Po-Tree

About twenty years ago right about now, I was entering the third year of my four-year slacker-paced BA in English Lit. I can’t say I have carried the literary banner high since about then, especially as law just about killed my ability to read books – as being an usher in a playhouse just about killed my ability to sit through a play or a movie. But, this being the first summer since 1991 that I have not spent September picking beans, digging up spuds or braiding onions, one poem kicks tricking its way into my mind: Keats’s Ode to Autumn. [Once, when absent mindedly signing up for seminars, one of the others, all-female in romantic poetry, tuned and said – “sorry, I took the last Keats”. I couldn’t recall when I had been aleing with her. I had thought she said “Keith’s”]   So, in honour of three years of English Lit classes, the impending season and our planning for the next garden plot in, maybe, 2005, here you are, copyright-free ’cause he’s a long time dead.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Hmmm… full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn… time for the mint sauce.

Man Walks Into a Pub, by Pete Brown

manwalksI bought another beer book. I picked up a copy of “Man Walks into a Pub” by Pete Brown on Thursday after noon and it was done by Sunday. Not bad for guy with kiddies. The Guardian said:

So, as well as the irreverent approach Brown takes to beer’s history, he has a refreshingly sensible take on its present.

Sensible is an interesting word. Most beer books are written by nerdy homebrewers or self-appointed gurus like Michael Jackson. Both have a technical interest or at least the desire to impart a reverence for the subject. …I hope the bag of chips are for him…Brown is an advertising executive who has handled both the Heineken and Stella Artois accounts and a someime talking head for TV in the UK on things beery. It shows. He treats fans of real ale as hobbiest and treats them with slightly less contempt than temperence unionists and government regulators. But most of the time not without reason.

That being said, the book is easily accessible, funny and, but for a few factual errors you would only know after having a collection of books and subscriptions to a couple of magazine about beer, a pretty good history of the subject from a 2003 English, rather than even British, perspective. Unlike any other book I have read, Brown focuses on why and how people in England actually drink beer, how they are affected by advertising and changes in pub ownership, and how lager has come to dominate the market while being vapid bubble water – even if from something of a natural apologist’s point of view.

Find a pint of Hook Norton Haymaker or Old Hooky and have a giggle at the expense of lager drinkers.