I Can’t Get Into My Office

I have inexplicably forgotten the code to the my office’s entrance door.

The outer lock of the staff entrance to my building is one of those old fashioned ‘push the buttons together but in the right order’ deelies, but it may as well be the Rubix cube from hell these days. I’ll be working from home from now on, someone inform my boss.

I USED to know it. Oh yes, I pride myself in being really rather good at remembering sequential actions. I was told the code once on the first day, and remembered it instantly. In hindsight, I probably should have written it down.
Because it’s not like I ask can ask anyone I work with what the code is, is it? I’ve worked there for more than a year. I’m technically a manager in that I am an actualmanager. Managers are supposed to KNOW this stuff. I can’t just waltz in one morning, high five everyone, and say ‘hey pals, can anyone tell me what the code is to enter this building because I’m either that stupid OR I’ve had a mild stroke?’ They’d take away my biscuits again.
And also, I can’t ask my team because I can’t get into my frigging office!!!
Every morning for days – DAYS – I have sauntered up to the back door, happy and chirpy, wondering what that strange imposing sense of dread is until I reach out for the door handle, and it all comes flooding back. Yes, it’s true – I even forget that I’ve forgotten something.
The scene either plays out in one of two ways – and bare in mind that while my office entrance is not on a busy high street, it is visible to some passers-by.
The first sees me frantically punching in random combinations of code and hammering the handle with gritted teeth. There’s only so many times you can do this, before you have to pretend that you didn’t actually want to go into the building because of a very very important text message that needs addressing straight away. And lo, there you stand, pretending to text until someone else arrives for work and lets you in. Every time I act like nothing is wrong. It’s just a web of lies, day in, day out.
Scenario two is much more pathetic. In this situation, I stand for literally minutes outside the door, hand hovering in the air, staring wide-eyed at the combination pad, willing myself to remember or for the door to stop being such a bastard and just open by itself. Surely I’m due one free magical door opening by now. 
But wait. It gets more tragic.
The other day, I went out for lunch alone and returned a short while later, deeeply immersed in the music I was listening to on my phone.  I suddenly looked up, and found myself inside the building, the offending door swinging closed behind me; I had punched in the right code without even thinking about it and walked in without a second glance.  
‘Christ, I did it!’ I cried, and then cracked my knuckles and hurtled back outside of my own free will, and let the door slam shut. Nothing to fear, I smirked. The same luck would surely repeat itself and I would punch in the code again without thinking and this time, I would memorise it.
Did I bollocks.

Learning Lines Like A Boss

I’m learning lines again.
Autumn season is upon us and that means another splendid production by The Canterbury Players is around the corner. Which means I get to force people to pay money to pay attention to me. Yay! Having appeared in a smasher of a show at The Marlowe Studio in the summer, I was offered the role off Hannah in Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece, Arcadia, which will play at The Gulbenkian from 4th to 7thNovember and is directed by lovely Becky aka Miscriant.
Ahhhh Stoppard. Stoppard.
Oh Christ, I’ve just realised something…….he’s good, isn’t he?

I mean, like, really good. Like, Shakespeare good. Like all his words actually mean something. The kind of words that help the people in the audience on tenuous dates to have sex with each other because the script composition is so witty and so brilliant that you feel like nothing in your life that will ever be as beautiful or as beguiling so you may as well just have sex because you sort of know you’re good at that and why not just attempt to be okay at something for 15mins?

Yes, that level of good.
This is Ben’s script because I left mine in a car.
And I wrote a phone number on it when I couldn’t find a pad.
I think it’s the number for Port Lympne Reserve. Visit it, it’s nice

Arcadia is indeed a masterpiece, intertwining literature, sex, thermo-dynamics, gardening, academia with his usual biting humour and yes, blah blah blah the words the words are wonderful, well I HAVE TO LEARN THEM OKAY?!

But it’s okay, I’ve developed a fool proof system of notes. Some of you dear readers may be amateur thesps yourselves, or perhaps you harbour a secret desire to tread the boards.
Well to help you on your way, I’ve decided to share some of my private script notes – my method, if you will – so you might learn from my experience.

 

 Acting is about knowing when to act. It’s important to remind yourself of this.

