“Which exit should we take, Ronald”
“Er . . my guess would be to follow the fat old bloke with a festival glass hanging around his neck.” I say pointing at a fat, old bloke with a festival glass around his neck. I’m good at spotting fat, old blokes. I am, after all, one myself.
It turns out I was wrong. Our appointment is at lampposts 46 to 48. The exit plonks us at lamppost 34. I’ve given us a couple of hundred metres extra walking.
The kids don’t appreciate it.
“How much further do we have to go, dad?”
“Not far. We’ll be there in less than an hour, Alexei.”
“Very funny, dad.”
None of the people we’re meeting are to be seen between 46 and 48.
“We need some proper shade, Ronald. Not those stupid umbrellas.”
I agree with Dolores. Under a tree is the place to be. When it’s hot. Much cooler than under some crappy sunshade. Between the two appointed lampposts the shade is shit. Except for one spot. Directly behind the La Chouffe stand. Bench for eight under a tree, close to the bogs. Not that I expect to have much use for those, the rate I’m sweating at.
It’s also bang next to lamppost 48. Phew.
Once we’ve our arses parked, I trek out for beer for me and Dolores. While she gets the lads some cider. By the time I get back, their glasses are almost empty.
“I see you’re feeling better now, Andrew.”
“Shut up, dad, you insensitive twat.” The heat’s getting to everyone. The kids love me. I’m the best dad ever. Really. It’s just the heat that’s making them so nasty.
On a beer expedition, I bump into Joe Stange. He lives in Berlin and it’s a tradition for us to meet at the Biermeile. He’s a Lager fan, too. Which is why he suggested this stretch of the festival. He has a few others in tow, including some I’d planned to meet. Like that degenerate Peter Alexander. And his wife, who is perfectly charming. Also Tim Thomas, who edits Ullage, the Newbury CAMRA branch magazine.
Discussing arse-parking locations, we realise the one Dolores scouted out is better bet than theirs, in the not getting burnt to a fucking crisp stakes.
The kids seem to like their cider – Stowford Press, for the record. They’ve gobbled two 40 cl glasses down before I’ve managed 30 cl. What is going on? Just the kids making low-effort choices. Getting mum to fetch cider from the stand 10 metres away. While I’ve been roaming far and dustily in search of the more exotic. Tiring and drinking time consuming.
No wonder I don’t need a piss.
Returning from another trek to find beer the kids have two half litres of some yellow stuff in front of them. Disappointingly, most stands aren’t serving anything bigger than 40 cl.
“Where did you get that, Dolores?”
“Just over there.” She points to the Schönramer stall about 15 metres away.
“It’s an excellent beer.” Joe chips in. “One of my favourite Pilsners.”
He explains how the head brewer is American, but wears lederhosen to work every day. “He’s gone native, then.” I remark. He also says that it’s one of the more bitter examples.
I get myself A Schönramer Pils. It is, indeed, very nice. With a firm, spicy bitterness. I could drink a few of these. Especially in this heat.
Also handily close by – even slightly closer than Schönramer – is a sausage stall. I do like a good sausage. The Krakauer is tempting, but I have to go for the Thüringer. It is from Dolores’s home state, after all.
Excuse me if I don’t list every beer, with a photo, this year. Most of the beers look the same, because I’ve been getting them in the festival glass. And my tasting notes get worse with every year that passes.
A few ciders in and Alexei is getting bored and Dolores – I don’t know. Just ausgefestet.
“Come back to the hotel by four, Ronald. Don’t stay here too long.”
“OK, I’ll be back by six thirty,”
“Yes, six thirty. That’s what I’m hearing. It might not be what you’re saying, but it’s what I’m hearing.”
“I’m not an idiot.”
“OK, half four. No later. You watch your dad, Andrew.”
“Yes. Mum. I’ll make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”
Dolores heads off, reassured.
“So, leave at six?”
“Dad, no. We have to get back.”
We do have a good reason. We want to eat in a dead good Korean restaurant. Last year we had brilliant food there. But had to eat inside. An early arrival might secure one of the two outside tables. That’s why Dolores was so keen on a punctual return.
“I was only joking, Andrew.”
“Let’s leave, then.”
I am really joking. No way I want to sit inside in this effing heat. Though the food might be worth it. Really ace, it is. I’m prepared to suffer for it.
Dolores looks relieved when we trumble up at about the appointed hour. Which is slightly depressing. Like she was expecting to be disappointed. Both at my turning up and ability to walk unaided.
“Time for a pre-prandial beer?”
“No. Ronald. I’m not risking missing a seat outside.”
She has a point. And the restaurant is licensed. Yummy food here we come.
Just as we arrive, one of the outside tables is vacated. Happy days. We rapidly park our arses and goggle at the menu. Not long. But with some really tasty stuff. I get duck. Dolores the squid. The kids share a barbecue.
Dead good, great value – my meal is around 8 euros and more than I could eat. No way I’m going to waste it. I have the remainders packaged up. That’ll do for tomorrow’s tea.
The day closes with more beers on the roof. With sunset settling slowly in the distance, we sip on our beers and forget just how shit the world is currently. For a moment.
Then I go to sleep. Thankfully.
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