It is funny what you learn, or maybe remember. On a train travelling to the south west longing for privacy I am interrupted by three revelers returning from a drinking birthday celebration at the Tom Cobley, a pub outside Exeter. One of the best pubs in the world I am told and we talk about this and that and drinking.
Lovely company. It is difficult being drunk on a train at six o’clock with a bottle of red in your hand. People look at you. The birthday girl introduced herself and her friend asked me what I was reading. The Last Days of Socrates. A Christmas gift from Ben G. I was upright and irritated at having to bother with anyone but the conversation was so interesting I was pleased they had come along the corridor to find me with my feet on the chair.
We talked about Plymouth, their home town. They loved it. Birthday Girl had even gone to Australia and got off at Plymouth. I heard tales of good nights in the Hoe and the Barbican, how the German bombs had missed those two pockets of old Plymouth. I heard about the moors and the sea.
We talked about different drinks, I mentioned Pale Ale, they recommended Proper Job. Then I said the word beer and they, he, no it was she, said: No! Ale!
What’s the difference I asked? They thought and said with an almost reticence: It’s English.
And so I remembered with some surprise and no displeasure that Ale was English. Beer an almost other drink but Ale an English one and I was sitting with three English people. They knew they were English and they loved Ale.
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