Book signing is the slap on the back, the ego booster, the brief spot in the sun, the this-wouldn’t-happen-if-I-was-a-subeditor moment of journalism, which I have always enjoyed, but then I like the sound of my own voice (though I’m not always sure on the accent); so there I was on Saturday lunchtime with a glass of Coastal’s Erosion and then one of Penzance’s Scilly Stout, finding something fascinating about a piece of paper I had found in my pocket, looking at my pen with a new sense of admiration, and willing more people to come up on the stage (and let’s not forget they had to pass the pirate, who at one stage at my public exile on the stage poked a — I presume — plastic sword at a balloon above his head).
I have always enjoyed Exeter’s festival of winter beers: they’re strong and I like beers that have the ability to place themselves in the front row and grunt and groan as if pain was a word that involved more than mending windows; I see people I have known for years there; this beer festival also gives me a nostalgia for a time when I used to visit quite a few, not travel the country you understand like some folk did and presumably still do, but they would be ones I would go to if I was in London or there was one on a farm or in a village near where we lived before moving to the beyondness of Exmoor (which we hope to escape this year to more benign surroundings).
These were times when I used to search out beers with names that resonated with me or they were from parts of England that I loved (usually East Anglia, where I lived for six years); I don’t think that I bothered much about beer styles, even though I was reading Michael Jackson and in love with Bavarian Weiss (I do remember ramping up on the Rauch once though); it was fun, it was beer, it was getting drunk with a friend or two or sitting in a corner with a good book, but it was never about education (alright a few tasting notes, but they were more like the autographs my mother collected from friends when she was a kid) and it was certainly never about ticking; it was about inebriation, sociability and a vague link with landscape. Those times are all gone and I don’t think I miss them, apart from a brief moment on the stage, looking at the glass of Coastal’s Erosion in my hand and thinking about big waves hitting some Spartan slice of Cornish coast. Time passes and the drunken man continues to look at the thistle.