Sunday 5 May 2024


Our appointment at Battersea Library is at 10:30. But, now here’s a surprise, I have trouble getting Andrew up at 9:00. He’s not much of a morning person. Or early afternoon one. His rhythm is more vampire.

It’s after 9:30 when we get to the breakfast room.

Not expecting Andrew to be that interested in food, I attack the buffet first. In a controlled and focused way. Two fried eggs, three rashers of bacon, some tomato and two slices of brown toast. I believe that each fried egg deserves its own slice of toast. Anything less would be disrespect.

“I’m not really a breakfast person.” Andrew told Dolores before we left. Yet he does eat a little. And have a mug of tea. As do I.

There are a gazillion ways to get to Battersea Library. Mostly involving Clapham Junction. We settle on a short walk to Euston, Victoria Line to Victoria, then a train. It only takes around 35 minutes.

Until the walk up Primrose Hill. I’m not a big fan of hills. That’s one of the reasons I live in Holland. And grew up in Newark. Leeds was just an aberration.

They’re very friendly in the library. And the nice Scottish lady already has the first six volumes out for us.

Before we kick off, I give Andrew a few pointers. Though I’m sure he’ll say I just left him to it.

There’s a sort of physical poetry to the ritual of consulting records.

Receive the document, reverentially place it on its support cushions, photograph the document number, photograph the cover, open the book. Then falling into a rhythm of turning a page, taking a snap, turning a page, taking a snap, in endless repetition. Until the volume ends.

Return the document to the counter and receive the next, reverentially place it on its support cushions, photograph the document number, photograph the cover, etc. etc. In a loop until the end of the documents. It’s easy to fall into a sort of trance. A good thing. As the process is boring as hell. And doesn’t do my back any favours.

We rattle through the records in three hours. I was very particular in the 22 brewing books I requested. A couple from the 1930s. Every year 1939 to 1047. Two years each for the 1950s and 1960s. Three for the 1970s. Because, well, I’m writing a book on the 1970s.

“Do you know John Hatch?” The Scottish lady asks.

“We’re seeing him when we’re done here.”

“He’s a lovely man.”

He is indeed.

One of my main motivations for this visit was to get some more 1970s recipes. And to just get on with things. On my last visit to London, I spoke with John Hatch about visiting the archive. Why not just do it now before I forget?

We’ve a couple of hours before we’re due in Sambrook’s taproom.

“What about ‘Spoons for some food?” I suggest.

“Sounds good.”

We had to walk past a Wetherspoons on the way from Clapham Junction. It’s called The London and Southwestern. I assume after a railway that operated the nearby station.

It’s pretty spacious inside. One large, square-ish room. With a bar along most of one side.

A pint of Red McGregor for me, a pint of Strongbow for Andrew. We grab a table and peruse the food menu at our leisure. And I peruse our fellow customers.

Many of whom are my people. By that, I mean pensioners. There’s a table of half a dozen old boys. They look like old friends meeting up for a few pints. Several old couples occupy other tables. I suppose it is prime pensioner time: early afternoon.

When I order food at the bar, I notice many are paying in cash. Handing over a fistful of coins for pints of John Smiths Smooth or Guinness.

Not feeling overly hungry, I get a small ham, egg and chips. While Andrew has a cheeseburger.

“Do you want to eat my chips, Dad?”

“I suppose I can force them down.”

Which I do. I’m such a good dad.

After a second round, we go in search of a bus. Andrew has consulted the TFL site and has a couple of bus numbers we can take. To Wandsworth Town Hall. One rolls up pretty quickly. This is fun.

We get to Sambrooks Brewery a little after 16:00, the appointed time. No sign off John Hatch or Derek Prentice. Whom I’m meeting. I mention to the barman that I’m here to meet John when I get some beer. He’s not sure where he is.

I haven’t even taken a sip of my pint when Derek arrives. With a friend. Soon after, John comes downstairs. Holding a shaggy looking folder. I know what it is. It’s the brewers’ notes. One of the reasons I’m here.

As we chat about various brewing-related topics, I photograph all the pages of notes that look interesting. Or possibly interesting. Or even vaguely possibly interesting. Always best to be on the safe side.

After a while, it’s just me, Andrew and Derek.

“Would you like to go to another pub?” Derek asks.

“Ooh, yes please.” I reply. Andrew looks keen, too.

We settle on the Eagle Ale House, which is a short bus ride away.

It’s in an odd spot. Halfway along a residential street. Not where you usually find pubs in London. Is it a former beer house? Probably not, as the street looks like it was built after 1869.

It’s pretty busy, though we manage to find a table. I’m excited when I spot they have a Mild. Moor Buckwheat Mild, to be specific. Andrew, as usual, has a cider. The Mild is pretty good. Dark and malty.

We only stay for a couple, as Derek needs to get home. Though it’s getting on for 10 PM by the time we leave.

Being lazy, we get an Uber back. It’s very reasonable at a little under twenty quid.

Back at Tavistock Square, we nip to the late-night shop. Where we get sandwiches and cider. We already have crisps.

We watch some crap on my laptop while I polish off the whisky and Andrew finishes his cider. It’s 1 AM when we turn in.

The Eagle Ale House

104 Chatham Rd,
London SW11 6HG.


Anonymous said...

I started crawling through old posts here and came across this one:

"Andrew. Do you want to to join in the stuff-copying fun?"

"No, dad. I don't love you that much."

Anonymous said...

I always thought that fish and chips were the English cheeseburger, have burgers been a thing in England your whole ice Ron or is it something new?

Anonymous said...

Great to hear you got have a mild, in London of all places.

Anonymous said...

Burgers from McDonalds and Burger King, chicken from KFC, and other sundry garbage (kebabs etc) have long replaced fish and chips in the national psyche in the UK

Christoph Riedel said...

Just wanted to say that John Hatch is indeed a great guy :-)