Cider with Penny

March 28, 2006

The kindness of strangers

This post has nothing to do with cider, other than that I was drinking cider while reading the book in question.

I was at Aldgate East tube station t'other day, and a sweet young Romanian slip of a thing (by which I mean a girl) asked me where the trains were. She then proceeded to point out various places on the tube map that she knew. The conversation went a bit like this:

HER: I was an au pair there (pointing to north London).
ME: Why do you want to be an au pair?
HER: I don't want to be an au pair.
ME: So why are you an au pair?
HER: It says so on my visa.
ME: What would you like to do instead?
HER: I want to go to college and be a cartoonist but you have to be rich to go to college.
ME: I'd be a rubbish cartoonist.
HER: I'm a brilliant cartoonist. Where do you live?
ME: Putney, on the green line.
HER: Why are you here?
ME: Um (blushing), my boyfriend lives near here.
HER: I have three Polish friends.
ME: (mishearing) Three boyfriends? They must keep you busy. I have enough trouble with two.
HER: No, no you are a strange funny person. Three Polish friends.
ME: Oh, that's good. I went to Poland once.
HER: So do you want to be my friend?
ME: Um, I guess.
HER: Good. What's your name?
ME: Penny. (As she types 'Pemy' into her phone) No, P E N N Y.
HER: I am Edina. What music do you like?
ME: Indie. I'm not very cool.
HER: You are not very cool. I like drum 'n' base house.
ME: I'm getting off here.

And there endeth the conversation. So I came into work feeling strangely flattered but baffled, wondering whether I was a stuck up and unfriendly Brit or whether she was an eccentric East European. Both are probably true. Then I had strange daydreams veering off in opposite directions, one in which Edina becomes a bosom chum and ends up as chief bridesmaid at my wedding, and the other in which she becomes obsessed with me and ends up murdering me on the night before my 30th birthday.

And it reminded me of this quote from the aforementioned book, about friends, and what strange creatures they are:

"Lily smiled at her classification of her friends. How different they had seemed to her a few hours ago! Then they had symbolized what she was gaining, now they stood for what she was giving up. That very afternoon they had seemed full of brilliant qualities; now she saw that they were merely dull in a loud way. Under the glitter of their opportunities she saw the poverty of their achievement." (my emphasis)

I'm not sure what, if anything, I'm trying to say by this other than I'm extremely glad that I don't feel towards my friends as Lily does, and that, even if you come across people in unconventional ways, it seems sensible to be grateful when your path crosses that of a friendly stranger.

You're all invited to mine for a party, 6 February 2009. I musn't be on my own...

Working up a thirst

I've never been drunk before work. Not even in the dark days of Underground Focus did I feel the need to make my petit dejuener (sp Gutenberg?) liquid based. Of course, I was often pissed in the afternoons at UF, as myself and Shanghai Bob put the world to right (or rather, to left) over a pint or three and some fish and chips.

But Friday 24 March was a special day for me as I went to see these chaps for the first time. I was misinformed that the venue in question didn't serve cider, so on Friday morning, as I left for work about 9.30am, I made sure that not only did I have the usual trinkets and necessities with me, but also a lovely four-pack of cider.

The strange thing was that as I rode the train into work, I was Very Tempted to crack open a tin, partly because it would have been amusing to see the reaction of my fellow workers to my drunken antics, partly because I think I would be a far more adventurous headline writer if pissed, but mainly because in a Pullman-esque way, I felt myself on the border of two worlds... sobriety, good job, nice flat, fitterhappiermoreproductive and drunkeness, unemployment, nasty home fatterhappierlessproductive.

How long would I survive, mentally, if I had four cans of cider for breakfast every day? How long would it be before I quit my job (or it quitted me) and I melancholically walked the streets of London, with nobody taking me by the hand, dreaming up scripts and novellas that would be forgotten by the next morning?

The longest I've been permanently drunk was, unsurprisingly, when I was at university. It started off with a semi-unsuccessful party on the Friday night (unsuccessful because there too few people, semi because that meant there was more drink to go round). I woke up, with Brother Mike and Drunk Bob, on the Saturday morning with a raging thirst that we decided to quench with ... cider. We were outside the pub by 10.30am and on our second pint by 11.05am.

At about 2.30pm, after a long conversation about the best type of chip, I remembered that I was supposed to be at an audition for a Simon Armitage play, so I returned to college in such a drunken manner that I later discovered grazes on my elbows from where I had bashed into the walls.

