Monday, 7 February 2022

System Addict


Illustration purposes only. These places are not the one that contacted me.

I have a smartphone, and I assume you do too.  I'm sure you're aware that it has a built in GPS receiver which can be linked to various apps on your phone.  One that's connected on mine is Google Maps.  It's sometimes useful in finding places in unfamiliar towns.  Yes, I am aware of the privacy concerns, but as Google mainly use this data to target people with advertising, I'm less concerned with sharing it with them than with certain other organisations that have other reasons for wanting to know stuff about me.  And also, it can be turned off at any time.

Another thing Google likes to know is information about the places you visit.  Now, I tend to linger longest in hospitality businesses, so sometimes I'll get an alert asking me for information about the place I'm sat in.  It's generally run-of-the-mill questions such as "Does this place offer takeout?" or "Does this place serve this dish - Ice Cream?".  I've yet to discover any personal benefit from answering these beyond a little counter in the top right of the screen going up, but I do it anyway.  Adds to the sum of human knowledge, and someone may actually want to visit Preston in the future.

But it also asks you to give a rating of the business, based on a 5 Star system.  I generally give 4/5 - my meaning being "this is a good business worthy of your support and custom and is good for repeat visits."  I have never given 5/5.  That would, by definition, mean perfection.  And while perfection is a good thing to strive for, it's unlikely to be acheived in the real world for many reasons.

Unfortunately, some places don't see it this way.  Apparently, they live and die by their Google rating.  I gave 4/5 to somewhere last week.  On Sunday afternoon, they sent me a message saying "Hi, is there anything we can do to get you to change your rating to a 5?"  I struggled to think of a reply, as I've been to this place twice a week for the last 6 months and it's been pretty much the same every time.  They could make it perfect for ME, I suppose.  But what's perfect for me ain't gonna be perfect for everyone.   Perhaps they recognised my name and imagined I'm some kind of "influencer" in the pub world.   I'm not, but I hope if anyone values my opinions on Preston pubs, they would at least ask me relevant questions instead of searching out my Google ratings.

I'm not going to leave any more ratings.

Monday, 8 November 2021

Old Beer Ads #16 - Guinness (2019)


Back in March 2019, I was going through what can be described as "personal issues", and was in the unusual position of staying in a Travelodge in my home town.  Of course, anyone who's ever stayed in a Travelodge knows there's little to do in your room other than watch the basic TV or fiddle with the bottle opener bolted to the side of the desk.  So I went to the local sports bar to watch the IndyCar race.

A sports bar shows sports channels.   And sports channels show ads, mainly for alcohol and betting.  I don't watch much TV, so I hadn't seen this ad.  "Ah, the usual Guinness story-led and artily-shot stuff here.", I imagined.  It's a tale of a pair of Welsh brothers spending their inheritance from their late Mam on watching the Six Nations and (naturally) a popular Irish nitrokegged stout.  On the insistence of the Terms and Conditions of her will itself, no less.

As we know, Guinness ads generally have odd soundtracks.  In fact, one ad in the 1990s was mainly responsible for the brief revival of Easy Listening when it contained a Perez Prado track.   So what did they choose for this?  Well.

 You can imagine the copywriters in Soho storyboarding this.  "Yeah, like we've got these Welsh guys, got the rugby, got the beer.  But what music?".  "I know dude!  Remember the best selling instrumental of all-time?  We'll use the B-SIDE of it.  Like totes amazeballs!". So I sat there in this sports bar surrounded by 20 and 30-somethings troughing burgers and wings, listening to "Jungle Fever" by the Tornados, all the time thinking "I'm the only person in here who knows what this song is."

"Jungle Fever" was of course the B-side of "Telstar", and was written by Geoff Goddard.  It ended up on the B as payment from producer Joe Meek to Geoff for providing the majority of vocal and keyboard parts for "Telstar".  Ironically,  while Joe's royalties for writing the A ended up in courtroom dispute hell, and were only settled after his death,  Geoff got half the cash for doing the flipside and was thus the only single person involved in make any money out of a record that sold millions of copies worldwide.

Now, wouldn't THAT story make a great commercial for something....

Monday, 5 July 2021

News in Brief #62


Facebook Group Just Pictures Of Cans

Popular social media beer hangout "Awesome Pennine Craft Beer Guys & Gals" has been revealed this week to be nothing more than a massive photo gallery.

