‘I was a Page 3 girl in the Sun,’ says the woman. How long ago I want to ask (as the hymn Rock of Ages springs to mind), but merely nod, politely of course, and take another swig from a glass of Revolutions Clash London Porter (yummy). ‘It was during the Falklands War when I took my top off for the lads and ended up in the Sun,’ she continues. I’ve heard some funny lines in pubs over the years (‘I was in Broadmoor for 15 years so I’m just getting used to drink again,’ was one jaw-dropper) — and here was another jewel to add to the crown of conversational costume-stretching that I have been steadily creating. Then there is her companion, who after admitting that he was nuzzling 70, then goes on to add he’d been in the army. The Green Howards. Then the Royal Marines (ask which commando and he says he can’t remember). He was also in the SAS. Not at the same time he adds. Hmm. I am in the Whitelocks, a Charles Dickens of a pub as done by Simon Callow in full whiskers, stovepipe hat and a sparkling silver fob watch just right for reflecting the dancing flames of a pub fire on a winter’s day, in the company of Leeds pub guru and ace beerwriter Simon Jenkins, with whom I was going to spend an hour the following day rattling on about better beer blogging for the European Beer Conference. We get our collective eyes in by going round Leeds’ pubs and bars, whilst bumping into various parades of bloggers. At North, Tipopils is being launched on draft and if there’s a more sensuous, seductive interpretation of Pilsener then please let me know.
And so on the following day to the conference, only for one day for myself, and unsure of what about to expect. In the afternoon we did our stint, sitting on stools like unsure Val Doonicans, going on about what we liked and didn’t like in blogging, with post size being seemingly the most controversial subject. I have a personal disinclination to read long blogs, believing that anything can be said in 500/750 words but as I kept saying this was my personal belief (and one other thing I didn’t say and that was because I didn’t think of it at the time is that if I am going to write 3000 words I would like to be paid for it). I found the whole day great fun. The dinner with Sharps Connoisseur Collection and introduced by the ever-entertaining Stuart Howe, was fabulous. The Honey Spiced Tripel demonstrated his godlike genius (as they used to say about Scott Walker, though I wouldn’t like to hear Stuart sing given the rubbish he listens to). While afterwards a tasting of some new (to me) European beers yielded Browar Kormoran Olsztyn’s Grodziskie — smoked barley, weizen yeast, TCP-lite with a great refreshing quality. Their porter was equally plucky and heroic in the glass, an old library of leather bound books, in which I would like to spend many a windy night. There were also beers from the De Molen and Brew Fist. And then that was that, one day at the two day conference, lots of friendly people, bloggers and brewers, having a laugh, learning stuff, talking a lot and finally reacquainting myself with the marvel that is North. And of course meeting a former Page 3 girl.