Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, October 14, 2016

With over 100 real ales, ciders and perries, this year's festival had plenty to offer. NNL-151105-101008001
With over 100 real ales, ciders and perries, this year's festival had plenty to offer. NNL-151105-101008001
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I’m pretty sure I read the results of a survey recently in which the public were asked to choose the most unpleasant word in the English language, and if my memory serves me correctly, the winner was ‘moist’. It’s hard to disagree, but I prefer to dwell on my favourite word, and ‘serendipity’ comes to mind, both for the sound it makes and my delight in coming across pleasant things unexpectedly.

A demonstration of these words in action occurred back on the autumn equinox when, on a whim, I decided to head off to Lords to see some of the final climactic match in the cricket county championship. After about three hours gripping action, where unfortunately Yorkshire were doing rather too well, the over exuberance of their supporters was muted as it became rather moist, and the players headed off to the pavilion. I was left with a dilemma. Lords is not really my type of place. It’s OK for watching cricket, but the over representation of the well-heeled in their colourful clothing distinguishes it from watching cricket in my native Lancashire. True, my copy of the Guardian was not confiscated on entry and I worked out that the Turkish café over the road is a decent egalitarian place for lunch and that coffee is cheaper in the bars away from the pavilion, but how much of a rain break could I endure? There was the beer festival in the garden behind the pavilion, but it was almost sold out, and so after much agonising I decided to leave.

Fortunately, the night before I had checked my emails, and found one from the Windmill on the Common, a pub I have never visited. The Common in question is the one in Clapham, and the email informed me that the very day I was in London was the 185th birthday of Young’s, the brewers and that in celebration, they were offering me a free pint. So, off I went. If your experience of Clapham is limited to the Junction railway station, I can reveal that you have missed out and the rest is much nicer than that. The Common is a glorious, extensive green area next to a lovely old town. The Windmill is a super pub with outside seating and a wealth of architectural detail as well as an enticing menu and a number of boutique letting rooms. I approached the bar with my token and the barman could not have been more pleasant as he pulled me my free pint of Young’s bitter. By this time the rain had stopped, and the sun was out. There was a temptation to linger longer but I resisted this for a stroll past the Common and a swift half in the Prince of Wales, a pub where the artefacts on display make the Crown and Mitre seem plain. Anyway, I had to travel back across London to the Betjeman Arms on St Pancras station and cash in another birthday voucher, this time for a pint of Young’s Autumn Gold. I returned home to find out that sometime after I had left, play had resumed at Lords. While it was fun to watch the cockerel crows of the Yorkshire masses ruffle the peacock feathers of the Middlesex members at the home of cricket, I did feel a bit like an intruder at a private party. Better to stick with what I know and toast the health of Young’s, and wish them well for another couple of centuries.

Meanwhile I will keep taking the serendipitous path through the treacherous moist hazards of daily life.