Friday, 19 October 2012

Grumbling from the same hymnsheet?


     I read a post recently on the Beer Compugation blog here about the writer's experiences of drinking with his Uncle in Huddersfield, and how said relative's increasing grumpiness was, from his point of view, representative of him being a CAMRA member.

This provocative look at the CAMRA stereotype attracted a range of unimpressed responses, which is understandable, but rereading it made me smile as it reminded me of my trips out with Wee Fatha, and how he craves disappointment, sometimes actively seeking it out!

A good example of his slightly fatalistic outlook and predilection for dissatisfaction came in Kirby Lonsdale in the Orange Tree, a not particularly good visit that I described in my post here. We were pushed for time and nothing on the menu took his fancy. He moped endlessly about how his beer wouldn't settle and how he'd waited ages for it and it still wasn't a legal measure and how he couldn't afford to spend " a fortune" (£10.00) on a meal, and he didn't like the table we were sat at.

Sensing we'd already boarded the bus to diddums, I suggested we gave up and went elsewhere since we faced a long wait to get our food, and he clearly wasn't happy with the place. You'd have thought he'd have appreciated this chance to seek out a better venue, and to extricate himself from a pall of mardyness, yet, after all he'd mumped about, he said "well, I suppose I could find something on the menu" then sighed wearily and set about glaring at the text and his woefully underfilled 263ml of beer.

Luckily I got my way and we went, but not before he admonished a random bloke in the queue about the lack of a price list which was illegal, and told him how incredibly short his measure had been...

Who would decide to stay somewhere whilst already dissatisfied and then when given the opportunity to move on would still not be happy until they had become apoplectic about issues which would no doubt have seemed even worse had we stayed?!

Its a rhetorical question, but the answer is Wee Fatha of course. Holder of grudges (don't mention the Bhurtpore Inn in Cheshire), nitpicker, "groundhog dismay" resident, offence taker , and indignant exchange instigator par excellence.

I'm going to quickly defend Wee Fatha here though. He doesn't have to drive me to the corners of the UK to visit fantastic pubs and drink amazing beer. He is a mine of information and a natural teller of tales, so is an ideal companion on such escapades. His sheer dogged determination to ensure that he does not enjoy his visit to some pubs for sometimes undetectable reasons, is in fact admirable and fairly amusing in its absurdity.

Against that backdrop then, you'd think that we are ill-matched in the arena of pub exploration. Because there are plenty of differences, obvious and less so, that could and perhaps should mean our expectations of how enjoyable a trip is, or indeed what we expect makes a trip enjoyable, are perilously mismatched. Given time to mull it over I'm not so sure though...

You'd think that the age gap would automatically be the divisive issue when me and Wee Fatha are cooped up together for the day, and, borrowing a theme from the Beer Compugation post, perhaps the fact that he is a long standing CAMRA member and I have not been since last century would provide extra friction.

Add to that my love of (but not devotion to) very hoppy beers and interest in foreign muck and you have the Steptoe and Son of beer hunting. Or do you?

Wee Fatha, as he delights in telling everyone, comes from an era when "every pub sold real ale" and when no-one drank lager and every pub could sell you a scotch egg. He is entitled, at 70, to have a rose tinted view of ye olde innes and hostylries (I think I may have added a couple of centuries to his pub visiting lexicon) but these are the sorts of pubs I crave.

He may baulk at paying over three pound for a drink (excluding whisky, which he positively dares himself to overspend on) and he does make a noise like he's just put his hand in a pan of boiling water if a price seems steep, but I too share this internal fairness calculator; albeit that my reaction is more Anglo Saxon than W.F's.

He also loves to amass grievances once he dislikes a pub. Perhaps we all do, but W.F is a champion at it. He loves the idea that he can claim someone is breaking a rule or law especially in regard to price lists, or half pint surcharges. He revels in quoting and likely inventing "laws" which are actually unwritten rules or examples of good practice from stories, which are usually only ever rolled out when he is already annoyed. Its fair to say though, despite my best intentions, mentioning such failings is a hobby of mine too....

So far from being chalk and cheese or polar opposites, we are in fact the same consumer, divided only by decades, struggling to fit our natural desire to be disproportionately affected by minor things into a scene, place and time in the world of beer where in fact there is much to celebrate.

Which is a prescient observation, since tomorrow (today!) the whole of the male Beefy tribe is off out together to visit two contrasting pubs.

Lets hope a half pint surcharge doesn't ruin the entire evening for us all....

Wee Beefy

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