Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Adnams ail...

Although old-fashioned, fisherman's pubs are one of the main reasons why Aldeburgh has such charm, one of the pubs we frequented a couple of years ago when we visited (admittedly, not the nicest pub there) had undergone a bit of a revamp. Now styled as a 'bar and grill', what used to be The Victoria is the largest pub in town and, on a Thursday night where only one of the town's several restaurants was not fully booked, the emptiest, too. As for the grill, they seemed to have given up.

Aldeburgh is, incidentally, being just around the corner from Southwold, very much part of Adnams country. Due to a strange combination of events, and our tiredness post dinner, we never quite got a chance to sample a pint. Had we decided to do so, any pub would have served it, except for the Bar and Grill, which served an unimpressive mix (perhaps why it was so quiet). When we went (late afternoon, attracted by the sun and seats outside where we could read our books and watch the high street) we plumped for a Hoegaarden for Vic and a, ahem, Carling Cold, for me, which I had not seen before. Basically Carling that's been in a freezer as opposed to a fridge. Buying them, the pub's sole other occupant (Vic was outside), a middle aged man drinking Guiness, addressed me in a posh, matey voice.

"Is that a wheat beer?", he asked, pointing at the Hoegaarden.
"Yes, it is". I think it is. What's the difference between a wheat and a white beer? "It's very nice", although actually I don't like it, too thick.
"Ah", he said, becoming a bit excited.
I smiled and made to leave, but he kind of edged into my way.
"You know what they say about [he named a beer, I can't remember which], don't you? The slogan?"
"That it is a beer for professors! Other drinks may be alright in their way, but this is a drink for professors! Isn't that good?".
"Excellent!". He obviously wanted me to continue our conversation, but I made my way outside.

Striking up conversations with friendly strangers is the kind of thing I wish I did more often, but it's hard to know what to say. What had my neighbour at the bar seen in me? I imagine he saw a scruffy, posh-ish young man who might sit and discuss unusual beers with him. I'm probably like his son. But I know nothing about beer and talking to a stranger in a deserted pub is not as much fun as sitting outside in the sun. When we got back out there we sat contentedly, getting sunburnt. I was reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, which is really good, and getting partially distracted by the sun, by the fact that the fellow sitting on the next table along looked like the Aphex Twin, and by the next man along still, who knew everyone that passed. He had a voicebox. "Still croaking away?", one passer-by asked. He nodded happily.

A few more people did turn inside the pub as the afternoon stretched on, but the man I'd talked to inside didn't come back out.

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