brewery tours before. You're guided around large vats and pipes, interesting substances bubbling away and creating magic. Your worthy guide talks you through the process and at the end you get a small sample of the result of this alchemy.

This was not the case at Two Towers Brewery. With all visitors accounted for, the head brewer started the tour off with: "Right then. Who's for a pint?" There were no widdly little sample glasses here.

Pints in hand, we listened as he gave a brief history of the brewery and outlined the different beers produced. This took about 30 minutes or so. And at the end, he looked at us once more and asked this question.

"Right then. Who's for another pint?"

Chris looked at Mike. Mike looked at me. I looked at Chris and Mike. It would have been rude not to take the gentleman up on his offer. So we did.

Then he walked us around the brewery where we did the fore-mentioned vat-and-pipe experience. We got to smell hops. (Here's a hint. Hops generally smell disgusting.) And at the end, he asked the assembled crowd another question.

"Right then. Anyone fancy a pint?"

I was beginning to hyperventilate. Chris was breathing from memory. Mike's eyes were moving independently of each other. But there was a man offering us beer. So we had to partake.

The tour over, we made our way back up Great Hampton Street. We weren't by any means roaring drunk, although clearly operating heavy machinery was well beyond us by this point. But we were certainly feeling the effects of mid-day drinking.

"I used to think nothing of this when I was younger," I said to the others as we we lolloped along. "But I just want to have a lie down now."

"Food," said Chris, as if just the word alone would make sense. Mike nodded his agreement. Yes. Food. That might help.

So we went back into the pub we'd visited earlier. Clearly our critical reasoning had taken a bit of a hit. But we settled for Pepsi to go with our deep-fried lifesavers. I never thought I'd feel quite so horrified at the thought of another beer. But I was.

On the train home, Chris stayed quiet. Mike closed his eyes and contacted the mothership. Each of us reflected on the cruelty of ageing. Time was when we were alehouse athletes, beer drinkers and hellraisers. Now all we wanted after a few mid-day pints was a lie down. How the mighty had fallen.

We each retired to the safety of our own homes. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had a nap. I think I might have put some slippers on. They weren't beige, so that was a good sign.

That night, Chris, Mike and I met once more for a curry. The waiter asked if we wanted drinks. I looked at Mike. Mike looked at Chris. Chris looked at the waiter. "Three pints of Cobra, please."

It's amazing what a nap can do.

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