It's fair to say that the last few years have wreaked havoc on the way that we've lived our lives. People have lost their jobs. People have lost their businesses. People have lost their lives. But finally, it feels (to me, anyway) that we are all returning to some sort of normal, to a life lived outside the home, to a life in our chosen third places.
So it was with no small measure of delight that I boarded the 9.48 from Leeds to Sheffield on Friday morning with a beer-writing hero, colleague, and friend Adrian Tierney-Jones. Delight because I knew that I would have his undivided attention for the duration of the train journey, and we hadn't seen each other for, ooooh, five years? We talked of many things, of friends and foes, of death and attrition, but the most notable finding from that journey was that we were both at New Order's Albert Hall gig in October 1986 - I was raving front of house, he was interviewing the band backstage.
We were heading for Sheffield's Indie Beer Feast, now in its fifth year - or is it five years since the first one? It's hard to know how to count it. Anyway, Jules and the team are hanging in there. I was going because, well, shit, this is what I always used to do. This is what I'm supposed to do. This is what I like to do. Meet people. Make connections. Join dots.
Not only Mr. Tierney, but also actual Pete Brown. If Adrian is a hero, Pete is a colossus. He's got a couple of decades-worth of writing chops filed away in a fast-access data bank. He's giving a tutored talk on one of Evin's beers in 30 minutes. But neither he nor Evin - another absolute titan - know which beer. But it doesn't matter, because whatever you throw at Pete, he deals with.
And the beers? A bretted table beer from Red Willow to start - perfect. Kernel Pale Ale - perfect. D'or Mouse from SMoD - crunchy and delicious. Rock Leopard We Must Love Or Stars Must Fall - snappy and complex. McColl's El Capitan - delicious. Neptune Lost At Sea - delicious. Those last two were both absolutely banging west coast IPAs. Which was better? The jury's still out. I had to run to a pre-4pm train.
Anyway, thank you Indie Beer Feast, for a few short hours today, the stars aligned and you were perfection to me.