You will need to be on stage almost every time that your character is on stage. It’s best to hover by the wings, making sure that you don’t go on without you.

 Physical acting can be challenging and confusing.

I should have learned the dates earlier because I sure as hell haven’t been saying these ones. I swear, I think at some point I said ‘1732 to 1485’ in rehearsal. 


 Yep, lots more of that.

Oh Jesus, that’s a lot of words. Ohhhhhhh I should really look these people up.

And also look inquisitive. Look and speak inquisitively when asking questions. And yell. Always yell questions. 

In all seriousness, here are some actual am dram tips. (If you’re a pro, go way you’re getting paid get back to your script and your roasted swan)
TAKE AWAY THE SAFETY NET
Try putting your script down sooner than you’d like, and lose the prompt (if you have one) for a couple of rehearsals close to curtain up. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s supposed to. If your lines are not in your head and others are waiting for their cues, it’s painful. But one thing that’s sure to make me learn my lines is the fear of looking unprofessional in front of others

TAKE STOCK
Reread everything YES THAT INCLUDES THE BITS YOU AREN’T IN. All too often we focus solely on our own roles. You can’t let that shit fly. Every character, every scene, informs on the next, and you better know it inside out. That’s why it’s a play.

TAKE A LESSON FROM HOPKINS
You can never know your lines enough. It’s an old acting cliche that you have to know who your character is, inside and out, but the reason it’s hammered home so often if that it’s not an easy job.
Anthony Hopkins reportedly examined his lines up to 200 times until he didn’t even have to think about ‘saying a line’ any more. He just knew his character completely.
Are you better than Anthony Hopkins? ARE YOU?
AND FINALLY…
NEVER, EVER FORGET YOUR LINES. Not for one second. Every horrifying feeling you have about the world collapsing if you forget a line is true: if you drop a line you’re AWFUL and the world will burn and people will laugh at you. What kind of person can’t even learn a words without having to hold an itty bitty piece of paper to help them?!! LEARN YOUR DAMN LINES.
…….Oh I kid, I kid! You’ll be fine, tiny darlings. Acting is not that scary really.

Want to SEE me act? Come and see Arcadia in Canterbury this November – we promise it will have all the acting you could imagine. 
Book here please

The Fable of The Brew Dog – A Beer Tasting Tale

Come closer, tiny darlings, for it is story time. A story of one dog and his fight for the purest of beers…..

…..Okay, it isn’t story time yet, I’ll get to that at the end. First, let me tell you about my delightful evening spent with The Brew Dog.
The Demon Gin, brew dog, beer tasting

A couple of weeks back, I chanced upon a flyer for a beer tasting that promised to bring not only Scottish craft brewers Brew Dog to fair Canterbury, but would also be a meeting of two lovely local businesses.
The event would take place at Mrs Jones’ Kitchen , and was hosted by The Bottle Shop, Canterbury’s premiere purveyor of bottled beer. Run by Drew and his crew inside The Goods Shed on Station Road West, The Bottle Shop is the place to go for excellent beers and really special brews – the shelves heave with dozens of obscure and new beverages, begging to be quaffed. Well worth a browse and all of your money.
This is Drew

For our £15 ticket, we were promised an evening of beer sampling, food and beer talk from the experts. I was sold.
For those of you not familiar with this brand (where have you been?), Brew Dog was launched in 2007 by a pair of pals who were tired of stuffy ales and industrial larger. They started small, brewing small batches and filling bottles by hand to sell at local markets but within a year, the brand had exploded in popularity.

Having produced the (then) strongest beer in the UK, they attracted their share of headlines but also a legion of fans and the brand has grown and grown ever since. These are beers made with flavour, with passion, with balls and, if you don’t check the strength, with a near-lethal punch. 

So, the promise of beer and then more beer soon attracted the attention of the beau and two of my beeriest friends, Tim and Stella, so the four of us bagged tickets to the tasting and hastened to the venue one crisp Saturday night. The event sold out quickly, but we were lucky to grab a table and someone’s shoes because sometimes I steal people’s shoes for no reason*. It’s a problem, I’ll learn to deal with it.

