‘I was hijacked into Festival beer tasting ... honest’

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SOMETIMES life can take a very unexpected journey.

Last Saturday morning I biked over to Towersey Festival at silly o’clock to help with some radio work that I had been involved in.

Getting up at 5.30am was not much fun but all ran smoothly and by 9am I was free to wander. I had a cup of coffee, chatted to a few early risers and was just heading for home when I saw a queue of people snaking across the field.

Ever on the lookout for a story for this page I figured that the queue might be for yoga or a workshop and that might make a good piece so I joined the end of the line. I am English: show me a queue and we feel obliged to join it.

I joined the 30 or so other curious souls and we sat at the tables wondering what we had let ourselves in for. Imagine my surprise, dear reader, when a lady gave me a beer glass and a list of 24 beers to go with it.

OOOOOH look, it is Radio Two’s Ken Bruce we all said, admiring both his paisley shirt and Paisley accent. ‘Welcome’ he began ‘to the Towersey Festival beer tasting ...’

Now, usually I would have been overjoyed. But on this occasion it was half past 10 in the morning, I had already been up for five hours, and I had had no breakfast.

I tried to sneak out but they shut the doors AND put up crush barriers so passers-by could laugh at the accidental drunkards.

We were trapped like human guinea pigs. Next to me a bleary-eyed Cumbrian still had his toothbrush sticking out of the top pocket of his jim-jams.

The cream of the local brewers hopped interminably amongst us with pitchers of frothy beer, somewhere between Florence Nightingale and Homer Simpson as they gave help to the needy.

We were expected to mark each beer out of 10 but after about eight I was holding the pen upside down and trying to take points off the guy from Chiltern Brewery because he was wearing a tie.

Could this really be happening? Ken Bruce had already made his excuses with ‘I’m not drinking myself, as I am driving the big red bus to Thame today’.

What? Surely this was all a dream?

Befuddled, I phoned my wife and told her to cancel the rest of the day.

I’m not sure she truly believed that I had been hijacked into this, or that Ken Bruce had got me drunk before most people were out of bed, but she seemed to relish joining in with the mayhem. ‘There is a letter complaining about you in the Gazette’ she said. ‘ Written by David Essex.’

‘Rock on’ I thought from beneath the table.