Cornered at his local bottle shop, Facebook group admin Luke Lumberjack-Shirt admitted "Yes, it's true. It's just that I, like, have ALL these cans of craft beer. I've spent so much on them that I'm, like, afraid to open them.  I mean look at this pic of my 12% Cloudwater Banana and Paprika sour next to this Polly's Mosaic and Ekuanot DDH NE Triple IPA.  See? See how the yellow and purple, like, really sets off the chartreuse and cyan next to it!"

"This REALLY shows off my awesome skills as a photographer and more importantly shows off my awesome stash to other group members who didn't get to the shop fast enough."

"But to be honest," confessed Luke "I tried one of these and it was, like, horrible, dude, so I poured it down the sink. But that's not the point of craft cans, is it?"

Up there with the Sphinx

Mysterious COVID Outbreak At Pub

Popular Wakefield drinking establishment The Slurry Pit has been forced to close due to an unexpected rash of Coronavirus cases amongst its staff and patrons. "It's bizarre," exclaimed landlord Barry Shortmeasure "We've followed all the regulations and everything."

"In fact, just the other day, I was talking to an old boy who was at the bar. And we had a long conversation about this.  He said he couldn't believe the Rona was as serious as they made out. 'Jab? Don't need a jab. Had plenty of coughs and colds, me.' he said."

"We had 50 people in the beer garden last Friday and they all seemed fine. In fact, they said my enclosed and covered area was the best pub experience they've had since lockdown." ranted Barry "And I cleaned all my tables with Tesco Value spray at least once a day."

"Then yesterday, I was told by NHS Track & Trace that 14 positive cases were associated with my pub. I just don't understand it. I took every possible precaution."

"And if you don't believe me, ask the HUNDREDS of people who've been stood in my bar during the past fortnight.".

Tasty times

Beer Easy

This week, it has been revealed by a top internet beer magazine writer that brewing beer is, contrary to popular belief, extremely simple.

"You just have to look at history." pontificated dubious scholar Sophie Aubergine-Pickle "They just got a handful of whatever grain they quite literally had to hand, threw it in some water. And left it."

"It stands to reason, doesn't it? The human hand has all kinds of stuff on it. Bacteria. Wild yeast. Skin flakes. That stuff beneath your fingernails. If you leave it long enough, of course fermentation will spontaneously commence. And people back then would drink anything."

"Anyway, got to go. Just been commissioned to do a follow-up to my article where I make beer this way and find some volunteers to try it."

"Would you like to sign this waiver?"

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Wandering Through Rona Land

Coping Skills

I had intended to do a post before now, but something always changes in the whole COVID-19 situation, rendering all my ideas obsolete overnight.  But now we're in a period of relative stability (at least until next week when our Beloved Government makes its Christmas plans clear), I can finally get something in writing.  So apologies to any readers who may find this stuff even more bizarre and disjointed than usual.

While the pubs were still open, I did my bit, shall we say.  I doubted my custom alone would keep the town's pubs going, but let it be said here - I gave it my very best shot.  Every Sunday and Monday I did my usual crawl, sinking many pints in the process and reassuring people in social media that though these places were open, the much-expected non-social distancing disasters was not happening.  At least where I was going, anyway.

That was in August, and pretty much stayed steady in the vast majority of the pubs I went to until Preston was placed in Tier 3.  I made sure I stuck by the rules (one thing about being autistic is that I'm good with "rules" once I'm made aware of them) and stuck it out despite the ever-increasing restrictions.  I carried hand sanitiser at all times.  I never took my mask off except at my seat.  I downloaded the NHS App and checked in at every venue.  I even, when usage of public transport was "strongly advised against" for all but essential journeys, walked to town and back instead of taking the bus (a 7 mile round trip).  I've served my time in the Rona Trenches to support pubs.  I really have.

The final straw for me was the aforementioned Tier 3 announcement.  All pubs not serving a "substantial meal" were to close.  That kiboshed most of my typical weekend.  I contemplated walking to Spoons, or any of the nearby places that do food, sitting on my own with a pizza and 2 pints, then going home (how many "substantial meals" can anyone consume in one day).  Any fun I'd have just wasn't worth the effort on top of everything else I'd have to do.

