Op. No’Ed 2010
For the last five years myself and a couple of my mates have made a yearly pilgrimage to the homeland to drink beer, listen to Metal and make merry. Myself I do not have to introduce but the others are, (in alphabetic order) Adam, (Ads) another Welshman living in Germany. Chief of Beers Chris, a shaven headed German tattooist who can speak better American English than I can and Holger, owner of the biggest beard in Paderborn, living proof that Germans CAN drink British beer and listener to the most extreme music I have ever heard. Together with our livers brushed and gills all-a-polished, we fly over and visit Roger Harrison, H to his mates, (who number 4 people and a cat).
What started off as a casual quaffing visit rapidly gained Tradition status among our little clique and is now a regular feature in my calendar administration for every coming year. Operation No’Ed is now as much a part of my holiday planning as the yearly two weeks with the wife and kids to Spain/Wales or the two weeks in the summer holidays when the kids are off. The name “Op No’Ed” stems from one of the lads Holger, who after warily eyeing up his first British pint of Real Ale, declared to one and all, “It’s got no ‘ead.” And with that a new phrase was born. The year after H pulled out all the stops and set up the first Gosport, (Where he was living at the time) No ‘Ed Ale Festival. Over the weekend period we each had 50 beers to drink and then deliver judgment on. These weren’t all pints, I hasten to add, but the majority of them were and it was hard going, especially because Holger always insists on drinking spirits as well.
It was on this weekend that we had the legendary 17 hour table session. We sat at H’s table and drank beer for 17 hours, well, most of us did. One of us mentioned that he was just going to the toilet and never returned. An act of heroism, along the lines of Captain Oates and his, “I am just going outside and may be some time” and so leaving the rations for the rest of us to survive on? Who knows? What I do know is that the picture taken after by The Chief, who was earlier on in the evening accused of being a poof by H, is one of the best gloats ever… and the reason why it was legendary.
I’d just like to add that I was, in fact, the first to finish his 50, a feat that not all of us managed to achieve …
Op No’Ed this year was a classic. We left Paderborn International in the early evening, due to me not being able to arrange time off and arrived around six in Stanstead. I was quite tired by now, having the night before completed my last night shift and then not sleeping after shift to catch the ten o’clock train to Paderborn. After arriving at Paderborn we ate a kick-bottom chilli at Adam’s and then drove to Holger’s for the customary, “Drink as much as we can before catching the plane”. The flight over saw us paired off in different parts of the plane, Ads and The Chief, (AKA. Chee) and Holger and myself. This quickly turned into an off the cuff, unspoken long distance drinking competition which ended conveniently in a tie.
We arrived at Stanstead and H picked us up wearing the same T-shirt as Adam. There’s another “legendary” story in regards to the T-shirts which Ads and H will want me to put up here. However, it’d take too long and anyone who isn’t in our sad little cabal wouldn’t understand it.
The first evening was drinks in the garden and then H’s delish pie. It was a top meal crowned with the toast joke, (the joke being that I’m a shift working father and so I live on left overs and toast; a joke that sits very tight to its reality actually). We drank until about half two and then called it a night, (which was good because I had been on the go for a good 36 hours at this point).
The next day we travelled to London, Earl’s Court for the CAMRA Real Ale fest. I was originally not very enamoured of the idea due to the cost, but as I didn’t want to rock the boat and spoil the ambience I kept shtum and went along; I mean, let’s face it, I love my beer so why not, eh?
The first couple of beers went down sideways but we soldiered on and pushed through the “uncomfortable zone” and into “the green zone” where the beer goes down with the ease of a 2010 A level exam paper. Despite my initial reservations the day was a complete success and the atmosphere was great. Imagine a beer festival where on average 75 beers were poured every minute and you’ll get the scale of the experience. While we were there I didn’t see any aggro and the officials and staff were all exceptionally friendly. If there was one criticism it was that the best ales were sold out far too quickly but It wasn’t as if there was nothing to drink and nobody went thirsty; though if we do it next time we’ll have to go in the first few days, (the festival was over a six day period, I believe)
Anyway, we drank LOADS of ale, H managed to break the biggest pasty I’ve ever seen, Chee ate some Jellied Eels, I bought a T-shirt, Holger found the worst beer in the world, (which he liked!) and Ads had a nice gloat at me because I had such a great time. They closed the doors around seven, which was a disappointment and so after browsing around Soho and various other places in the Capital we made our way home. It was an expensive day but I loved it and we took some fab pics.
