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.

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"Ah've been handling this lock-doon very well, if ah do say so myself.  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 I was a CAMRA Brewery Liasion Officer.  Right noo, ah'm off doon the offy for a carry-oot of 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

Monday, 4 May 2020

The Lizards Guide To Surviving The Lockdown : Part One - Make Your Own Pub Experience

We in the UK have been holed up for 6 weeks now.  Everyone's done their best to amuse themselves - trying to bake that Instagrammable sourdough; watching Bob Ross paint on TV to assuage anxiety; randomly mixing the last few millilitres of all the drinks cabinet booze bottles in seach of cocktail epiphany.  But what everyone here really wants to do is to go down the pub.

Unfortunately, even if you were allowed past the top of your street, there are no open pubs to go to (unless, nudge nudge wink wink, you "know" somebody).  But never fear - in one of the gestures of community spirit and generosity that this blog is famous for, we at Seeing The Lizards are providing you with an instructional guide to make your own preferred pub experience without having to leave your property boundaries and risk being fined by the fuzz.  And remember, getting those subtle touches right only adds to the sense of authenticity, as is imagining the requisite atmosphere.

No thanks are required, just send Green Devil.

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Suburban Local - First of all, start up your hob and begin cooking four meals of clashing cuisines and set up a fan to blow the aromas into your living room.  Place random logs and semi-burnt out candles "artistically" round your fireplace and select Chicago's Greatest hits on Spotify.  After taking the cushion out of your armchair, sit down as low as possible while drinking a pint of cheap balsamic vinegar.  If you have small children, get them to run around squealing while squirting ketchup and mayonnaise over everything and everyone.

ADDED SUBTLE TOUCH - Hang unrelated pictures of sheep on the walls.


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Micropub - Surely you have a few old pumpclips lying around.  Yes, that's it, stick them ALL on the walls.  Find the largest window in your house and put a table and chair next to it.  Command your pet dog to either sit there and demand treats or simply chew up all your belongings.  Decorate your table with old CAMRA magazines and a week's worth of the Daily Mirror.  Finally, install a large plasterboard wall smack in the middle of the room, at a stroke halving how much space you have move about in.

ADDED SUBTLE TOUCH - Drink a beer you've never seen before and never will again.

ATMOSPHERE : Claustrophobic

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J.D. Wetherspoon - Go to the garage and find all the old paint tins you have and tip them randomly all over the living room carpet.  When it's dry, mix up a batch of golden syrup and breadcrumbs and spread evenly on every flat surface.  Set up all the screens in the house to silent and subtitled, and tune into the snooker or BBC News 24.  Then go to your fridge where you keep your drinks and wait.  And wait.  And wait.

ADDED SUBTLE TOUCH : Read UKIP's 2015 Election leaflets while saying "At least it's cheap."

ATMOSPHERE : Disconcerting

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Brewery Tap - Is your lounge full of comfortable and tasteful soft furnishings?  Well, you won't be needing them, then.  Chuck the carpet, curtains and 3-piece suite into a skip outside.  Replace all your halogens and CFDs with a single 250 watt bare-filament lightbulb.  Install a single metal stool and patio table on the naked concrete floor and turn your air-conditioning up to full until the temperature is -2 degrees Celsius.  And remember to chill your drink to -10 to make it seem cold by comparison.

ADDED SUBTLE TOUCH : Use an old, rusty oil drum as the toilet.

ATMOSPHERE : Exclusive

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Samuel Smiths - Switch off all electronic devices and move everything invented after 1895 into the spare room.  Paint everything a fetching shade of burgundy and cover all brand names with a white rose.  Place passive-aggressive notices everywhere about things you are not allowed to do while here, and pretend you want to talk to everyone while wondering what's going on on Facebook and Instagram.  If you hear something you don't like, throw everyone out of the house, board up the windows and doors, and put a big rock on the driveway to prevent them from trying to get back in.

ADDED SUBTLE TOUCH - Sack your family and start legal proceedings against them.


Friday, 1 May 2020

The Session #144 - Idle Hands Are The Green Devil's Playthings

So, along with my other things resurrected during lockdown madness, The Session (Beer Blogging Friday) is back.  I didn't participate too often in it back in the day, but as with a lot of people now, I have the time. So thanks to Alistair at  for this topic - "Basically,  tell us where you are at." And I know it's Saturday now here in the UK, but I only finished work at midnight.  It's still Friday somewhere, surely?

Me?  I'm probably coping a lot better than some.  It isn't the lockdown that gets me down.  No, being autistic means I have very good self-reliance and have the ability to find entertainment for myself.  YouTube videos, looking up stuff I'm interested in, browsing eBay etc. etc.  A lot of people would find this dull and lacking in social stimuli, but I'm ok with it.

Fun times

Work is a different matter.  Not only am I a "key worker", I'm one of those "key workers" who has to go out and deal with the public every day.  Some of whom may be carrying COVID-19 and not especially diligent about social distancing while out shopping.  To be honest, it's a relief to get home and shut the door and not have to worry about someone leaning over me and coughing.  Though on the plus side, I've never seen so many happy faces when I push a trolley-load of flour towards the Home Baking section.

