I have a secret. A dirty little secret which I keep from colleagues, friends and loved ones. They wouldn't quite understand. No I don't steal under garments from washing lines. No I didn't vote Cameron. I'm a... a... I am a card carrying member of CAMRA. I pay about 20 quid a year to join with ohers who love Real Ale. Yes, some have beards and books to tick; and a mind for facts whether they be about great English battles or the age of steam. I have neither beard nor tick book and as for facts let's just say I don't know my Battle of Worcester from Bosworth. Our common interest, love and in some cases obsession is of supporting brewers and sellers of real ale. And obviously there is the odd pint involved as well.
A cosy world of appreciation one may think? Little did I know before dipping my toe in the blog pond that tensions exist, with esteemed commentators as non members and a debate around the "noxious culture of entitlement" raging. Who'd have thunk it? It's debates of this like that make me question whether I should request that my What's Brewing and Beer be sent in plain brown paper. I should maybe point out that I've never been a joiner. Not since being thrown out of the Boys Brigade. So as I took the unusual step to ally myself I must be happy to say I'm a member and share my loose reasons (in no particular order) for joining:
1. Discounts. I am a Yorkshireman, and if there's one thing we love, it’s a bargain. Either that or we're tight. As much as 33p off a pint sometimes. I figure I only have to drink in the region of 350,000 pints, pocket the discount and i can buy my own pub.
2. Information and Support. Who doesn't want to sit on the train at 7.30 reading Beer? If you've ever bemoaned the lack of a decent pint, a lack of choice then CAMRA is worthy of support. I could at this point write a serious commentary around the Campaign but I would direct you to the website, while I continue with my ramble.
3. Being in my thirties. On turning 30 many of the preoccupations I had in my teens and twenties (I would write "in my youth", but that would be too depressing) were replaced by an attitude of doing exactly what I wanted to do, as opposed to what I ought to do. My iPod wasn't playing just the latest indie band which I should be heard listening to. They were unashamedly rubbing shoulders with John Coltrane, Dolly Parton and Dean Martin. On occasion Jamie Cullum (ok, I may have gone too far with the honesty now). Being associated with stereotype beardies, bores and beer obsessive's doesn't bother me in the slightest.
4. Annoyance. Not why I joined but possibly why I will renew. If I knew there was such dislike of members in purist circles (perhaps too worthy to join?) I would have stumped up for membership years ago, got on a train to Sheffield and declared loudly in the Tap "BARMAN. FREE BEER OR I WILL UNLEASH THE WRATH OF CAMRA"... I would expect to be shown the door and sentenced to the local Wetherspoons, but it could be worth it, although the train would cost me at least the discount of 230 pints. What can I say I just like a bit of antagonism.
So that's it in short. The secrets out. I've climbed off the fence. Time for a pint perhaps. Now where's my membership card. Can't forget the discount.