The next day was on the itinerary as Barbecue day. H, being one of the best hosts I know of, always does a massive barbecue on one of the days that we’re there. Now my idea of hosting is getting the beers in for the chaps, maybe throwing on the grill and going for it. Beer, spirits, steak and sausage, a bit O brown sauce, chili sauce and mustard and the last one to vomit’s a homo.
H, being a connoisseur of good food likes to buy the good stuff. No “cheap cos they’re out of date” Aldi bratwurst for Mr. Harrison, it’s Apple and Pork sausages from the posh shop. No Lidl “dodgy meat but you can’t see its colour because of the sauce” steaks for H, it’s steak in a self made marinade; a marinade, I might add that takes him three days to make. The man even does salads and his potatoes, to quote his good women, are, “Awesome”.
Needless to say, on a bunch of drunken wastrels such as we are by the time he gets the barbecue apparatus on the go it’s wasted. However, I’m reliably informed by Adam, another connoisseur of fine foods that H’s cooking is par excellence. (Pair of women.)
The Monday was Cambridge day. This was the day that Angie, H’s better half, (more like his better 7/8 because H is 7/8 rotten) came out with us. Most ladies would be put off the idea of a Cambridge pub crawl with five aging Rockers who look like they’ve survived a ZZ Top massacre but Angie is one of these fine people who can see behind an unappealing exterior to find the best in a person, (I could do a quick line here about marrying H but I won’t).
So we set off, the six of us, on the coach to Cambridge. The coach was a very nice affair with padded leather seats, tinted windows, lots of leg room and a toilet that Adam painted in essence of last night’s ale.
With stomach empty, Ads declared that he was hungry so the first stop was Jamie Oliver’s Cambridge restaurant. Adam and H, being connoisseurs of fine food and wines were extremely excited about being in Jamie’s café but, to be honest, I wasn’t. Once again I was a bit put out by it all, I would have preffered to just go to a pub and get sloshed but as it was Angie’s day too I kept my gob shut…
Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the concept of high prices small portions, pay for the taste not the quantity, presentation is a part of the price blah blah fishcakes, but I was still disappointed.
To cut a long story short, I chuntered throughout the meal without making a scene. It was nice and it tasted fine but I’m sure they mistakenly substituted a sparrow and a couple of fried potato peelings for my chicken and chips .
Whatever, the bill came, we paid up and went to a couple of pubs for some ales and before retiring to eat our fill at Nando’s, (much more my scene). Unless you’re a Jamie Oliver fan, (which I am most definitely not) or an anorexia sufferer trying to make it appear like you want to put on weight, don’t go to Jamie’s micro, no nano-portion cafe. Wetherspoon’s and Nando’s saved the day in my book. Nando’s so I could eat my fill, (and get completely trashed on the extra spicy chicken with extra spicy sauce… what was I thinking?) and Wetherspoon’s for the 1.65 a pint of Bombardier, HURRAH !!! Actually, if we’d had my way we could have eaten at Wetherspoon’s but H had already made it clear that he thought that Wetherspoon’s was trashy, so I didn’t even bring the subject up, (Didn’t want to look too council estate-ish)
That evening we drank a couple of beers at home and then hit the sack about 2-ish I think. It might have been earlier.
Tuesday was the last day. We said a heartfelt thank you to Ange and then all piled in H’s BMW to drive to Stanstead via Saffron Walden. Saffron Walden is the town where I spent my first couple of years in the regular army. The regiment was based up the road and Saffron City was the next watering hole so I and my mate H got to know it very well.
We were both young, starry-eyed 18 year olds then, stricken with a chronic over flow of testosterone and a desire to drink the world’s supply of beer. This was the time before kids, mortgages and wives; when we would spend our entire wage on booze and not care because we had absolutely no worries. We looked after each other if one flaked or was caught up in a ruckus, we made sure the other had money if one was broke and we NEVER went out on a session without the other. There were other mates but H was on my wavelength and I on his and we were like brothers. So going back there with my old drinking buddy was, for me, a far more, (dare I say it?) emotional experience than I thought it would be.
The Lizzy, one of our two regulars is now being demolished and it looks like it’s going to be some sort of residential establishment, (be it flats or a home, I don’t know). That really saddened me, seeing it like that. This building which was once the centre of operations for a time that will forever be held in my memory as a golden era and now it was tamed, gutted and will be no more.
It was nice that Op No’Ed concluded in Saffron City and Jamie’s yocto-portions aside, it was a classic.
Here’s to Op No’Ed 2011!! HURRAH!