Wednesday, 28 May 2008


"When are you going to write a book?" I'm always being asked that question. It's another for which I have no answer, other than a vague "sometime".

Ideas have never been a problem for me. The opposite is true. I have too many ideas. Far too many. Despite doing my best to ignore most of them, I still get entangled in more projects than I can cope with. The result is a pile of unfinished work. One considerably taller than the finished pile.

I did once start writing a history of Porter. Once I realised how inadequate my understanding was, I stopped. One day I might pick it up again. One day. Not anytime in the near future. Somewhere I have a sheaf of handwritten sheets expounding my theory of beer style evolution. I wonder if, should I be able to lay my hands on it, I'd still be able to decypher it? As I often struggle to read the start of a sentence before I've written the end, I doubt it.

If you think my desk is an unholy mess, you should see how I store my older notes. I rarely throw anything away. That doesn't mean I can ever find it again. I prefer the pile-in-a-corner-somewhere filing system. It may sound inefficient, but in fact it's totally useless. I can never find anything. When I try, the attempt is accompanied by a great deal of shouting and swearing. My patience is notoriously short. I accompany most tasks with shouting and swearing: fixing the front door, installing software on my computer, planting potatoes, washing up. That's why Dolores is so reluctant to ask me to do anything. She can't bear the noise.

The biggest problem is deciding on a title. For my putative book. "A History of British Beer Styles 1700 - 1973: their origin, development and transformation with a special focus on the rise and fall of Porter." Pretty snappy, eh? I've drawn my inspiration from 19th century titles. Or do you think I should be less specific? What if I removed alternate words? "A of Beer 1700-: their development transformation a focus the rise fall Porter." Is that more concise?

Seriously, a history of British beer is what I'm trying to research. Mostly for my own benefit, but the thought of a book is somewhere there in the back of my head. That I've written so much about German, Dutch, Czech and Swedish beer says much about my powers of concentration. Eclecticism is all very well, but it don't pay no bills.

(A quick question here. Does anyone know if any Czech or Swedish brewing records survive in archives? See how easily I'm distracted?)

Even staying well focused (love that word), I'll probably be well throbbled before my research is done. Unless someone wants to pay me to do it. Is there an Institute of Pisshead Studies somewhere? I reckon I need another two or three years just to look at the London brewery archives properly, working part-time.

I have made proposals to publishers before. Mostly to CAMRA books. A Good Beer Guide to the Czech Republic (Evan Rail had beaten me to it by a few months). A Good Beer Guide to the Netherlands (never heard back). It's sort of dispiriting. Maybe I just don't have the perseverance to become a published author.

What would my assembled writings look like in book form? The Encyclopedia Brittanica, most likely. There's an awful lot. It's a rare day when I write nothing, even on holiday. (You might be surprised to learn how many of the descriptions in my guides were written while sat in the pub.)

Are you a publisher? Do you think "That Ron Pattinson has a nifty turn of phrase and a sharp wit"? Why aren't you offering me a contract then, you bastard?


Thomas said...

Perseverance with publishers is the only way. A friend of mine hassled 10 or so publishers before one took his idea. His book is due out next month with no less than the Irish Prime minister due at the launch. He's stuff isn't exactly mainstream either, mainly historical stories and such, but he never gave up badgering the publishers.

Mark Edwards said...

Please write a book about Koelsch. It'll be a best seller across the pond.

Anonymous said...

When can I pre-order European Beer Guide Part I?

I think you should do it in parts - too much information to go in one book.


Boak said...

How about the history of East German beer?

You'd cover some interesting styles, get to reminisce about pubs and it'd be cool.

Ron Pattinson said...

boak, what a great idea. But who the hell would want to buy it?

Boak said...

I would.

Seriously, I think if you hit it right you'd get a lot of people who were generally interested in East Germany - kind of a social history seen through the eyes of the perspective of pubs and the brewing industry. Plus it could double up as a beer guide to interesting areas like Mecklenburg - Vorpommern.

Mr Mohawk said...

I haven't looked into any Swedish brewing records myself. I was going to some years ago, so back then I heard that it should be possible to find some. I'm particularly interested in finding logs from the Carnegie brewery in Gothenburg. But that will probably have to wait until I move back there next autumn.