Listen. I’m hugely sympathetic to those affected by the potato shortage. I really am. I’ve got Irish ancestry.
But Saturday evening I was tackling my cheeseburger and fries in Pirate Life brewery when I had bad thoughts about my fries. Nobody should experience this. Meanwhile, Claire enjoyed her brussel sprouts. More on these later. Both Claire and the sprouts.
Like so many of you I’m a big fan of chips. More than I should be although I doubt this is a small, exclusive club. Despite the pony-tailed DJ pumping choons, the ambiance convivial and my ale a-tasty, I decided that fries, in this particular case, shoestring fries, are more than a little bit rubbish.
The surface area to actual spud ratio is poor. With an authentic chip, you can and should eat them singularly, but pesky fries require you to snatch them by the handful, like a lesser primate. They make you a greedy-guts and I’m reminded of the cafeteria scene in Animal House when prior to spitting a mouthful of cake over everybody and declaring, ‘I’m a zit, get it?’ Bluto Blutarsky is stared at by Babs Jansen who says, ‘That boy is a P-I-G pig.’
See, fries make us worse. Fries invite self-loathing.
Fries. They just ain’t no good, mama.
I love being taken on a secretive excursion, and despite my occasional affections for Pirate Life’s South Coast Pale Ale, hadn’t visited the source. So, ever mindful, Claire had chaperoned me to the Port. With about two dozen beers on tap, choice was difficult, in that bounteous, contemporary way. For no good reason, I thought I deserved a treat.
I got underway with a Mosaic IPA, which was feisty entertainment if somewhat boisterous, weighing in at 7%. As is her ritual, my wife tried a squirt of cider, shook her golden locks and then asked politely for a glass of red.
The brewery’s a lively place and there was a 30th at a nearby table, and lots of unfettered kids scurrying about. Suddenly, our ears twitched like rabbits. Yes, the DJ was playing ‘Africa’ by Toto. But not the version we all know, which inexplicably has had more than a billion and a half plays on Spotify. How can this be?
While I decamped to buy an additional IPA, Claire approached the choon-smith and learnt that the funky version was by the Hackney Colliery Band, a modern British ensemble that’s, ‘inventing the brass band format for the twenty-first century.’ As it’s synonymous with our adolescence, we share some affection for the song however its enduring appeal ultimately escapes us. Yes, the musicianship is impressive, but the lyrics are among the most turgid slop ever imposed upon humans. Try this.
I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She’s coming in, 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation.
Steaming, heaving nonsense, I hear you say.
I now ask: has anybody really seen stars reflected in the moonlit wings of, say, an Airbus A380? Agreed. No, not even by an aggrieved baggage-handler on a rainy Heathrow night as he drop-kicks your increasingly scuffed case across the tarmac.
In pleasing contrast to the lyrics and the shoestring fries were the aforementioned brussel sprouts. Did they ever really go out of style? When he was about eight, Max described them as ‘balls of leaves’ but either way these oval spheres are excellent, and possibly the new broccolini. Claire ordered a plate of them, and pan-fried and coated with garlic stuff, it was our meal highlight. Each one feels healthy to eat and a single sprout counteracts the harm of a hundred shoestring fries. It’s true. Ask your grandma.
Nearly out the door, we swung by the merch tent which was really an in-brewery shop. Some folks collect spoons or stamps or Nautical Sextant Telescopes, but I like to keep my stubby-holder stocks healthy. So, I left, rubber beer-drinking device in hand.
It’d been a fine hour.