The rest of the Saturday and most of the Sunday remain a blur. I think more drinking entailed. Things only became clear again at about 8am on the Monday morning, when Mike and Bob realised they were supposed to be at work in a different city, and I was supposed to have written an essay and learned things and achieved things.

They left at about 8.15am, both with a can of cider in each pocket.

I got the part.

March 13, 2006

Too much value

And there was me thinking I loved all things to do with cider. This is a site that I never want to revisit.

On a happier note, I've (re)discovered that drinking cider (even if it is just Strongbow) dulls the pain of a most unfortunate sporting weekend, especially if you start early, continue the theme through to the wizarding hours, and then go straight to sleep without even attempting to achieve anything else that day.

Now, what was it I was drinking on Friday night? That was a very tasty drink, even if it did seem to contain a anger potion... Or perhaps even one of these.

March 09, 2006

Addlestones really can do everything

While looking to see where Addlestones is made - of which more anon - I discovered, which in hindsight I should have just guessed existed. Like Voltaire's god, if it didn't ...

No time to go deeper into the peculiar theology if Addlestones, nor to fully explore, as I have to leave. I'll be late getting to the pub.

March 08, 2006

Crunch time

When I was tucking into my petit dejeuner this morning, my companion supposed that I might have a hangover. This I vehemently denied, as hangovers are something that happen to poums and lightweights. But as I sit at my desk after a long day at work reading poetry 'imeansubbin', it occurs to me that, yes, I did have a hangover this morning, and it is the absence of a hangover now that proves this to me.

Last night was WILD and CRAZY, in the sense that it only took 19 emails to arrange rather than the customary 243. There was talk of going to the Jerusalem Tavern, which should be a great pub, steeped as it is in history and gently varnished oak, but DUDUDURRRRR, it doesn't serve cider. Ale yes, wine yes, whiskey yes but no cider, despite the quite literally hundreds of recipes there are that combine Jerusalem artichokes and the appley goodness.

So, what's a girl to do? I emailed my pub guru ("Some people can write poetry or play chess. Or public speak. Or play the euphonium. I am good at pubs.") and we ended up at the The Kings, where I once saw this man. The Three Kings does a nice line in Scrumpy Jack on tap and I felt like a princess among men as at least two of my companions tucked into a lovely pinta or two.

Task for tomorrow: start investigating home brewing.

March 06, 2006

To the Core

So the weekend in Oxford started at the Gardeners Arms, Plantation Rd. The place was heaving with neuroscientists creating less work for themselves, and while they tucked into Belgian beer, source of many innuendos because of its method of pouring, I contented myself with three bottles of Westons. I did attempt a framboise, but it didn't taste as good as I remember.

Saturday saw me at The Somerset. This pub, ironically, failed to provide me with any cider other than Strongbow, which is becoming a little like an over-familiar friend. Five pints later and I was willing to forget past grievances. The Somerset did however provide Hex Appeal and an opportunity to surprise all and sundry with my cool pool prowess. I'm reliably informed that a couple of pints at The Duke and bottles each at Qumins and Port Mahon followed, but I couldn't possibly comment.

The best pint of the weekend, if it hadn't been shrouded in the melancholy of departure, was provided by Far From the Madding Crowd, a pub that is, um, off the beaten track. Christened Swanvale Gold, this cider originates from the west country and is not dissimilar to Dry Blackthorn. It has a more oaken taste than DB, however, and is marginally less fizzy. FFTMC also sells Crouch Vale, Oakleaf and Vale real ales, for the boys among you.

Aside from cider, which was obviously the main topic under discussion for the duration of the weekend, we contemplated the following:
... whether four times in two months counts as frequent
... whether there's time enough for friends, work and love
... what the perfect pub contains

We also completed AT LEAST HALF of the Observer crossword, and tittered at pigeons engaging in coprophilia. I think that's the word. I'm giggling too much to check.

Market forces

Aah, the Market Porter, c.1620, winner of the beerintheevening pub of the year last year and hotbed of radical political thought, as this very pub hosted the Underground Focus launch party, back in the Spring of 2005 (which was, incidentally, about two months after the inaugural issue went on sale and, ahem, about three months before the second issue surfaced). Until recently unbeknownst to me, the Market Porter apparently doubles as the Leaky Cauldron.

March 02, 2006

The wrong crowd

Good news to begin with, as the Independent reports that cider is losing its park bench image. This bit, though, is puzzling:

The brewer Scottish & Newcastle stopped offering 50 per cent extra free on big bottles of White Lightning, even though it lost sales, "because we felt that the pricing was encouraging the wrong people into the brand".

Who are the right people to be drinking White Lightning?