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)
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

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.

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?
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…
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.

*I don’t really. I steal their hair.

Dear Prudence – In The Heart of Sipsmith Distillery

The beau and I are getting into our drinks tours of late – breweries, micropubs, distilleries, we’ll visit anything and drink it dry. I know I know it’s sickeningly hipster of us, and also a terrible shame that drinking cheap wine in the aisles of Netto while sobbing is no longer good enough for us. But it’s a tipple-fuelled tide we could not swim against.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

Craft booze and seeing where it’s made is officially where it’s ‘at’ these days, all the cool kids are into it. Even though calling it craft beer or craft gin always seems pointless. I mean, of course it’s crafted, how else would it exist? What, do other manufacturers just throw water and flowers into a pot and shout at it until it becomes alcohol?!………actually, they probably do. I do, anyway. Eh, I digress.

I’ve done my fair share of beer tastings and tours, but a gin tour was missing from my life. Fortunately, Ben was able to take a hint and bought me a tour for two of the hallowed Sipsmith Distillery in London. A genius Christmas present from the beau; he got all the good sex that day.

Sipsmith – as you will have hopefully read about in my previous post about Junipalooza – is quite possibly my favourite gin at the moment. Ever since sampling it, I have used it as the benchmark against which most other varieties of mother’s ruin must be tested. It is the gin I use to bring the most steadfast non-gin drinkers over to the light: floral, delicate yet bursting with flavour, it is a ‘sipping gin’ that holds its own in a G&T and I cannot wait to try it in a martini.

So one fine and frantic day, the beau and I took a special trip to London* to go exploring ahead of our evening tour at the Chiswick distillery. On arrival in Chiswick, we jumped in a cab and found ourselves being driven down a very sleepy-looking residential street. At this point, we began to panick, thinking that we had fallen for a classic ‘free gin!’ scam and were being driven to a house of knives and liver. Then the cab pulled up at an entrance to a small yard/warehouse, hidden between the terraced houses. We sent a few texts to loved ones, telling them to avenge our deaths and not to touch our stuff, and crept through the wooden doors.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

We had to shield our eyes from the brilliant gleam bouncing off a trio of glorious copper stills, and were guided by a friendly voice towards a shabby chic bar heaving with gin bottles, tonics, bowls of citrus fruits. A G&T was pressed into our hands. I was HOME.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

We had time for a nose around the site while the other attendees filtered in. The building itself was once a micro-brewery, and the action centres on Prudence, Patience and Constance – the three copper stills where magic is made.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin 
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

Our guide for the evening was Briony, who called us to order around the sills and took us through the Sipsmith story, all the while dispensing tasters of London dry gin, barley vodka, damson gin and sloe gin to the salivating masses. 

Let me break it down for you.

The Sipsmith founders Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall came together with a vision in the Noughties. A clear, junipery, damp, sweet, boozy, peppery….Christ, sorry, I slipped away for a moment there.

The vision was to bring artisan gin back to London and open the first distillery in London for two centuries. With solid backgrounds in brewing and booze, they were well prepared for the challenge, and with Master Distillery James Brown on board, the blend would be in good hands.

It all started with the grand mama of the copper stills, Prudence, which was the first of its kind to launch in London for nearly 200 years.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

Her bespoke design with a pot, carter head and a column still means she is as versatile as she is beautiful. It is the elegant swank-like neck of the still’s pipe that inspired the Sipsmith label’s swan motif. And the copper of the stills is not just for show – it reacts with alcohol removing impurities.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

But there was a big stumbling block for the distillers in the early days; licensing laws set up to prevent people from creating moonshine meant that distillers had to produce a minimum of 1,000 litres at a time. Prudence’s capacity is just 300 litres. It took two years of waiting, wrangling and wrestling before they received their distiller’s license (in itself a piece of history).

Prudence’s small capacity – and those of her sisters – means Sipsmith will only produce a few hundred bottles at a time. The team will spend months on batches that the big producers will churn out in a day.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

The gin is made using the traditional ‘one-shot’ method, rather than using a concentrate. This involves distilling the botanicals with the Barley mash spirit – it is a pricey way of doing thing as it results in more waste, but you get a better gin. These botanicals are Macedoian juniper berries, Seville orange peel, Spanish lemon peel, Italian orris root, Spanish liquorice root, Belgian angelica, Madagascan cinnamon bark, Chinese cassia bark, Spanish ground almonds, and Bulgarian coriander seed.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london ginthe demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

During fermentation, only the pure ‘hearts’ of the gin (the most flavourful) are retained while the evil ‘heads’ and vile ‘tails’ are discarded. The hearts are then watered down with spring water from the Cotswolds, and then ready to rock.

Our gin lesson complete, we had time to muse over the tipples we’d sampled. Ben’s clear favourite was the sloe gin, which is outstanding. I should have snapped up a bottle of it while in London, as it’s been rather hard to find down here in the wilds of Kent for some reason (I suspect I’m not looking in the right places. By which I mean I keep looking in my cupboards and wishing it was in there. Haaaaaaaaaaaa – comedy gold). I was also impressed by their damson gin, which is a little lighter than the sloe variety but still packs a spicy punch. But my favourite was still the London Dry gin that has made the brand famous. Silk in a glass.

the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin
the demon gin, sipsmith, sipsmith distilllery tour, distillery tour, craft gin, london gin

All too quickly, the event was over. We just had time to add our names to the guest book, swap damson gin recipies with other guests, and collect our gift of a miniature bottle of London Dry Gin before we fled into the night in search of food. And more gin.

An excellent experience for all gin lovers. Book your tours here, good people: www.sipsmith.com

*I was going to write a blog about our London day. Unfortunately, we were shattered for most of it and did a fraction of the fun things intended. Never start your day out in London with two pub stops and a massive lunch; you’ll never make it to Westminster Abbey and will have to go to the Travelodge for a bit of a sleep and BAM, the day is gone.