I was a fairly nervy kid when I was little; at the age of five, I remember thinking a shiny button that had come off my school blazer was an immensely precious thing, to the point where I was genuinely worried about it being stolen if we were burgled. (Yes, I wore a blazer to school at the age of five. It was a Church of England primary, and it was some time ago.) A couple of years earlier, when my parents took us on a church-subsidised holiday with the Rector of Lowestoft and his family, I insisted on packing the red plastic fish that I played with in the bath. Her name was Belinda and it – she – was the most beautiful thing in the world. We were staying in a holiday complex built into and around a ruined abbey; I’ve got a distinct memory, probably from the first day of the holiday, of perching miserably on a flight of ruined steps with Belinda on my knee. As it happened, the Rector of Lowestoft – or my Dad’s friend Bill, as he was also known – had a son named Tim who was a few years older than me. A few years make quite a big difference when you’re three, but I do remember this big boy taking a friendly interest in me and my fish; I’m pretty sure I felt a bit less alone as a result.
My father was a civil servant; he was a lay reader in our local church, but never took it any further. By contrast, the Rector of Lowestoft went on to considerably greater things: he was ordained a bishop in 1975, and served as Bishop of Peterborough from 1984 to 1996, making frequent appearances in the press and on Thought for the Day. When he retired, he even got his own beer: Oakham brewed a cask ale called Bishop’s Farewell to mark the occasion. Fifteen years on, they’ve revived it as a bottled beer. It’s available as part of Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, and it’s a bit of a beast: all I can say is that I’m glad I acquired the taste for HYBs before trying it. Decidedly bitter, and very hoppy without messing about with wifty-wafty citrussy, flowery flavours; just a big bag of assertively earthy hops, right between the eyes. What can I say – if you like hops, get one in. I made a point of going back for a second bottle – that, and the Profanity Stout. (And a couple of others where I forgot that I’d got one already. Tasting notes, that’s what this blog needs.)
Sadly, Bill Westwood died a few years after Oakham had celebrated his retirement, aged 73. My Dad died a couple of years after that, aged 87; he and my mother had long since lost touch with the Westwoods. I don’t know what became of their son Tim; I hope things worked out for him.