Sunday, 18 January 2015

11 years between beers is a long time, too long maybe – but it might be better for your health

I was at the Restaurant and Bar Grill in Manchester last Tuesday evening. Our VC, Martin Hall, retires in June. As he is just about to start a sabbatical between now and then we were out celebrating his time with us and wishing him well for the future. The weather outside was bitterly cold with a strong wind blowing. It made arriving at the restaurant looking half way presentable almost impossible. There was a good crowd of people there to join in proceedings and to share memories of the VC's many achievements. However, the speeches were brief, and the service was slow, and as I was driving, it was non-alcoholic beer for me all night – deep joy.

My vegetarian option was a butternut squash and goats cheese tart with a lemon and thyme butter sauce, served with winter vegetables. It was an OK vegetarian meal, but like Mahatma Gandhi had so often found, it was a somewhat bland offering. In 1888, Gandhi came to London to study law. He had promised his Mother that on coming to England, he would abstain from sexual activity, meat and alcohol. However, he found the vegetarian meals prepared by his landlady to be both boring and bland. It was perhaps not surprising then that Gandhi joined the Vegetarian Society, a group established in 1847 to support, represent and increase the number of vegetarians in the UK. He was later to be elected to the Society’s Executive Committee.

Last Friday evening I was reminded of this story. I was in conversation with someone describing a paella they had made that week. Whilst he had used tiger prawns in his recipe I was reassured that it was possible to make vegetarian paella. This conversation led on to a tale of how Ghandi's dissatisfaction with the vegetarian food he found, and his subsequent education of the Inner Temple cooks has resulted in there always being a vegetarian option on the Inner Temples restaurant menus. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it was a good story. On this night out I wasn't driving so the beer was alcoholic – great joy.  

In fact not only was the beer alcoholic, it was real beer brewed in the Bank Top Brewery (a micro-brewery in Bolton). The occasion was an educational trip with friends and neighbours to the brewery. Again the night was bitterly cold, the wind blowing, and eventually snow falling. The night started at the breweries own pub the 'Ale House'. And then it was a taxi ride on to see the brewery, learn how the beer was created and brewed and taste as many of the real ales as possible. What surprised me was finding out it had been 11 years since I had last taken this trip.

I think my Mother would prefer it if really was 11 years between beers. Unfortunately for my Mother, and fortunately for me, I have discovered a micro-brewery close to the House in Scotland (the Solway Brewery in Castle Douglas). However, there is another almost sobering reason for the gap. The last time I went, instead of taking a taxi home, three neighbours and I decided to walk home. One of my neighbours, possibly due to a rapid onset of flu, struggled to stay upright. So my neighbours and I helped him home safely. We left him just 6 feet away from his backdoor and then rest of us went our own ways and called it a night. All he had to do was get out his key, open the backdoor and he was home and dry.

The following morning my neighbour turned up to say thank you for helping him home. And to say that on leaving him the previous evening, he had slipped and cut his head open. Indeed, he did look like a younger version of the former USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev. Not a problem normally, but 4 days later he was due to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I am not sure if this influenced the fact that we didn't go for a beer as a group of neighbours for another 11 years. This time we provided our neighbour with some Health and Safety advice and equipment. Moral of the blog, drink responsibly, and keep healthy!