That was 6 weeks ago.  We're now 10 days from the current lockdown being lifted.  I don't know about you but I'm not holding out much hope for anywhere I'd want to go being open before January at the earliest.  Christmas I can see being a total farce, as what business would bother opening (presumably under heavy restrictions) for a week and being shut down again for another month to compensate for the inevitable increase in Coronavirus cases?  The ones that do will probably end up sharing the fate of this place near me.

No.  I think I'll likely be staying home until 2021.  Luckily (?) the Christmas period means we retail workers have plenty to do, so I'm unlikely to be bored.  And for leisure - well, plenty of whisky and Green Devil here.  Plus "Uncle Matt's Mixtape Factory", the results of which some of you may have seen on another blog.  So I'll see you all next year.  Probably.

Well, that was depressing, wasn't it?  Never mind - for those overly affected by this post, here's some Herb Alpert to cheer you up :


Monday, 6 July 2020

Boarding The Hand Sanitiser Express

Turns out I didn't go to the pub on "Super Saturday".  Not because I was afraid of crowds or stray viral particles (I wouldn't have been able to work where I do for the last 4 months if I was), but because I went to bed very late, woke up even later, and then it was time for the IndyCar race at 5pm.  After which, I figured, it wasn't really worth going anywhere.  But I did go out Sunday.

As expected, it was a rather strange outing.  None of the pubs that I prefer to go to have opened back up yet, so I made up a shortlist of places I knew were open and, if necessary, booked at table.

My first booking was 40 minutes after I arrived in town, so I headed to the Greyfriar, the older of Preston's two Wetherspoons where I at least was reasonably certain there would be some free space.  I was greeted at the door as expected, and was asked "You were in last night, weren't you?".  Which was peculiar, as not only had I not been there since March, I was still wearing the face mask I had on for the bus journey.  Nonetheless, I was pointed towards the hand sanitiser (mostly pure alcohol) and asked to find an empty table.

Picking one at least 5 metres distance from everyone else, I logged into the app and ordered a pint of Punk IPA.  It duly arrived and, though I would like to claim that angels descended from the heavens while "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring" played as I took my first sip of draught beer in 15 weeks, it just tasted like Punk.  I drained my glass over the next 20 minutes while listening to more explanations about entrances and exit from the door guy and the floor staff dealing with hapless wanderers.  So far, so typical.

My 1pm table at Wings & Beer Co. was waiting for me, so I traversed Friargate (noting the locked doors of the Black Horse, though I did discern cleaning activity going on inside, so some hope there at least) past the queue outside Wilko, the numerous either temporarily or permanently closed shops, towards Cannon Street off Fishergate.  Again I was greeted at the door, and yes, my name WAS on the list so I WAS coming in.  I sanistised my hands again and was taken to the same table Wings & Beer have given me on every visit over the last 2 years (I think it's their only table for 2).

F1.  No, I didn't fall asleep
After figuring out their ordering system (turns out you log on to an external website which takes you to a menu giving the "offer" of the place the GPS says you're in), I ordered more Punk and sat down for the next 2 and a half hours watching the football and Formula One, occasionally sanitising my hands with the provided bottle on my table.  It was a bit greasy, to be honest.  After my 2nd pint of Punk here, I decided to mix it up a bit.  Hey, if I'm risking my health here, I thought, I may as well be equally dangerous with drinks.  I ordered an Estrella Damm.  Yeah.

By the time I polished that off, my table slot was up and I decided to vacate it before I was requested.  Next stop was the Twelve Tellers, the "other" Spoons in town.  Here I was greeted by THREE members of staff, requested to sanitise my hands and was ESCORTED by a visor-wearing team member to a table at the far end of the building.  "I hope the app works this far out." I said.  Thankfully, it did and I got my first pint of cask since March 19th.  Three Bs bitter wouldn't have been my first choice for this, but you take what you can get these days.  I filled in the form I was given and had a couple of pints.  Say what you like about Timbo Martin, and I have, but his staff are very efficient and well trained.

