As the clouds cleared over Ipswich railway station the train pulled away from the platform. A dull journey filled with excitement, wonder and just a little nerves. I was off to London for the day to visit the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) and to meet up with a few fellow researchers there.
There was the normal hassle on the London Underground, this time due to not enough train
drivers, but I made it to Olympia for shortly after twelve noon. A quick wander around, grabbing a pint along the
way, and it was starting to become clear that there was not much beer left. So, another pint grabbed to ensure
supply and I was heading off to the Queen Mother Bar where we had agreed to meet. What with the time being only
12.30 I decided to prop up the bar and see if I could spot any of the others arriving. Not as easy as it sounds. I
had met Phil a few months before at the summer meet up, but had no idea what Munchkin looked like. In fact, I didn't do at all well spotting anyone. Not long after I had
taken my perch at the bar, I failed miserably to spot a group of three young folks position themselves nearby, and
it wasn't until a small chap came up to me saying:
'I recognise that T-Shirt, you must be Phil!'
that I realised that one of them was Munchkin. I informed him that I wasn't Phil, but I was myself, and then went over to meet his
two real life friends, Susanne (which I've probably spelt wrong) and Budda.
The beers started flowing, the tongues were wagging, and a chap came over and said:
'Ah! A h2g2 logo, I'm Blueslider.'
He'd also brought his wife, a lovely lady who didn't seem to think that we were that strange. Then, through the throng of beer drinkers Phil was spotted, and rather than one of us leave our pints to go and get his attention, and let him know where we were, a shout went out:
'Phil!! We're over here!!'
So the drinking group for the day was complete. Munchkin, Susanne, Budda, Blueslider and wife (I think she was called Rebecca, although the beer wasn't starting to kick in by then), Phil, Phils' friend whose name I have completely forgotton (Sorry) and myself.
So, more beer and more chat. Then some more beer. A bit more chat. Some more beer and soon it was time to go and
embarrass ourselves in the pub quiz. Munchkin, being the prepared type chap that he was, had already furnished
himself with a quiz answer sheet, so all we had to do was answer the questions.
Now, I'm not going to say that we did badly. We did win a prize. We won four Gales Brewery pens. There were eight of
us in the team, but nobody was fighting over getting a pen. But we did come 13th. Out of 14 teams. So at least we
weren't the worst. They were hard questions though.
By the time that the quiz had finished, so too had virtually all the beer. Phil and his mate had departed, and we
decided to go off in search of more alcohol. Blueslider and his lady left us to it, so it was four of us who headed
off to the nearest pub. One with beer. A swift pint later and we decided to hit the centre of London proper. For
one reason, to get away from the throngs of beer drinkers, who like us had migrated out off the increasingly dry
festival, and for the other of seeing a bit of life. None of us really knew London at all, but I did know a bar or
two in Covent Garden. I would like to extend an apology to all the people on the tube with us who had the distinct
experience of seeing four intoxicated people passing around a bottle of Irn-Bru, three of them talking in a Scottish
accent as well.
Covent Garden was lovely to walk through at dusk. The street performers were out doing their acts. The tourists were
out watching them. The pickpockets were out watching the tourists and the police were out watching the pickpockets.
But there is a certain atmosphere there that I've not seen for a long time. A sort of cameradarie amongst strangers.
But we went through it to the pub. A place called Walkabouts, down a back street near Covent Garden. A beer to soak
up the good atmosphere in this Australian themed bar and it was time to head off for trains home.
I slept all the way back to Ipswich, so I must have been tired. It was a great day, and I really enjoyed meeting
Same time, same place next year?