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This may or may not be true

Tim, you need to write a novel which has a better chance of “bringing in the sheaves”. I’ve bought all of your books written in English that I know of & I think you are a good writer. I’m a mathematician & knew little about economics until I started reading you. I’m not as smart as Stanislaw Ulam so things economic were not as trivial to me until I learned from you.

The novel should be based on your extensive knowledge of the failures of governments, which seems timely now. Perhaps serious but there’s a lot to laugh about should you be inclined & comedy often gets points across quite nicely.

That’s from Tex.

As it happens over this weekend I found out that Iran has a thriving beer and wine making scene. Yes. the Mullahs don’t approve but the Persians do. Like anything illegal you’ve got to know who and where but once you’re on the inside booze is entirely and easily available.

Also, Christians are legal to have it – for personal use. Thus Armenians – over and above the normal trading instincts – are a nexus of the trade.

We tossed around the idea of a novel based upon this premise. Obviously, it’s a road trip, our pair must meet danger, solve problems, get into scrapes in their quest for the perfect beer. We even got far enough to have the first two chapters sketched out:

The conversation turned serious, as it always does at the fifth pint.

“So, your Pitchfork, is it a golden bitter with floral, citric hop aroma, a predominantly hoppy flavour which is slightly sweet and fruity? “

“It is, it is, as it always is. And your Old Green Tree, brewed for this very pub, is it the epitome of a session bitter?”

“As ever. But this liquid bread idea, whadda you think?”

“Humans turned to agriculture and settled into villages not for bread, but for beer? That static nature after the mobility of the hunter gatherer society was caused by wanting to be around the barley when it ripened?”

“That’s the one, saw it in the paper, the wossname, Mail.”

“Wanna be careful about that source Jimmy, careful.”

“Yeh, but think about it. Where’s the best beer in the world going to be?”

“Depends on the landlord, how he keeps it, obviously. Could be here. The Star does alright, Bass from the barrel. See, depends. Might be some place at Combe Down even, tho’ of course that’ll not be the full pint.”

“Har, har. No, what I mean is if civilisation started with beer then where’s the best beer goin’ to be? Werl, stands to reason, it’s goin’ to be where civilisation started. Where they’ve been making beer this past 10,000 years. Innit?”

“You have logic on your side. An’ I know what’s about to come next. You think we should go to this cradle of civilisation so that we can have this best beer in the world, am I right?”


“You’re on”

Jimmy booked the tickets that evening.


“Sorry, my English is not so good. CAM what?”

“CAMRB, the Campaign for Real Beer.”

“I have heard of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, I did my degree at Salford. But CAMRB?”

“Yes, poncy twats at CAMRA. Fools as well. All that mither about cask conditioned ale and pubs with no music. Poncy twats. Ale has no hops, beer has hops. We are, both of us, CAMRB.”

“And this CAMRB, this is a large organisation?”

“I just said both of us are CAMRB”

“Ah. So, what does this organisation actually do?”

“We campaign for real beer. By drinking it. Creating the demand and as we all know, once there is demand there will be supply. Basic obviousness that is.”

“Indeed so, indeed so. We too have read Mr. Chian. And what is the purpose of your visit?”

“Liquid bread”

“The idea that the cradle of civilisation has been making beer longer than anywhere else therefore must have the best beer?”

“Well, it would have been ale to start with, but yes.”

“Your visas are in order, you have return tickets, allow me just to get everything stamped”

“Hop to it”

“I’m sorry, did you just say that? You told the uniformed officer, the border guard, to “Hop to it”?”

“It’s our slogan, CAMRB, “Hop to it”. It’s a pune, a play on words, see?”

“Landlords across the world must belly laugh to your wit”

“No, no, it’s a pune, a play on words, not meant to be funny now, they never are.”

“How useful it is that you are aware of that. Gentlemen, welcome to the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

13 thoughts on “This may or may not be true”

  1. This liquid bread thing, you’ve lived in Russia, you must have had kvass? I’ve tried to make it a couple of times, hasn’t worked out well

  2. I have a feeling the Shi’a are fundamentally (see what I did, there?) more relaxed about alcohol consumption than their Sunni brethren. 7th century Arabic didn’t have many different words for alcoholic beverages, so it’s possible to argue that the proscriptions in the Koran apply only to spirits, not wine and beer. The Persian’s national poet certainly thought so:

    A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
    A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread — and Thou
    Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
    Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

    OMAR KHAYAAM (1048-1131)
    tr. Edward Fitzgerald

  3. A topical joke about the visa swerving self-declared Iranian who expected help from the local Brit embassy would be fun. What’s the Farsi word for ungrateful? Nazanin.

  4. What is this revisionist twaddle? We all know who invented Beer.

    “He might have been an admiral a sultan or a king,
    and to his praises we will always sing
    Look what he has done for us he’s filled us up with cheer!
    Lord bless Charlie Mops, the man who invented beer beer beer”

  5. Iranians I’ve worked with say before the revolution you drank in public and prayed at home now it’s the other way around

    Persian poetry such as Hafez (who was from Shiraz) and Rumi has plenty of references to alcohol

    “Sit, be still, and listen,
    because you’re drunk
    and we’re at
    the edge of the roof.”

  6. “Also, Christians are legal to have it – for personal use. Thus Armenians – over and above the normal trading instincts – are a nexus of the trade.”

    From memory, in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, there’s an Armenian character (family?) that are crucial to the coffee trade? Is that right?

  7. Tim, if you write a novel don’t forget to include pretty girls & sex. Beer is an aid, but for some unfortunates a substitute. Recall the old saying:

    “Candy’s dandy, but Liquor’s quicker” applies.

    And beer works too.

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