Upon leaving by the designated exit, I dropped my form off in the box and headed off to the bus station.  Looking up Church Street, I saw Ye Olde Blue Bell in the distance.  Closed, of course.  They must be needing the extra time to put up all those extra Humphrey Smith-mandated notices about social distancing, masks at the bar and price increases.  If all this is true, I expect the place to be boarded up by September.
Coming soon. Probably
I put the mask back on, boarded the deserted bus back home (seeing on the journey the folorn-looking Plug & Taps with boards on the windows - one day, yes, one day) , and decided to stop off at the Black Bull for a final pint.  This is an Ember Inn and expectations were duly set to low.  Here, the sanitiser was squirted unprompted into my hands (it smelled of tequila, oddly - I'm becoming quite the connoisseur of hand sanitiser now) and I was given what amounted to a guided tour of the pub, being admonished because I started to queue before the guy had finished.  Noting only one handpump on, I ordered another Estrella and went to sit outside.  It was quite breezy, but not cold.   Looking across the A6, I could see Fulwood's new micropub (opening later this week, or so they say), and thanked the deity of your choice that there will soon be better options here than this place.

When I got home, I pondered the day and "the new normal".  As my usual haunts were all shut, I didn't have a single conversation with anyone as I didn't see anyone I knew at the 4 places I visited, so if it's going to be like this every time, I doubt I'd go out often.  And the queueing and app ordering?  Well, could breweries with deep pockets pay extra to get themselves up to the top of the app's beer list or have a really prominent display in the queue area for people to look at while they're in line? It would explain why I had two pints of Estrella that day. And how long will people put up with movement restrictions if they're no big spike in cases?  Will things just gradually shuffle back to how they were in time?  These are questions that aren't going to be answered today, but will be soon.

But on the bright side, my hands have never been cleaner.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

For The Record

This apparently slowly tapering-off pandemic lockdown is dragging a bit now, isn't it? 15 weeks, right.  I'm not sure, as I lost count over a month ago.  Not going anywhere but home or work will do that to you.  Surely everyone is starting to run out of things to do by now, right?  I've been spending Friday nights making mixtapes to play at work on my 1985 boombox to my (presumably) bemused colleagues.  Bet they've not heard Lieutenant Pigeon or The Pipkins for a while.  Still, all things, good, bad, or indifferent must come to an end.

The Pubs Are Re-Opening On 4th Of July.

Or, at least that's the message that's been hammered into us over the last fortnight.  Truth is, a lot won't be.  Many licencees have questioned the wisdom of opening on a Saturday where even those who haven't been furloughed will away from work and, with a general expectation of carnage, are going for a softer opening later in the week.  Others have unleashed the tape measure and figured out that their pub isn't going to be viable with even 1-metre-plus social distancing.  Some probably haven't even decided yet.  But if so, with 3 days to go, they'd best decide soon.

In Preston, I know at least 3 of my regular haunts are doing the above, so it does make me wonder whether it's worth donning a face mask and paying £4 for the bus just to queue outside the town's two Spoons in, as is quite likely here, crappy weather.  As I result, I'm spending my week off checking social media and the local news for info about who's doing what and how they're going to do it.   Though a lot of places have been very quiet about it, which isn't making it easy.

As for how the day itself will go, well, if you thought the uncertainty of when pubs will reopen again was bad, it's nothing like the predictions of what may happen on 4/7.  I've heard everything from landlords worried they've spent time and effort on enabling social distancing only to be confronted with a deserted pub as everyone has either been put off or scared away, to predictions of complete and utter bacchanalian orgies with unconscious drunks in the street and people pissing all over the town square.  My suspicion is they'll be a few pockets of both, but mostly things will be underwhelming and slightly disappointing.  "We waited 3-and-a-half months for that?"

So will I be going out, if only to say I was there?  At the moment, I'm undecided.  I'd want at least 3 places to go to, so as I don't have to spend hours sitting by myself in a Spoons isolation pod, or on a wet seat in a beer garden in the rain.  I'd probably need an itinerary too, which I don't usually do unless it's Mad Friday.  And if it gets too crowded, I'd need a quick exit plan. So who knows?

Maybe I'll be making more mixtapes this Friday.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Lizards Guide To Surviving The Lockdown : Part Two - The Bloggers Advise

Eight weeks?  Yes, it's been eight weeks now.  Have YOU gone insane yet?  Have YOU covered your walls in unsettling, strange pictures with a chartreuse Crayola?  Have YOU baked a life-size effigy of Captain Tom with your panic-bought hoard of flour?  Have YOU even started watching BBC3?  If so, you're not alone.  Probably.

