Monday, January 02, 2017

True Ale

BBC Radio (Radio 4 Extra) are currently repeating their serialisation of Peter Tinniswood's magnificent "Uncle Mort's South Country", and Lucy and I listen to it whilst we go a-walking. If the local population don't already think that there is something a little odd about me, they surely must do now, as I walk the streets a burst into uncontrollable laughter. I have never fully understood what poetry is, but if anything is poetry it is the writing of Tinniswood. In the first episode there is a fabulous monologue by Uncle Mort about the nature of true ale. Sadly the book is now out of print so I have attempted to transcribe the dialogue to provide you with just a taste of what pushed me over the edge of madness. 

Carter Brandon and his Uncle Mort have embarked on a motor tour of "the south" and they stop off on the way at a pub for refreshments. On tasting the ale, Uncle Mort is propelled into his wonderful monologue on the nature of true ale.

TRUE ALE by Peter Tinniswood

Do you know Carter, they have no idea how to brew ale in these parts, have they?
True ale should be strong and creamy and make your knees throb on Friday nights,
It should engender rings down the side of the glass denoting each of the drinker’s swigs,
Like the rings on a tree denotes its age.
It should stain old ladies dentures and rot the stitches in the welts of industrial boots.

True ale, Carter, should be northern ale. It should have muscle and sinew,
And give you backache on Sunday morning when it’s time to fill the coal scuttle.
It should be honest and assertive, masculine and dominant.
It should grab you by the goolies and demand to be drunk in an atmosphere redolent of sawdust, spittoons,
And waistcoat pockets bulging with congealed treacle toffees.

Not like this stuff.
This stuff’s for tarts with dangling ear-rings.
It’s for managers of Gas Showrooms and silly buggers who ask questions on ‘Gardeners Question Time’.
It’s for tennis players and Japanese tourists with flash attachments and too many teeth.
It’s for antique dealers, train spotters, Yanks, Frogs, Waps,
Makers of hamburgers, purveyors of hurricane lamps, Lady javelin throwers of both sexes,
Micks, Taffs, Jocks, People with big ears, People with boil scars on thin necks.
Ausies, Arabs, Spicks and people with threads of spittle plying between their lips.

I’m not a prejudiced man, Carter.
But this ale is not a patch on the muck that we get at home.

Carter agrees and then asks, “Do you fancy another one?” Uncle Mort replies:

Too bloody true.
And think on this time will you …
Ask her to liven it up by putting a few mouse droppings in it!

Now that is poetry.  There is a recording of the part of the episode this comes from available on YouTube. If you can listen to it without laughing, I will buy you a pint of real northern ale the next time I see you.


  1. Tales from Witney Scrotum is one of my favourite Peter Tinniswood books.

  2. Wonderful stuff. I wonder what they would have made of some very real and homebrewed ale that we were given over Christmas, with instructions not to drink before mid January but not to leave till after early February otherwise it might explode.....
    Happy New Year to you!

  3. Love this stuff...

  4. I toast you with a virtual pint, my friend. Happy New Year.

  5. It sounds like it would be great to listen to and all those people on the trail will have to get use to seeing you out there in a walking stupor. It probably is a lot like texting and driving, walking and listening.

  6. The sight of walkers laughing is growing less rare. I think cell phones have changed how we feel about seeing that happen. Glad you had a great chuckle.

  7. Listening to this made me grab some of that Yankee brew from the fridge. A pumpkin porter...minus the mouse droppings.


Annie Burnett And The Dead Fox Marker

This is a photograph of my Auntie Annie - Annie Elizabeth Burnett who, in October 1933, became Annie Moore. My guess is that this particular...