Thankfully, as I work in a shop, I can make sure I get the stuff I want.  Mainly Oakham Green Devil, Grant's whisky, and McVities digestives.  As I've said many times over the last six weeks, you have to cling onto your small pleasures now, as it's pretty much all you have left.  I have a routine now.  Get up, go to work at 3pm, finish at midnight, crack open a few Green Devils while making today's version of Mexican food with whatever ingredients I've found, have large whisky and go to bed.  Repeat for the last month.

"How do you cope?" With this. LIKE OBVS.
Am I missing pubs?  Yes, the chance to go out the pubs of Preston on Sunday and Monday was one of the things that got me through the weekful of retail nonsense that supermarkets are these days.   I miss sitting outside Plug & Taps waiting for it to open at 1pm, then spending 3 hours drinking and talking complete bollocks for the 3 hours, before moving onto the Black Horse and consuming unwisely strong beer, then going to Vinyl Tap and making them put Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass's Going Places on the turntable, before finally having my final pint at the Moorbrook which I may even vaguely remember.  Yeah, I miss that.

How do you fill the time freed up by not doing very much?  Well, stuff that previously seemed silly eventually starts sounding like a good idea.  Hey, it's a sunny Sunday!  Why not do a video of me sitting in my back garden drinking Buckfast while "The Mexican Shuffle" plays from an 80s cassette boombox?  Yeah, why not?  I'd never have done that had I been out at the pub that day, or watching the IndyCar race from Circuit Of The Americas at Wings & Beer Co.   This lockdown is going to carry on for a good few weeks, so who knows what kind of bizarre, dubious nonsense my brain will start conjuring up?  Stay tuned.

I'll be fine.  I've not drunk myself to death, died of boredom, or caught the Corona (despite the best efforts of some of my customers and colleagues).  I can deal with waiting.  The only frustration is the uncertainty...

Monday, 27 April 2020

Old Beer Ads #15 - Oranjeboom (1983)

Continuing the lockdown-inspired practice of blog grave-robbing, I'm digging up a series I've not posted on for 5 years.  This is also partially inspired by the return of Van Der Valk to the UK's TV screens.

Belying it's current reputation a black-tinned cornershop-stocked super-strength filth, Oranjeboom pilsner was once quite popular in the UK, and was promoted with ads such as this, rammed full of all the Dutch stereotypes the copywriters could think of.  And as we all know, the only tune to come out of the Netherlands was "Eye Level", used as the theme tune to the aforementioned Amsterdam-set detective show.  One presumes the agency couldn't get a whole Edam cheese to ride a bicycle next to a canal, so they went for animated kitchen tiles.  No doubt a similar effect could be acheived by drinking several cans of Oranjeboom 8.5 at home.

Ironically, despite the Low Countries overload presented here, the end of the ad proudly proclaims it's now brewed in the UK, joining the plethora of faux-Eurolagers that were depressingly common in the 80s.  Just like "Eye Level" itself, a 'Dutch' tune orchestrated by a man from Market Harborough.

As a bonus, here's the Simon Park Orchestra on Top Of The Pops in 1973, when the BBC had to have them on as "Eye Level" had got to #1.  And of course they had to wear orange jumpers.  Because Holland, y'know?

Saturday, 18 April 2020


Aren't I lucky? A shelf full of Bucky
During these strange times, you often find yourself doing things to fill up the day.  Stuff that you would never normally do and that others would find quite peculiar.  Such as making a jewellry box out of laser-cut plywood, or recording Gene Pitney's hits onto cassette tape, or doing group video chats while consuming unwise amounts of whisky.  Such is life when there a no pubs to go to, and no immediate sign of there being so in the near future.

For me, the past two weeks have been like this - get up, go to work, stay there till Midnight (for maximum social distancing), go home, eat, have a few beers and go back to bed.  The thing about this routine, is you have very little to look forward too at the end of the week.  Basically, it's the same as a work day, only without the work.

And as such, you try to find the smallest thing about your old life to hang onto.  With me, it will be Buckfast Sunday.  Let me explain - every Sunday at 3pm, myself and few other regulars at a local micropub have a glass of the infamous Buckfast Tonic wine.  Like all the best traditions, nobody really knows how it started (or even how a craft beer focused bar ended up stocking notorious Ned juice). 

We've all sent out the Twitter messages to each other saying we've got the stuff in (I ordered 4 bottles from the Whisky Exchange to make the postage worthwhile) and we're all chilling them ready for tomorrow's online Bucky sharing.  Daft, I know.  But it's the little things that remind you the most of better times.

If anyone else has Bucky in, you're welcome to join us.  And if you end up wreckin' the hoose after you've drunk a whole bottle, it will at least give you something different to do afterwards.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Herb Alpert, Huggy Bear and Isopropanol

The TJB not observing social distancing rules
The whole of the UK is in lockdown at present.  But while the roads are quiet, there have been other sounds.  The rusty squeals and grinding clanks of previously moribund blogs coming back to life.  Some would say it's because their authors quite literally have nothing better to do.  With me, it's because the whisky and Green Devil have run out.

