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BrewDogging #72: Ealing

If your plan all along was to abandon all plans, would the bar implode?If the year 2020 was a movie, then I guess Abandon All Plans would be as good a poster tagline as any...

We've got a portrait-shaped photo's worth of space to fill, so let's recap on where we are currently. The last time one of these BrewDogging pieces appeared on the site, it reported on a visit to the Cambridge bar back in early March 2020: that weekend when we knew that there was a lurgy out there in the world, but weren't quite sure yet how it was going to affect us personally. The drinkers in the Cambridge bar on March 7th 2020 were having a generally relaxed time of it: the drinkers we encountered in the Clapham bar just one week later were a lot more twitchy, as we all started to realise that pub nights out were about to become a lot more limited.

You can count the number of times we've been in BrewDog bars since then on one hand, literally: two trips to Shepherds Bush, and one each to Dalston, Paddington and Soho, all in the brief gaps when they've been open between one lockdown and the next. Inevitably, some of the bars couldn't survive in such an uncertain climate. For us, the two crippling losses have been Helsinki, one of our favourites anywhere: and Rome, a city that now has to deal with the twin disasters of the closure of a bar and Jose Mourinho running their football team. But there are several bars we hadn't got to yet that no longer exist: Sao Paulo, Tampere, Norrköping and Budapest. We've also had the announcement that Old Street AF is transitioning to just become plain old Old Street, because who on earth would want to lay off the booze in these times?

So, we come to April 12th 2021, the day in which restrictions in England were eased just enough to allow people to drink in pub gardens, but not inside the actual pubs themselves. And the day on which BrewDog decided, just for shits and giggles, to open up three new bars in England for the first time. One of which was literally within walking distance of Ch√Ęteau Belated-Monkey. So here we are.

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Simian Substitute Site for May 2021: Hartlepool


Books: Continuing with the audiobooks at bedtime, we've spent most of April listening to John Cooper Clarke's autobiography, I Wanna Be Yours. It's as ideal a candidate for being read out loud as you'd expect: Clarke's spent a lifetime honing his verbal delivery, so his memoir is a breeze to listen to. It's possible that hearing it rather than reading it makes some of his personal idiosyncrasies stand out a bit more: his tendency to compile his namedrops into huge lists, or his use of multiple catchphrases throughout the book. ("What the - huh?" "Give it a name." "Luxury. Pure, unashamed, luxury.") What's more alarming is the trajectory his life story takes: it starts out as the story of a poet who occasionally dabbles in heroin, and slowly turns into the story of a junkie who does the odd poetry gig. But he's eye-wateringly honest - not to mention bleakly funny - about the ups and downs of his later years, and that honesty keeps his story compelling throughout. Like many autobiographies, the final chapter is effectively a headlong rush through All The Things That Have Happened To Me Since I Got Bored With Writing This Book: perhaps by the end of the year we'll have found one that doesn't end like that.

Internet: Sometimes, it has to be said, a whole audiobook is a bit much to digest. For this reason, we've also recently experimented with a week-long free trial of Blinkist. They take non-fiction books and smash them down into precis form, as both written summaries and fifteen minute audio pamphlets - "the app all CEOs love," says the publicity, which confirms everything you always suspected about CEOs. (Apart from one, he said, realising that he actually quite likes his job right now.) Over the course of the week we listened to, um, 'blinks' of books by David Byrne, Henry Marsh, Chris Hadfield, Brian Krebs, Adam Kay, Richard Wiseman and William E. Paul. Our first one was the Byrne, and I was impressed by how well the summary managed to capture his writing voice. But as we made our way through the other books - notably the Hadfield, which I'd already read in its full-length form - it began to strike me that the blinks were incredibly dumbed down compared to the originals, and the tone of them was invariably simplistic and patronising. (And that's when I realised that 'simplistic and patronising' is the natural tone of David Byrne's writing anyway.) It seems to be a service aimed at people who want to say they've read books, rather than people who want to actually read books. It's possible that a week-long trial is too short to really get the measure of what Blinkist is trying to do, which is hilariously ironic when you think about it. Anyhoo, we're back on the full length audiobooks again now, so watch out for the next exciting instalment in a month's time.

Music: And to make this an entire post full of things you listen to rather than anything else (including the Simian award winner itself), a quick reminder that The Blindboy Podcast is still the single best thing you can ram into your ears on a weekly basis. A recent episode introduced me to the work of Enoch Light, which sounds like the name of a minor English racist but isn't really. Blindboy, in his usual hyperbolic style, insists Light is the equivalent of Giotto in his field: Giotto revolutionised painting by being the first artist to use perspective, while Light was one of the first musicians to use stereo recording. Up until then, people had literally been using recordings of passing trains and table-tennis matches to show off their stereo equipment. Light was a bandleader, and so already had a very specific perspective on how a group of musicians could occupy your field of hearing in two dimensions. His records in the late fifties were gimmicky as hell, with instruments panning wildly from hard left to hard right and back again, but they literally changed the way recorded music was presented after that. And his innovations didn't stop there: his sleeve notes explaining what he was trying to do with the stereo process were so detailed he had to invent the gatefold sleeve to fit them all in, and he also experimented with recording onto 35mm film when magnetic tape turned out not to be high-fidelity enough for him. What a guy! Here, have a listen to five of his earliest stereo albums. (At the very least, try out track 3, which you've probably heard a cover version of at some point.)

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