Pens and the art of motorcycle maintenance by David Price alias Sidney Butts
Transport - always a problem. One Butts motto is; "if it's got a cleavage or wheels it's bound to be trouble". Of course, we should have known this at the start. Even before the brewery was established Freddie was on his way to a finance seminar to assess the feasibility of setting up the business and his car at the time wouldn't start. He went to the nearest pub and asked the landlord if anyone could possibly help him with a push. This was greeted with total, utter, 100% apathy. He then explained he was on his way to a seminar and he wanted to set up a brewery, the bar fell silent and 15 of the locals were suddenly very enthusiastic to help him on his way and gave him a push.
Transport wise, things have never really improved at the brewery. We can only assume that the God of Transport, Vehiclees, has never smiled upon us. Delivery days are always nerve-wracking because you never actually know when you're going to break down. But at the beginning of a delivery day we work out the most efficient delivery route.
There's a pub in Newbury which has just decided to stock our beer - it used to be called the Coarse Jockey but Freddie is convinced it's been renamed The Temporary Sign. So Freddie and Sidney load up the drays; One is a vintage Ford Pickup which keeps doing an impersonation of a motorcycle magnet and consequently has a dented tailgate, a dented door and both wing mirrors have a starburst effect. The other dray is a fossilised Granada Estate which does about 15 mpg. I know for a fact that the previous owners must have had dogs because it smells like the RSPCA dogs home combined with a distillery. We load up about a dozen firkins into each vehicle. The pickup has a couple of kilderkins in it too. We leave the brewery and drive in convoy for a couple of miles, I switch the radio on and we're making quite good time. Oh, no, here's the first incident. The God Vehiclees has decided to play a trick on us. Freddie's tailgate falls open about 50 yards ahead of me so I flash my lights at him to warn him and he waves back amiably, so I flash again and he waves back again - he's obviously listening to the cricket. He rounds a bend in the road and the two full kilderkins roll off the back of the pickup and are right in my path. There is a gentle old lady riding a bicycle and a small child walking a puppy in the path of the kilderkins. And then there's that terrible feeling of everything going in slow motion when you can see exactly what's going to happen. Thankfully the God of Brewing Miraclees is smiling upon us today. Both kilderkins roll at some speed between the cyclist, me and the pedestrian ending up in a stream at the side of the road. Anyway, we have to reload the kilderkins which involves getting into the stream so we are now soaking wet from the knees down and you have that wonderful feeling of knowing that your feet are going to be wet all day. Continuing on, my first drop is at the Pheasant Plucker.
We need to deliver early here because the not overly friendly landlord makes threats about covering us in boiling oil if we don't deliver before mid-day. We are in time so it's relatively early. At the bar is the sales rep from Fartwells, Rick Turnip. He asks how the business is going and we say "Oh, much the same as normal. It's just a case of a workshy barfly and a basket case muddling through". The nice barmaid signs for the delivery and I have to ask for my pen back, it's normally a day of swapping pens around the various pubs on the delivery route. Because its just before opening time at the pub the cleaning lady has mopped and dried the floor and by the look on her face is not overly impressed by the wet muddy footprints I've left on the way out.

