We met him, as arranged, at the rendezvous (ok it was a pub) in a village in deepest Huntingdonshire. My companion, Farmer Giles, had mentioned the man and his strange tale. My curiosity engaged: he had arranged a meeting via a mysterious figure known only as “The Yorkshireman” to whom I spoke on the phone – he used a curious dialect that was difficult to follow and full of terms like “appen” and “fettle”- but the meeting was on.
The old man had a strange glint in his eye as began his story; an oft-told one no doubt but there was something compelling about him. What he told us was the kind of story that they say would “turn one’s hair white overnight” but his hair was suspiciously jet-black, not quite matching the lines on his face, and I suspected his experience had aged him more than he cared to admit, even to himself.
“It were like this!” He began, “More years ago than I care to remember, I’d been out with the lads from Raw Crotch Farm at the Muckrakers’ Arms and sunk a few pints of Old Yentob’s Kosher Charitybasher so I was fairly merry as I made me way ‘ome. Well, after we parted ways I ‘ad a strange feeling I was being watched and then it ‘appened. A flash of black and white and I was knocked on the ‘ead good an’ proper – them Feral Nuns had struck!”
Pausing only to drain his pint in a gulp and demand that I buy him a third one; he continued. “When I woke up, I was somewhere in the deepest fens where even the most web-footed fenman won’t venture – yes, the grounds of the Feral Nunnery! Even the Duke of Bedford couldn’t’t winkle them out of that stronghold!
I was compelled to drink their strong brew but as I got happy again, a feeling of paranoia gripped me and I saw the terrifying face of the Feral Mother-Superior staring at me from the parted sedge. The moonlight flashed across her round spectacles as she ordered “Sisters, prepare the goat!” “I had a strange feeling the man’s accent had gradually vanished but I put that down to the effect of the beer and not his lack of acting skill.
“Well, I knew what this meant. I was to satisfy the warped desires of these weird sisters by goat tossing. Yes! The ancient and dread sport of the Fens would be my lot for the night. I was up and down that dyke the whole night long tossing away like a good ‘un. After hours of tossing and draughts of ale my memory became cloudy and I fell asleep to the sound of quiet bleating.
By ‘eck, it’s thirsty work this reminiscing!” So I bought a fourth – it was expensive work too.
“It improved my game all that practise and led me to become the Fenland Champion Goat Tosser. Yes, folk do say it made me the tosser that I am today.
But something still gnawed away at me: that beer. I had to replicate it and I became obsessed by it with my paranoia returning. I worked on the recipe for years until I perfected it and then I was finally a Happy Paranoid. I needed help though and had to be put under Doctor’s Orders. I was subjected to many types of therapy. Still, I have profited by it and now I’m the Head Brewer for Angles’ Ales whatever your troubles we have a liquid therapy for it.”
As he left us and walked off down the path by Farmer Giles’s sheep field I turned to my companion; “So it was all a business pitch – I knew not to believe a word!”
“I don’t know, there may be something in it.” said the Farmer. “After all the Yorkshireman…”
“Damn the bloody Yorkshireman! It’s all shi..”
A plaintive bleating filled the air as a large woolly and rather startled form came sailing over the wall – “My prize ram!” exclaimed Farmer Giles.
“Never know when I feel a good toss coming on!” shouted a joyful brewer.
“Yes, Angles Ales have a range of therapies for you. Goat Tosser, Feral Nun, Happy Paranoids and Doctor’s Orders (our craft lager).”
“You could say; Angles are good for whatever Ales you!”