Mrs Jones’ Kitchen itself is a beautiful, spacious café on The King’s Mile in Canterbury, serving solidly lovely food by day. It opens in the evening for special events, and Mrs Jones herself is a big supporter of local entertainers and artists. The café is also very family friendly, with plenty of space, big scrubbed farmhouse tables and an open plan bar.
On arrival, the MJK staff furnished us with delicious hot dogs in thick baguettes with beer battered onion rings, made (of course) with Brew Dog’s Weihenstephan. The Brew Dog representative and Drew’s team manned the bar, handing out special glasses (which you could buy at the end of the night) and dispensing tasters of the night’s brewskis.

Most of the beers on the menu were new prototypes from the brewery, not yet on sale. Stella and I worked our way down the list in order, while the boys chopped and changed depending on the strength.

We started out with the Vagabond, a pale ale at 4.5%, followed closely by the Hop Fiction IPA at a more serious 6.5%. Both were delicious, particularly the Vagabond which was my favourite of the night. Golden, light, full of flavour – and gluten free! This brew has since passed the prototype stage and is now available to buy. Get it now, and bring me some.

Then came the Alt Amber, a seasonal Alt Bier at 5.2% which was perfectly respectable and is available October to December, and then the All Day Long, a mild that would suit drivers at only 2.7%.
Then things got serious.

The prototypes consumed, we moved onto the big daddies of the night – the smoked porter and the imperial stout.

Stella and I weren’t sure about the porter, named U Boat Victory. We were already starting to get giggly, and with this brew coming in at 8.4%, it took no prisoners. It was pleasant, but very intense.
Then came the stout, Dog C. The 15.1% stout that retails at £15 a bottle. I’m not kidding.
It’s name conjures images of a medical experiment gone horribly wrong, and it looks like one too. Thick, black and terrifying it was, languishing in the glass, daring us to have the balls to drink it. Stella and I took a sip.
It tasted like tyres. Tyres with stilton. 
It was not our cup of tea at all, and much as we tried to grit out teeth and think of England, we could not finish it. I’m not sure who this stout would appeal to, but it was an experience to say the least. Ben baulked at our inability to finish beer, and proceeded to drink our leftovers. (He was not well the next day.)
While we sampled, the representative from Brew Dog took to the floor to explain a little about their work and the beers we were tasting that evening, before the tastings reached their conclusion. We were pleasantly mellow with beer, and most of the guests stayed on to buy more drinks from the bar and to discuss important things like beer and why we all needed more beer.

Our only grumble was that we couldn’t buy some of our favourite beers to continue drinking on the night, as they were prototypes and could not be sold to us – we would have to be patient. As it was, we settled for some Old Dairy Ales from the café’s regular menu.

It was a splendid evening nonetheless – top beer, wonderful organisation from The Bottle Shop and lovely hosting from Mrs Jones’ Kitchen. And Brew Dog may have their share of mental beers, but their everyday brews are consistently delicious, and well worth your time.