The next delivery is to a pub called The Sheath. This is always a fun delivery because there's a huge dog called Cuddles. I have to get the landlady to put it on a rope at the back of the pub so that I can have access to the cellar. The dog is barking and leaping about. Just as I'm trying to get the empty barrel out the rope decides to snap, it's at times like this when it's amazing how quick thinking you are. I remember watching a nature programme once about the animals on the Serengeti. In terms of animal psychology when you are threatened you should apparently get down on all fours and pretend to be munching the grass. This way wild animals do not consider you to be a threat and leave you alone. Despite the animal psychologists' best intentions, now is not the time for the first trial run. Fortunately, the barrel is between the dog and myself and the dog has it locked in its jaws and is trying to tug it away from me. So the pair of us are wrestling over an empty barrel and all I can see is fangs. Being remarkably bold I let the dog have the barrel and I run back into the cellar and shut the door behind me. As I'm trying to hold the cellar door shut I can hear the dog on the other side jumping up at the door and barking its head off. The dog sounds so angry I think he's going to pop. After about 15 minutes the landlady comes down to see what all the commotion is, rescues me from the cellar and explains that Cuddles is a big softy at heart. I drive on to the Cockwell Inn and there's a local propping up the bar. To me it looks like he hasn't left since the previous night. He comments that our beer is very hoppy. "Yes, well that's because we make it with whole hops. We take the female hop cones and boil them up in the wort". "Female?" He questions "Does that mean it's got female hormones in it?" "I'm afraid I really don't know." "Well if you ask me it has because after ten pints of it, I can't drive and I start talking nonsense." I'm not getting involved in this one so it's a quick escape for me. I just wish I hadn't forgotten my pen. Onwards to the Mendip Inn at Everleigh. Twin brothers and their mother run this pub. Mother is a demon for Prozac and has a habit of calling everyone Audrey. There's about eight of us in the bar and one of us is called Audrey, so when talking to you I suppose the dear old girl has a one in eight chance of getting your name right. You can tell we're getting more rural now. As it's getting quite close to closing time the brothers offer me a quick half and say they are going to start a band called The Everleigh Brothers and they want me to be an honorary member. One will be called Ringo Everleigh, another will be called George Everleigh and they want to call me Drinks. Ha, ha, very funny, perhaps its time to remind them of the brewery tour when they came to visit us when they were worshipping the God of Brewery Tours, Lotsamplees. Why is it that landlords are the worst behaved on brewery trips? Anyway, I pinch a pen for revenge.

At The Lock, Stock and Snatchpot, we're into a good routine. The barmaid sees me arrive at the bar and says, "Is it that bad? Four pints?" "No, you'd better make it six" "Oh, that is bad" She goes to the kitchen and returns with six pints of water in a jug so that

I can fill up the leaking radiator in the car. Delivery is signed for and believe it or not, I've still got the pen. The landlord then asks where I'm going next and can he have a lift into town. "Yes of course you can, it's no trouble at all. I'll pick you up outside the front door". Outside he hops in the car and whistles for his dog. He says, "Do you mind if I bring my dog Tricky who's a black Labrador?" "No I don't see why not, that won't be a problem." "In you get then, Tricky" he says and Tricky sits in the footwell on the passenger side. As soon as we exit the car park of the pub Tricky, the big black Labrador jumps up and sits on my lap. I can see mainly black lab and a little bit of kerb. Remembering about always being a company representative I have to be polite on these occasions too. Smiling at the landlord, after all there's no point in trying to look forwards at the road, I cough, politely, of course, "Oh don't worry about that" says the landlord "he always sits there when I'm driving too."

At the Snorty Fix, there's no deliveries just a collection of empty casks or at least that's what I thought. There's four Irish buskers looking for digs for the night. The landlord from the Lock Stock and Snatchpot cannot resist and needs an Irish band that night. "Sidney, it won't be a problem for you to get all of us back?" Customer relations "Ergh, of course not", sort of thing. So, I'm driving back to the Lock Stock and Snatchpot with the landlord, a black Labrador on my lap, four Irish buskers, two guitars, an accordion, a penny whistle and ten casks.

