It’s a cold, wet, windy November afternoon and the light is fading fast. I nip the top off the Bottle of Bass and pour an inch or two into a glass to sample it. It is bitter and smooth as cream. And suddenly, exactly like Proust and his madelaine I am transported back in time to a world long gone. Fifty years pass in a moment. It is another cold wet November afternoon. I am twelve or thirteen and I am a beater for a big shoot on the estate where we live. My hands are numb with cold and the rain is trickling down my collar but I am deliriously happy. Working on the shoot was a great event and with the other twenty or thirty people from the village I feel entirely grown up. There is no division between the older men and the boys. We are all paid the same (A good wedge for a day’s work). We all get a brace of pheasants to take home and at dinner time (twelve o’clock) the back of one of the landrovers is opened and there are boxes of sandwiches (thick generous slices of chicken and ham) and crates of pale ale and brown ale. Somebody asks me what I prefer and, not really having tried either, I opt for the pale ale. Yes, that first taste, as bitter smooth as today. We sit on bales on the trailers that are our transport around the Hampshire woodlands and I think “This is the moment. This is it.”
Several lifetimes later, as a vegetarian and against bloodsports I couldn’t be further removed from that day. But the bottle of Bass reminds me who I was and I am content with that.