‘Never again’, muttered the owner of the hangover. But just like genocide, here we are.
Gout flare-ups give rise to similar sentiments. Behavioural changes will need to be made to ensure there’s no repetition. You’ll want to avoid excruciating pain and a loss of mobility. So when the most recent visitation departed, solid resolutions were tabled. A two-day drinking week perhaps (three, max). A four-pint limit (five, max.) Less red meat and a fond farewell to bacon. The unnatural swerving of delicious, strong, hoppy IPAs. A lifetime ban for herring and ox spleen.
And yet, on my first pain-free day for a week, I gave serious consideration to a Leo Sayer (an all dayer, for those not born within the sound of Bow Bells). It was a Saturday, and Saturday means football. And football means pints. Dulwich Hamlet at Margate was on the horizon, the greatest away day in the western world, and Pompey Dunc had just sent me his flawless itinerary. It included six micropubs, a microbrewery, football, fish and chips and a nightclub. My very joints shuddered at the thought.
I had to say my least favourite word: no.
Going to the football always starts with a livener, so I would also decline meeting the Charlton boys at the Pelton Arms, and duck out of pre-match pints at the Fox & Firkin prior to Lewisham Borough CFC’s game at the Ladywell Arena. No football, no pints, as Bob Marley might have sung. I would instead take in a little culture. Perhaps a tool around the Tate Modern? I had a little edible to get me in the mood for modern art and set off. An hour later I was full of ideas and one of them was to pop into The Rake at Borough Market on the way. I love early doors at The Rake on a Saturday. You can almost get a seat.
Filled with the wisdom that true pain brings, I looked past an incredible array of outstanding Pale Ales, IPAs and New England IPAs to find something darker. One of my new gout bros (reddit/r/gout) had suggested stouts are much easier on the condition. I only had a half. This new me was virtue personified.
I did feel a little Old White Dude privilege being waved through security at the Tate Modern, while others were searched, especially as I was high as a kite on a space brownie. Unfortunately the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was sold out. Infinity mirror rooms would have been perfect for my state. The strange, beguiling geometry of the Blavatnik building would have to do.
I stared a while at El Anatsui’s Behind The Red Moon, a ‘a monumental sculptural installation made of thousands of metal bottle tops and fragments.’ Then I remembered Tate’s new bar – Corner. It’s on the corner you see, and I hadn’t visited before.
Corner has a dizzying array of craft beer excellence, many of which were collaborations between Tate and some of our best brewers. Perhaps the Tate too considers beer to be art. I have another dark half and joke with the staff about my anti-gout health regime. ‘Though I’m not actually a doctor…’
The combination of alcohol and cannabis is a glorious one – more than the sum of its parts, even in these low doses and my walk along the river was almost ethereal. It was, however, too crowded with tourists. We used to have January and February to ourselves, us Londoners, but it’s now a year-round city, even if it is a long way from being a 24-hour one. We’re not The City That Never Sleeps, so much as The City that Likes a Good Eights Hours’ Shuteye, Thank You Very Much. I step a block south onto Upper Ground. There she is. Deserted. I was in the country again.
A third half at The Understudy on the South Bank couldn’t do any harm I figured. Sitting outside I am immediately approached by two teenagers.
‘Get us a drink, will ya?’
‘I’ll give you a pound.’
‘Er, no.’ I said, slightly bewildered.
They peppered me with questions along the theme of what I might be able to do for them.
‘Look. I am trying to have a quiet beer. Could you please bugger off?’
‘Did you just tell me to “fuck off”? Me, a child!’ said one loudly, looking around for support. ‘I’m only messing with you,’ he continued before returning to his earlier thread. ‘G’is a fag.’
A member of staff came out and shooed them off, like they were pigeons awaiting discarded crumbs.
‘Are you alright?’ she asked, kindly, concerned I might have been shaken by my encounter with youth.
‘I’m fine, thank you,’ I said. ‘I’m from London,’ as if that explained everything.
The Cinder Toffee Stout from New Bristol Brewery (‘just a half, please’) at the Waterloo Tap was a delightful divergence from the sheer malty path I’d been on, when I got a call from Lady South to say she would not be joining me. Oh well, I thought. No need to cross the river. I might as well head back, taking a subconscious second to map out the pubs between the South Bank and home, like Einstein on a pub crawl. I would certainly have to stop at The Shirker’s Rest en route, if there was any justice in the world.
I did manage to rack up ten halves before arrival; still within agreed boundaries, even if not exactly angelic. And yet there she was again on Monday morning – Madame Goutte – back to remind me that most boundaries are entirely made up. The stout gout bro was wrong. It seems there are consequences to forgetting ‘Never again’.
Unlike the ‘deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.’