The second week of March seems like an awfully long time ago now, doesn't it?  I'd booked it off way back in September, and made vague plans (thankfully unacted upon - prevarication has been my friend for once) to do "stuff" involving travel and pubs.  At work, I'd seen the obvious signs of panic buying  but thought, well, they should be able to cope.  I got home, stuck some Herb Alpert on the turntable and relaxed.

I was roundly disabused of this when, 10 minutes into my first working day off, the phone rang asking me if I'd come in.  Sadly, I declined, for the banal reason that all my uniform was presently going round in the washing machine.  I told them I would go in the next day and the rest of the week.  As long as I had the Thursday off.  Why?  Well...

As always, I was in the pubs on Sunday and Monday.  Everyone was trying their best to maintain "social distance", but some of these places are rather poky and it wasn't quite working out.  Though I don't really see myself as some kind of Huggy Bear figure (though undoubtedly I dress even less tastefully), the Word On The Street was the pubs would all be shut down from Sunday evening.  There were rumours of Friday closure, but these were discounted as it would probably result in what sociologists call "utter carnage" that night.

Needs must
The week ticked on, and everyone watched the latest Coronavirus updates on the news.  And, as we can see in hindsight, the messages weren't encouraging.  Stay inside if at all possible.  Maintain 2 metres distance from people at all times.  And don't go shopping for non-essentials or go to pubs and restaurants. But we're not shutting them down.  "Hmm," I thought "I can see where this is going."  And that is why I had that Thursday off.  It was likely the last time I'd be able to go out for the forseeable future.  I packed my bottle of isopropanol (usually used for cleaning electronics, but hand sanitiser had long ago run out) and went to town.  And yes, dear reader, I got absolutely hammered.  Buckfast, Bud Light, evil keg filth, cask ale, spirits.  I had it all that night.  I even went to Spoons.  I'm glad I did, as on Friday afternoon, the Government announced that all pubs were to close from midnight.

After that, back to work it was.  Prioritising lines, moving labels around to maximise fill, watching pasta and toilet rolls vanish in minutes.  All the usual panic buying fun and games.  But not for long, as a member of my household came down with "symptoms" and I've been in self-isolation for the last 12 days.  As I'm healthy so far, I should be returning to the shop on Thursday.

In the meantime, I've been listening to yet more Herb Alpert, ordering beer takeouts from a nearby pub (someone should invent a sparkler for those growler things, though) and eating digestive biscuits.  Thankfully, my personality is such that I'm not going stir-crazy despite not having left the house since 25th March.  I'll be fine.  Just remember to stay in, wash your hands, only shop for necessities etc. etc. etc.   And if you're stuck for stuff to do, maybe resurrect an old blog?

Friday, 16 November 2018

The Thorny Question

A few weeks back I went into one of Preston's ever-increasing number of micropubs.  Usually this place stocks the uber-awesome beers from uber-awesome breweries.  But this day, it had Thornbridge Jaipur on the handpumps. I commented to the owner that, well, you rarely see that nowadays and wondered why.  I, of course had a pint.  And then another. You know how it goes, right.

About 5 years ago, I was in a craft bar in a different town.  They put Jaipur on while I was in and I thought "This is gonna be good".  I downloaded a counter app for my phone and kept track of how many pints of it were sold in my presence (I dubbed this the "Jaipurotron").  I was there for 4 hours and it got to about 45.  Granted, I did drink 6 of those myself.

Jaipurotron in action
For such a well-regarded brewery, few people seem to be "talking" about Thornbridge now. Whenever I've had their stuff, it's always been a cut above the standard craft sludge that's often seen infesting the bars of the UK.  But it seems to have been increasingly pushed out by the newer and more obviously fashionable breweries.

We sell Thornbridge at the shop I work at, though here I'm using "sell" in the "on the shelves" sense rather than "a lot of it goes through the tills".  We used to sell a lot of Jaipur, but when they switched from 500ml bottles to 330mls, sales collapsed sharply.  I worked out that the customers were being expected to pay 17% less per unit for 35% less beer, and despite what people will sometimes tell you, they noticed.  One guy even told me he switched to Oakham beers because he thought Thornbridge was a ripoff now.  Hell, I even have to date-check the stuff now.

We've recently seen Thornbridge put Jaipur in cans, despite the head brewer being on record as saying he was unconvinced of the merits of canning craft beer.  Either he recently has become convinced, or they've seen their bottle sales tanking in the off-trade and want to move Jaipur to the place on the shelves where those willing to pay more are likely to see it.

Perhaps Thornbridge Brewery should stick to what they've been doing for the best part of their existence.  The "Craft" boom will not last forever, and indeed there are signs it's starting on its way down.  If you have a good product (and they do), you should stick to doing that.  The market will find its way back to you.

Fashion comes and goes, but quality remains.