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They say never meet your heroes, but what would they be like over a pint?

The Bar Man column, by West Norfolk CAMRA's Jeff Hoyle, Friday, February 14, 2020

I seem to have reached that time of life when people who were part of my early life are with us no more. Jack Bond, former Lancashire cricket captain who lead the team I went to watch regularly during the glory years of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Clive James, the critic who I saw doing a show called Live Libel with Pete Atkin. David Bellamy, Martin Peters the list is far too long.

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, February 14. Photo: PA
The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, February 14. Photo: PA

They say never meet your heroes and mostly I have heeded this advice, though I often wonder what it would have been like to have a pint with them. I guess that Mark E Smith may have been hard work.

He would have liked a beer, but may not have been as discerning as I am, though it looks like the video of The Fall’s cover of the R Dean Taylor ‘There’s a Ghost in My House’ was filmed in Joseph Holt’s flagship pub and former home near Heaton Park.

I did get served by the great Bob Willis in the Prince of Wales in Birmingham before his 1981 heroics, but my main memory is his difficulty in calculating the correct change.

Like many of my generation I was the right age to stay up late to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus, an experience which created a conflict between laughter at the jokes and embarrassment because my parents clearly did not think it was amusing and would probably have preferred my up in bed.

Looking back, it is hard to decide how funny it was. You can never replicate the feeling of seeing the jokes for the first time, and they lose their potency with repetition.

However they became a sort of secret language for us teenage boys and I can recall our biology teacher being nicknamed Snapper Organs after a character in one of their sketches, even though his real name has long disappeared from my memory.

Although it seemed revolutionary at the time, the show built on solid foundations. Not much earlier there was a tea time children’s show called ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ which displayed a similar anarchic sense of humour, including regular appearances by the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, with Neil Innes, another who we have recently lost.

One of the links between these programmes was Terry Jones, who died earlier this year.

He may not have been to most high profile of the group, but he was far more than just a comedian. Amongst other things, he was a well-respected historian and I can highly recommend his book on the Crusades, knowledge of which he brought to the Monty Python and the Holy Grail film.

He was also a CAMRA member and in collaboration with Martin Griffiths he was one of the first of the new wave of brewers, opening Penhros Brewery in Herefordshire back in 1977.

Sadly, this was the time before the proliferation of beer festivals and guest ales, so I never did taste Jones First Brew or Penhros Porter before the enterprise ended in 1983.

It was fitting that we toasted his memory with wafer thin mints at a recent Kings Lynn Community Film Club Close up event on British comedy, a tribute to his Mr Creosote character, thankfully without the results observed in The Meaning of Life.

John Cleese may have more imitators and Michael Palin a more high profile post Python career with his travel programmes, but Jones had it all. Comedian, historian, brewer and much more beside, he will be missed, a true renaissance man, in every sense of the word. Mint anyone?

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