My three-mile cycle to Kilburn had been stupendously mistimed. I’m not really superstitious, but I am sensitive to the signals I receive from what most people would consider unrelated sources. I like odd numbers, especially primes, and believe that coincidences carry messages. We all do this to some extent when we say that something ‘augurs well’ for a particular, desired outcome. It might be a rainbow, a £10 win on the lottery or Aunty Betty’s corns suddenly getting better. Any or all of these might give us a warm feeling that our football team will win today, but scientists would insist that they are completely independent events.
The Augurs were of course priests, common in Roman times, who would predict the future (aka the will of the gods) by studying the flight of birds. Were they in a flock or alone, what direction were they flying in and what type of birds were they? This was known as ‘taking the auspices’. Today we’d consider it just ‘taking the piss’. It was pissing down in Kilburn that day and I didn’t think that augured well at all. Not a bird to be seen either.
The scene that greeted me as I strode toward ‘my’ arch could have been Dickensian if only the vehicles being tended to in all the other arches had been of the ‘one horse power’ variety. I walked drookit through the dank, dark and dreary lane toward my prey at 14A. Oliver (appropriately) greeted me and had already offered up sweeteners, like a rent-free period, before we had even released our manly handshake. I had a look around and soon understood his apparent generosity. The dimensions were favourable – almost square with a high roof and a half-mezzanine floor – but you could smell, see and feel the damp, mouldy, foosty atmosphere. Couldn’t they have cleaned it up, added some flowers, maybe made some fresh-baked bread?
There was just the one other interested party there that day and guess what business they were in? Yep, brewing. This was helpful as we could pepper Oliver with questions until he definitely wasn’t begging for more. The kindest thing you could say about this arch was that it had potential, but that would constitute a euphemism of gargantuan proportions. To quote the 80’s band Orange Juice, you’d have to ‘Rip it up and Start Again’. Given how green I am in the worlds of beer and commerce, the last thing I needed was a building project on top. I won’t even begin to describe the archway communal loos, but do you remember that scene in Trainspotting?
It had at least stopped raining by now and I took the opportunity for a walk around Kilburn. There were plenty bars right enough and you were spoilt for choice as long as you wanted an Irish one. My unrealistic optimism was still painting a rosy future picture in my brain, but by the next day I had written this future possible out of my future perfect. That said, seeing my first arch did act as a turbo boost to my brewing mojo and frankly got my arse in gear. I’d been drifting when I could have been designing beers, creating my brand and firming up my financials. Time to get serious.
Sales of The Tea Leaf Paradox have been drying up like a long-discarded, used teabag. I was clutching at straws with yet more cut-price promotions, and looking out for my next Amazon review like a mother at the window on her daughter’s first date. My marketing channels had yielded virtually nil returns and CAMRA were turning their back on me. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from that highly respected, cutting edge, fashion-savvy periodical the Camping and Caravanning magazine. Their journalist, Leda, was clearly more interested in our various camping adventures than my book, but she was soon talking about Brian like she knew him personally. I imparted a few anecdotes, answered all her questions and sent off some fetching photos of our old chum. The ‘Brian’ feature will appear in their January edition, due out by Christmas. I wonder if they’ll make him the cover star? Or the centrefold!
A few days later I had the chance to share this exciting news with Brian personally, as I had to pay him a visit to have his French accident damage assessed. His onesie had bundled over his head, blown up by the storms a few weeks earlier, exposing his rear to the freezing weather. He looked cold, but not at all cool. After a brief check-up, we firmly reattached his onesie and let him return to his hibernated state.
So, The Tea Leaf Paradox has sold 6 Kindle and 7 paperback copies this month – pathetic. Maybe the article will help, maybe I need to ramp up my marketing, maybe I need to force CAMRA’s hand a little. This is looming large in my thoughts right now, as next week brings the British Guild of Beer Writers annual awards dinner. I don’t expect to win anything of course (I’m no Pete Brown), but I can at least make some contacts and maybe get some advice. With 6 hours of beer drinking scheduled for the evening, I’m not sure I’ll remember any of it though.
Back to brewing. You wait ages for an arch and suddenly two come along at once. This one was south of the river – nosebleed territory for me, but I cycled my way across the Thames and through the Elephant & Castle to take a look. No smell of baking bread but otherwise immaculate, about 1,500 square feet, decent area, tucked away and with a small yard to call it’s own. My helpful host explained that, due to high demand (including yet another brewer), they would be going to closed bids. I pitched in at £18,000 p.a., £2,000 above the asking price. I explained what a perfect tenant I would be. I waited for the phone to ring.
I’m still waiting.