As we neared the end of our tasting adventure, a voice boomed across the restaurant floor, knocking us back into sobriety. Drew stood in the middle of the floor, arms wide, calling our attention. It was time for a story. The story…of the Brew Dog…
I could not possible attempt to describe it, so Drew kindly sent me a copy to share with all of you, tiny darlings. Read the tale, howl at the moon, and let the Brew Dog run free…
MY FRIENDS! HEEEEEAR ME!
Gather round and let me tell you a story.
A long time ago in a land not too dissimilar from our own there were millions of people and they all had one problem. They weren’t happy… They weren’t happy because the pale elixir of life had become bland, it had become predictable, it had become fizzy and tasteless. They hated themselves for consistently consuming this bastardised vision of what their favoured elixir had become but yet they could not help themselves, sucking obediantly at the teet of the Wicked Witch Stella and her Evil Wizard brother… Buddy Weiser.
And low the reign of Stella and Buddy went on, casting a dark shadow across the land!
All seemed lost to the people who once loved their sweet, pale, elixir of life. Nothing could stop them from weeping helplessly into their nonnets of insiped witches brew and fizzy, flavourless, Wizards broth…
A deafening roar bellowed from the North, a soul shattering, bone crunching roar that put fear into the hearts and minds of men, women and children alike. Weeping ceased and all stared to the rocky hills of the North and there, standing on great, rugged, paws, with a mohawk the size of a man-o-war. Standing on a bloody pile of broken bottles and the discarded corpses of the witches minions, was a dog the size of a town, with the eyes of a demon and teeth like… A dog’s teeth… because it was a dog.
The people were scared but then the giant dog crushed the Wicked Witch Stella with one stomp of his mighty paw and stabbed The Wizard Buddy in the knee.
“Jeez that smarts!” yelped Buddy in pain, only in time to see the giant dog blow down his evil laboratory with a solitary ice-distilled breath that smelt like penguins and replace it with a new one. 
One that would make an elixir for the people, one that would make an elixir that the people would actually like, one that would push the very boundaries of what could and could not be done.
The giant dog stomped on Buddy’s abdomen, spraying EVIL blood and EVIL guts across the room. With Buddy’s last, dying breath he balled his fist at the giant dog and let out a blood curdling roar…
“Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude! Not cooooooool!”
The people rejoiced at the re-invigoration of their favourite elixir. And as the giant dog marched back to the North to continue his work, a small hipster with lens-less glasses and an ironic scarf approached the giant dog and said,
“We appreciate all you’ve done for us… But who are you?”
The giant dog growled it’s deepest growl, it felt like the very bowels of the planet shook in nervous anticipation, and it said…
“Woof woof woof, woof woof, woof woof woof woof.”
Because dogs can’t speak English. But what he meant was:
 
“Oh don’t mind me, I’m just the… BREWDOG!!!!”
And with that he donned a set of giant aviators he was keeping in his fur and sauntered off into the sunset.
THE END

*I don’t really. I steal their hair.

Lessons in Libations at Le Mouton Rouge

Me: Darling, there’s a beer tasting at Le Mouton Rougethis Saturday.
Beau: Beer?
Me: Yes. Shall we go?
Beau: Beer. I mean, yes
…..The conversation sounded longer in my head.

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Little will dissuade me from visiting Le Mouton RougeWine Merchants in St Dunstans of an evening, and an email promising an evening of sampling various locals ales and chatting to brewers for a mere £15 was almost too much to handle (I had lie down on my fainting couch for a bit until I realized we don’t have a fainting couch and decided to climb off the kitchen counter).
There has always been a wine merchants in the same spot in St Dunstans since the 1800s, but two years ago, independent retailers and liquor experts Jamie and Marion took over the site, and the Mouton Rouge was born.
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It is a fine figure of an establishment with a grand selection of wine, beer, whiskey, gin, brandy, tequila, and many other liquid delicacies. Should you need a beautiful bottle of red, a Scotch with a story, or if you just want to stare at the humidor of Cubans*, there is no better place in town.

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Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant

Jamie and Marion are also exceptional retailers – they are extremely laid-back and friendly with not a hint of wine snobbery about them, but they know more about alcohol than anyone I’ve met in my travels. They put a lot of effort into their stock, and know the story behind every distiller, brewery and producer. And honestly, isn’t it nice when buying booze for a dinner party or a friend to hand over a bottle that’s been lovingly picked and is bursting with flavour, instead of just flinging a bottle of Black Tower at their face while shouting ‘it’s wet, isn’t it?!!’ 

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Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant

Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant

Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant

Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant
Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant
Mouton Rouge will also serve you well if you’re hunting for an extra special gift. For example, one day, while I was stocking up on precious Wansum Pilsner (for tis most good), Jamie called me over to the counter and dug out a rather grand looking box from the recesses of the shop. He opened it to reveal an excruciatingly elegant bottles of cognac. Barely labelled, prone on a bed of satin, all curves and honey hues, she was the fabled Hennessy Paradis, a very rare blend of more than 100 eaux-de-vie, some of which (as Marion later explained) were distilled before the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of France’s vineyards in the late 1800s.

Sadly, I could only look and not sip. The cost of the botttle? £800 minimum. And it was gone within three hours. I’d show you a picture, but it’s so rare that it repels photography.

But don’t let such talk of super brandy frighten you from stopping by for your Friday night bottle of red – the shop’s selection is wide, well priced and quality is assured, and they have a regular offer of four bottles of ale for £10 on selected brands, including Kent favourites Wantsum, Canterbury Ales, Gadds and Old Dairy.

Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant
Copyright The Demon Gin, Canterbury, Le Mouton Rouge, Canterbury wine, Canterbury whiskey, beer tasting, canterbury off licence, best wine merchant

But back to the beer tasting!

We huddled in the warmth of the shop on a Saturday night, surrounded by small group of beer fanatics, drinkers, brewers and (as I later found out) Ingress fanatics*. We were to try upwards of 11 different ales from around Kent, most of which were seasonal, and including four from co-hosts and Deal microbewers, Time and Tide.
We were given a sheet of tasting notes for each beer, and Ben and I were careful to make our own notes too (until we got to chatty and tipsy to remember what we were doing).

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Highlights were as follows:
We started out with Gadds Big Cracker 7.5% (a strong starter!) I’ve never been a big fan of Gadds as I’m more of light girly pale ale drinker, but Ben adores their bitters. This one, though, wasn’t half bad at all and not as hoppy ass their other brews. Ben promptly wrote on the sheet: “Big flavours, Sinead liked it #gaddsshocker.
Next came the Wantsum Figgy Pudding 4.5%, which was much more my cup of ale. Quaffable and as  delicious as any Wantsum offering, it was a chestnut-y number with appropriately festive dark fruit flavours.
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All for Silas, all for Silas…

Then there was the Canterbury Brewery’s Christmas Pudding…I feel I need to tell you a wee story about this. You may not like it but dammit I’m not shouldering the burden alone any longer.

The beau and I used to be big fans of The Foundry Brew Pub in Canterbury, the bar and craft brewery behind the Canterbury Brewers range of ales. It was a great space with nice people and a delicious range of beers brewed on site. Then, about a year ago, it dipped in quality. The beer prices went up yet the brews become grim. One night the beau left nearly an entire pint of beer untouched (at exactly the same time in a small village in South America, the Antichrist was born). We could no longer endure it and left the pub forever. (I stress this is entirely down to personal taste and that many people love The Foundry, so do go along for a visit to test it yourself).
So when the Christmas Pudding ale came round, we weren’t surprised that it paled in comparison to the other brews. It was thin, and watery, and nothing special.

Then we started chatting to the Time and Tide’s head brewer about his brewing techniques, and suddenly uncovered a shocking secret: he was once master brewer at The Foundry…and he left around a year ago.

THE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE HAVE FINALLY FALLEN INTO PLACE!!!!!

Clearly the man brought his brewing secrets with him to his new home, for the Time and Tide beers were splendid on all counts. The Calista IPA 6.1% was bursting with aroma and tropical fruit flavours (in a good way), and the two trappist-inspired beers were very impressive – the mighty Tripel 9% was a very Belgian number resplendent with apricot tones (Ben simple wrote on the notes ‘MASSIVE’), while the darker Dubbel 7.1% had more chocolate and liquorice flavours. 
But it was the Smugglers Stout 5.2% that was a revelation for me. I like stout but I usually avoid it as it’s often too heavy to quaff without feeling like you’ve had an entire meal in a pint glass. Yet this number was light without being watery, rich with dark roasted malts and the right balance of burnt toffee flavour. I bought four bottles there and then.
We continued down the tasting list, and quaffed a great deal of The Host’s Ale 4.7%, the seasonal offering by The Canterbury Ales. This is an excellent Kent brewery, possibly my second favourite and their long crafted festive ale was full of spiced fruit, ginger and star anise.
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As the evening skipped along, Jamie topped up our glasses and all the guests talked long into the night about beer, bars and other frivolous things. The beau listened intently as the various brewers described how they jacked in miserable corporate jobs and started their own microbrewery and found true happiness. By the end of the night, Ben had a pretty solid business plan for how his band Green Diesel could run their own pub and brewery, and all live together for ever and ever. At this stage, my tasting notes had turned into scrawled instructions for making sock puppets.
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Jamie (in the scarf) doing his thing

Eventually we decided to let Jamie & Marion sleep, and we peeled off around 10.30pm to meet some friends in the pub. For the rest of the night, the beau and I kept turning to each other to say ‘what a really great evening’.

And it was. It was.
Plus we got chicken later. I like chicken.

*Cuban cigars. Not…not people.