Any kind of pub-type experience is at least ten weeks away at this point, so at best we're not even halfway through this yet.  But if you, dear reader, think that you are suffering, imagine the travails of those most affected by this ordeal - the pub and beer bloggers of the UK.  As this particular blog is among those that are most well-regarded and connected, we at Seeing The Lizards have asked a select group of other bloggers on how they're coping while cut off from their usual stimuli.  And, importantly, how much they're drinking as a result.

All responses have been anonymised for their (and quite probably your) safety.

-    -    -    -    -    -    -   -    -     -

"Ah've been handling this lock-doon very well, if ah do say so mahself.  Though it's a braw job ah wisnae stuck doon in London wi' all those southern jessies and their awfy bad beer wi' nae sparklers. Plenty o'thermometers here too tae check if ah get the Rona.  In the meantime, ah'm goan through ma collection of old brewery crap ah got while scaring the reps senseless back when ah was a CAMRA Brewery Liasion Officer.  Right noo, ah'm off doon the offy for a carry-oot o'Fever Tree and Plymouth which should last me the neet!"  Alcohol units consumed since 23rd March - 175.

"Though you'd think these events would affect our business model somewhat, it's actually been very productive for us.  At our blog, we've been posting links, giving our customers (readers) teaser extracts from our next book, posting links,  organising themed posts with other bloggers to post links to on our blog, posting links, using other blog posts to 'springboard' our own and, of course, posting links.  We've also been writing EXCLUSIVE CONTENT, which you can access by signing up to our Patreon for as little as ONE DOLLAR a month.  Don't forget to check out our pledge tiers for extra bonuses too!"  Alcohol units consumed since 23rd March - Click here for EXCLUSIVE CONTENT.

"To be honest with you, this lockdown is a bit like being a hostage in Beirut in the 1980s.  But without the blindfolds and beatings, of course!  I can't do my usual thing of travelling and taking bizarre and probably inappropriate pics now, so I've mainly been deleting all the emails I'm getting from Amazon asking me why I've not used my Dash button for green highlighters in two months!  Though my faithful readers can be assured I'll carry on taking scary photos of myself holding cleaning products.  I'll probably be drinking them too by July as well!"  Alcohol units consumed since 23rd March - 80 (100 if you're counting Toilet Duck and Flash)

"Like thousands of other people, I'm working from home at the moment.  Well, actually, I always did, really.   But make no mistake - I am working.  Despite what some haters seem to think, setting up Zoom meetings with brewers, shop owners and other journalists so we can tell each other how awesome we are is, like, really hard dude.    The other hard part is actually having to go out and, like, buy beer with money and stuff.  The freebies from Europe are taking ages to get here, man.  I'm almost out of spare cash too, so I'll probably have to ask dad for some.  I mean - ask him to invest in an Awesome Online Beer Magazine That Will One Day Probably Do A Print Edition.  Value of investments can go up or down."  Alcohol units consumed since 23rd March - 2

"I've heard some people have been really bored during this lockdown.  Not me - I'm making sure to plan for an uncertain future while I still can.  I've been going round the cash machines of my local town and emptying them of money, lest the government use COVID-19 as an excuse to ban cash altogether.   It's a free country, or so they tell us.  Also, I've been wrapping my house in tinfoil to make sure no puritan busybodies grab my data while I'm ordering Dreamies and Badger Tanglefoot from Sainsbury's.  Though I have been pursuing leisure too - I've been playing all my prog rock albums non-stop since March.  I've got through six of them so far."  Alcohol units consumed since 23rd March - 100

"Lockdown?  What lockdown?  It's life as usual for me!  Just let me open this bottle of whisky here.  Yep.  Life as usual.  Sitting in bed browsing Amazon for paisley shirts and clicking on eBay's selection of obsolete audio equipment while listening to music that no person with a sane mind would put on the turntable in 2020.  Yeah, I've not been to the pub for a while, but to be quite honest I've forgotten all about them.  Oh look, is that a new video about acoustic gramophones on YouTube?  I'll queue that one up behind that two hour one on reel-to-reel tape recorders.  Damn, the whisky bottle's empty again.  Where did I leave that carrier bag?  Look, I'll write another blog post one day.  Just have to figure out which keyboard to aim for."  Alcohol units consumed since 23rd March - 845,231