We're nearly on the home run now so over to the Fat Parrot which is open all day. I park in the car park. Exchange a few pleasantries with the landlord and as I do someone runs in from the car park and says, "Has anyone got a Granada?" "Yes", "Well you'd better go out and have a look". So three of us go out and have a look at this Granada Estate shaking like an earthquake, with a huge pool of oil and water streaming out over the tarmac from under it. We stand in wonder for a few minutes, speechless and when the pool gets to about fifteen feet in diameter the landlord says, "I suppose you're quite pleased about that, shall we go inside for a quick pint?" Inside the pub the eruption of Mount Granadius is creating a little bit of an uproar and some smart alec pipes up "All you need now is for it to catch on fire". A more useful comment from one of the locals is that he said he saw a car for sale on his way to the pub about half a mile down the road. He offers to drive me to look at it for the price of a couple of beers and there's a Volvo estate for sale for £750. The lady selling the car fortunately used to be a landlady so having taken it for a very brief test drive and being in a certain predicament I agreed to buy the car. The problem is I only have £650 in my pocket in takings. I ask if I can borrow the car before I buy it to do the last delivery to The Withered Fork and I would drop the balance off after that. She agreed that the fact that my car was stuck exploding in a pub car park was so implausible that it had to be the truth because no one would ever make up such a ridiculous story. Eventually I get back to the Fat Parrot having settled debts owing for the car to retrieve some personal belongings from the glove compartment of the Granada and a bill from the landlord for use of one fire extinguisher. Thank you Mr Alec Smart.

Back to the brewery at tea time and I can't wait to show Freddie the new company car. I do the usual routine check on his pick up for motorcycle dents and there are none, which is quite good. Next door to the brewery, our neighbours are washing their vehicles with a steam cleaner. A bit of banter ensues "Why don't you ever clean your vehicles like we do? Look how spic and span they are" "There's no point in us cleaning our vehicles because they always wear out first". "Anyway Freddie, how did your day go?" He holds up a red, bloody finger that looks about the size of a courgette. "What's all that about then?" "Well, I squashed my finger on the first delivery so on the second delivery I was trying to lift all the barrels with one hand and now I've put my back out. I was trying to deliver to The Temporary Sign and I was struggling so much with one arm that two young girls from the bakery next door came and did the delivery for me. When I was at The Load of Bull I tripped and fell over into the skittle alley and knocked over all the skittles in one. So now I'm covered in bruises and can't move anything". "So, it looks like you had the usual normal day then". To cheer us up we're going out to buy a new dray so we've got an appointment at The Sugar Pits to look at a new van. When it comes to purchasing vehicles there are certain precautions one should take: firstly, don't be rushed into anything; secondly, check all the paperwork and, above all, make sure you see the vehicle in daylight. So we meet this shifty looking bloke in a pub who drives us in his Jaguar a couple of miles down the road to his yard. Well more specifically, a junk yard. Oh, by the way, there is one more precaution to take; if you sense anything suspicious, just abort and walk away. So seeing as he's forgotten his key to the yard the three of us are climbing over a fence with a torch in the pitch dark and I'm trying to convince myself that everything looks totally above board. A short while later, having inspected the vehicle, using a small penlight torch, we're back in the pub going over formalities. The 3 L diesel van appears to be registered as a 2.5 L petrol van and no engine or chassis numbers are evident on the vehicle itself. We always buy particularly well. Hey, at least it's insulated with a chiller unit and there's enough room for all Freddie's fishing equipment. As we drive the vehicle back our heads are filled with all sorts of ideas of summer pop festivals and using a chilled, insulated van to dispense beer. The following day Freddie and I are sorting out who drives the newly acquired heap. We agree that Freddie can use it first and just before he leaves we have a huge decal of the Barbus Barbus pump clip, sporting the fish, which we put on the van. This was obviously a great idea on our part because the first delivery believes we're fishmongers. Freddie's final delivery of the day is to The Labour Club and the van won't start so in he goes and asks the landlord if anyone will help him push the van and six pensioners who were playing crib are completely apathetic, none of them were under 70. The landlord mentions to them that Freddie has just delivered their favourite beer so the six septuagenarians down their walking sticks and dutifully push the van until it starts. So it looks like we're back to square one, doesn't it? Forget all this Vor Sprung dork Tecknik, just remember another brewery motto the dray on the hard shoulder is ours.

Back to scrap book
Back to home page