Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: Guinness and Cheltenham

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt –
A pint of plain is your only man.

Never mind St Patrick's day; this week marks the start of the real Irish holiday: the Cheltenham festival. One Irish bookie even offers a book on the number of pints of Guinness consumed during the course of the event. It's a bit of a marketing stunt, really, but how many times are puters able, collectively, to influence the markets on which they're betting?

Guinness is besides, the drink for Cheltenham. For starters, there's the strong Irish contingent (breeders, punters and jockeys) who make the event an annual pilgrimage. (This is helped by the fact that St Patrick's Day normally falls during the festival, the early Easter's done for that this year). Then there's the fact that the stout itself is perfect for the time of year and event; warming on a blustery and wet spring day, refreshing should the sun come out, cheering should your finances suffer, oh so sweet should you win (and not bad with champagne either) and calming amid the frenzy of the betting rings.

The Irish aspect of the event can be over-played, as I suppose I am guilty of doing in this post, and you will find plenty of English types there too – gamblers, country folk, working men, toffs, city boys and so forth. By far the best thing about events like Cheltenham, though, is that they are wholly inimical to prigs and puritans. Above all, it is not bourgeois.

For those who regard the prospect of risking money – which they might not get back – on chance events, skipping a working day to enjoy yourself, drinking to excess, rubbing shoulders with shady characters and shedding the constraints of the mundane world for the thrills of the chase, of intoxication and the taking of risks (be they physical or financial) events like Cheltenham are a living reproach to their sour, thin-lipped, desiccated natures. The Guardian, of all papers, captures this spirit well today.

Such individuals will get a measure of revenge tomorrow, when the chancellor is expected to offer a few corrective taxes on drinks as a sop to the sanctimonious. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away several thousand of people will be proving that it is perfectly possible to drink to excess without the whole thing degenerating into a mass brawl. Think of it as a pocket of resistance.

There is a rather senimental idea that Guinness tastes better in Ireland. It's not entirely true; for one thing the stuff you get in London is all brewed in Dublin these days. Besides, in Cork you should stick to Beamish or Murphy's. However, any beer that does not sit too long in the barrels will taste better than one which is not consumed in streams. One's physical location, then, is less important than one's state of mind if you want to get the best of your pint of Guinness; another reason why the drink is so perfectly suited to a day at the races.

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Blogger Quink said...

Are you going?

6:52 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Only in spirit, alas. Tomorrow I will be working. Thursday and Friday see my in the east Midlands.

Today, while engaged in a very tedious job, I placed several bets from my desk. (By the close of play I was down £1 in total, well worth it for the escape it offered).

I might have some more Guinness to make up for it. As I urge you to do.

6:56 pm  
Blogger bill said...

"see me", I mean

6:56 pm  
Anonymous Mortdecai said...

I'm sitting here regretting that it's not been socially or professionally acceptable to drink Porter in the morning on the way to work for over 200 years. Damn the introduction of coffee to the UK.

9:45 am  
Blogger Quink said...

What the hell did you do? They've cancelled the bugger...

6:25 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Quink - postponed, dear boy, postponed. Probably because they heard I couldn't make it.

Mortdecai - to drink porter for breakfast simply have a tankard made which resembles a cardboard coffee cup. It's more environmentally friendly, and people will not be able to tell the difference between it and an over-elaborate coffee-based drink produced by an American chain.

12:13 am  
Anonymous Mortdecai said...

Bill, I am on the phone to my tankardmonger as we speak. In any event I shall be unemployed and quite conceivably unemployable by tomorrow morning so porter will flow...

Definitely a week for many pints of plain.

8:41 am  

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