…I attend Chappel every year.

Thus speaks Tony’s Chappel Beer Festival shirt, and it’s a pun so terrible as to be worth sharing with the world. More of that later.

The Angel of the Dorks appeared unto me, saying: “Go thou unto the web that is world-wide, and proclaim unto the surfers, and to the spods, yea unto all thy fellow nerds, that a new thing has been brought forth in Cyberspace. For behold: I have spoken with she who sits at the head of Femen, and I have wrought of our words an article; and it is a thing of great majesty.” And I looked, and I beheld me the Interview, and saw that it was good. Therefore I say unto thee: go thou forth unto the place that is called Global Comment, and there wilt thou see much of benefit; but look thou especially for the interview with Anna Gutsol, and stand amazed.

As I was saying, the Chappel Beer Festival is the stuff of legend in Essex, and annually draws huge crowds of ale lovers from all over the country. I’ve been going since the mid nineties, when I was invited to go by a good friend of mine who was at university with me, and I’ve only missed one or two of the fourteen intervening festivals. I was there for the tenth and the twentieth, and barring accidents I ought to be there for the thirtieth in seven years’ time. This year was a light one, since I was only there for the final weekend, but I think I managed to cram enough into those two days to make the long drive worthwhile.

For once Friday lived up to its POETS acronym: for the first time in ages I managed to clear my schedule and get on the road by four. It’s a six-hour drive including stops for sandwiches and Red Bull, and the less said about it the better. I managed to get about half way before I had to put the roof back up, and I was in the field at the back of the East Anglian Railway Museum by ten in the evening, absolutely dog tired, but ready for some beer and chat. I caught Mad Phil before he left, and was there for his story about the time he met Jimmy Page while they were queuing for a cup of tea in London. Gary – the man who first introduced me to Chappel – was there too, wearing a hat he found in his Land Rover when he bought it; and his greeting was as warm as ever. Actually I ran into him first, while waiting to be served at the Shunter’s Arms. Tony and Nikki were there too, bearing a four-pint carry out that they’d co-purchased with Phil, and we all had a merry time of it until about half-past eleven, when the party broke up.

Gary and the Land Rover crowd had set up a laager (the only kind you’ll find at Chappel) and spread a tarpaulin over it. They also had beer, guitars and some funny stories, which kept us occupied until gone two in the morning. We were even told off for being too noisy, which brought back happy memories of festivals past, when we were noisy youngsters instead of people old enough to know better. Thus passed the first evening.


Circle the wagons, lads; and watch out for chavs

There’s no other way to say this: Saturday morning started far, far too early. After a fine breakfast down at the festival, we settled down to bask in the sunshine until we were all sober enough to drive (I’d forgotten to get out any cash for the second year in a row, and the nearest machine is five miles away). While we were sobering up, my camping buddies got out their guitars and managed to find some songs we all knew. It transpires that there aren’t very many of those, and most of the morning was spent listening to Gary riffing on various chord progressions. It was like old times.

The family men disappeared at about noon, when I drove off in search of some cash. Suitably cashed up, I returned to the festival to find out who was around for the Saturday afternoon session. Tony was working on his Masters dissertation, but he took the afternoon off and he, Nikki and I started drinking. We continued to do that until ten, and this photograph was taken somewhere in the midst of that binge.

Cattle class is slow, but you get there in the end.

Cattle class is slow, but you get there in the end.

After much conversation with people too numerous to be enumerated, we called it a night at about ten, and I crawled into my sleeping bag to prepare for the mighty odyssey back to Devon.

Which is where you find me. I got back here at just after five, extremely tired and about ready for a kebab. I am, in fact, off to purchase just such a comestible as soon as I’ve finished writing about it. Another year of Chappel is over, and the next big event is Oxonmoot in two weeks’ time. September is such a busy month.