I've been lunching with Mike once or twice a week recently. Although, actually, lunching isn't quite the right word. You see, Mike suffers from a degenerative disease which means that he's confined to a wheelchair. But Mike enjoys a pint or two, so I've been taking him out and about to some of his favourite haunts. My task is to take care of the driving back and forth, so I can't join in with the drinking. Which means that I become a bit of an observer. And Mike has introduced me to the world of real ale, which is one of those things in life that I completely fail to understand.
But real ale and microbreweries are enjoying a boom, apparently. And it's a funny old design-free world, it seems to me. Or at least judged on the basis of their branding efforts, which really only consists of the labels on the hand pumps. But these seem to be a source of great fascination and discussion on the part of those who partake. Indeed, Mike himself wants to know the ABV of every brew on offer before deciding upon which he's going to splash out on. Can you really tell the difference between something at 4.3% and 4.7%? Or is the rate at which you become inebriated part of the pull?
Mind you, for all their lack of sophistication, I can't help wondering whether these microbreweries haven't in fact got their target audience completely nailed. For they're always men. And, without wishing to appear to be too judgmental, men who are past their prime. With views and opinions to match. And the beer pump labels that I've seen in the past few months seem to be spot on when it comes to reflecting the thought processes of those who like to down a few pints over a lunchtime.
Here, with the help of the Pump Clip Museum, are a few examples to illustrate my observations. Top of the list is the belief that the barmaid wants, more than anything else, to engage in some form of sexual activity.
But sometimes the barmaid isn't so attractive. Which means that attention has to turn to those who are getting the sort of sex that you can only dream of.
But three pints down and with it comes the onset of brewer's droop. Which means only one thing: thoughts turn to steam trains.
And with steam trains comes nostalgia. And so, inexorably, to our hero - Winston Churchill.
And from Winston, and thoughts of all those unwanted foreigners, there's only one place to retreat to - the safety of the Union Jack.
But I'm still sober, remember. And my mind's beginning to wander. But mine's a designer's mind, so what I want to do is inject a bit of fun into the proceedings, and untilize my skills along the way.
So what am I going to do? Well, I'm going to give that last label a modernist makeover.