Beer Review – Thai. P. A

Lemongrass Thai. P. A, an English beer style, made popular in India, with a Thai twist, brewed right here in Yorkshire. Is this melting pot of a beer the miracle we need to overcome a culture of fear and division and bring the world together?

No, it’s a fucking beer. But at £1.99 for 4 bottles, you can easily afford enough to temporarily forget the state of the world. I bought it from the discount bucket in the Newland Ave institution, Bargain Beers. This is the first of Decent Spread’s weekly (or whenever we feel like it) reviews of the wonders you can find there.

This is the part of a beer review where you usually find a load of poncey words about smokiness, balance, aroma, and mouth feel. Mouth feel for Christ’s sake. It’s a beer, it feels wet and fizzy in your mouth. If you’re expecting more of the same, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. I’m not a beer aficionado that can identify the specific breed of hops in a beer by smelling the piss of a man who drank it the night before. You won’t be able to regurgitate this information next time you’re in Brewdog to impress your friends, and it won’t give you any new ammunition to use in your tirade against people that like Fosters.

I’m just a person that likes drinking beer and has a good enough grasp on the English language to be able to describe the things that I taste. My first observation is a dumb one, but worth mentioning. It tastes like Lemongrass. Not just like a beer with some lemon flavouring, it has the specific taste of lemongrass. You get a nice tangy hit which fades into the taste of the beer underneath. Most IPA’s I’ve had taste pretty similar and this one is no different. It’s a decent beer with an interesting flavour in it. You couldn’t have too many because the lemongrass gets a bit much after a while but a few is fine.

It’s basically like a posh man’s Radler (like a shandy but tastes more like lemon). If you’re the kind of person that secretly likes Radler but couldn’t possibly drink it in front of their friends without being ridiculed for having the palette of a dole monkey that has the audacity to drink lager from full sized cans, rather than porter from a small can, this is the beer for you. You can enjoy an easy drinking lemony beer while lambasting your friends for not being aware of the new trend in beers flavoured with Thai curry ingredients.

As I sit here, drinking a Thai. P. A and writing this review, I feel a great sense of regret. I should have savoured it, let every mouthful sit for a while before swallowing, because I know this may be the last time. That is both the beauty and the tragedy of the Bargain Beers discount bucket. Each week, there is something new. Almost always a beer that I have never seen before, and will never see again, and always so cheap. In a week, something will replace it and all that will be left of Thai. P. A. will be a fuzzy memory. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Mo By Peter Calder

Mo lay in the middle of the street. He thought of his favourite word. His favourite word was apple. He didn’t know why.

Mo lay in the middle of the street. He used his tongue to check if all of his teeth were there. They mostly were. He couldn’t move his eyes. Without his front teeth, he couldn’t eat apples either.

Mo lay in the street. His legs made the most peculiar sound. It was like biting into a Braeburn. No. Granny Smith.

Mo lay in the street. He could taste copper. He couldn’t move his arms. There was a voice. His phone buzzed. For thematic reasons, it was an I-phone.

Mo Lay in the street. He saw the faces of everyone he knew. They told him to stand up. He struggled for a second. He straightened his legs and stood.

Mo lay in the street. Mo looked at himself. He didn’t recognise himself. He thought himself most peculiar with his legs at those angles.

Mo lay by the curb. He was outside Tesco. He hadn’t bought the shopping yet. His girlfriend wouldn’t be happy, he’d lost the list.

Mo lay by the curb. The automatic doors wouldn’t open for him. A blue light flashed on the entrance. A worker ran out. Milk, they needed milk.

Mo lay by the curb. The aisles were empty. His hand failed with a basket. A child cried to her mother. Mo smiled at her. A man outside looked at his watch and said the time. 9.42.

Mo lay on a stretcher. Original or reduced fat? He couldn’t remember if his girlfriend was still dieting. The security camera noted two soft cheeses falling off the shelves. He reached for his phone. His phone was in the middle of the road.

Mo lay on a stretcher. He waited in the queue for a minute. The cashier never said ‘next.’ She was pale, eyes on the window. He looked at the floor. He didn’t have feet.

Mo lay in the ambulance. He didn’t have a body either. A policeman wheeled off his bicycle. That was theft. He thought of Robin Hood. He wanted his bike back. It was a long walk home and he couldn’t remember the way.

Mo Lay in the mortuary. He was just a head now. He was still thinking of a man in tights. He couldn’t remember his name. He remembered apples though. Apples. A bow. An arrow.

Mo lay in the crematorium. As a brain, he struggled for words.

Mo lay in the fire. Tights. He remembered tights but he didn’t know why. He wished he could ask his girlfriend, she would know. That was why he loved her.

Mo rested in his urn. His last thought was Kevin Costner firing a bow and arrow. Into what, he didn’t know.

The Vulture

The Vulture starts like any good crime thriller, with a corpse and a question: ‘Who Killed John-Lee?’ From there, we roll back a year to the summer of 1968 in New York.

It’s at this point that you’d normally be introduced to the cop with the troubled past and the less than conventional methods that are overlooked because, by God he gets results. Instead, we get Spade, a young kid trying to find his way in a city rife with Heroin addiction and racial prejudice.

The pacing makes a refreshing change from the boring formula that you find in crime thrillers on charity shop bookshelves everywhere. For most of the book I forgot about the murder mystery and it was just a novel about what it was like to be a black kid in 1960’s New York.

Each character brings a new angle to the argument and most of them are pretty well-rounded, but a few are just cardboard cut-out stereotypes that could have been written by a middle aged white man scripting a racial awareness cartoon for kids. Gil Scott-Heron’s attempt at creating an intellectual character is by far his worst. His nickname is IQ and he speaks almost exclusively in quotes from his literary heroes which quickly gets old. By the end, I think Gil-Scott Heron was just boasting about the books he’d read.

Like his songs and poetry, Gil Scott-Heron uses a very on the nose writing style that would normally put me off. It’s a bit hit and miss, but it’s mostly alright. If you’re already a fan then you’ll probably get along with it, but if you aren’t, you might find him a little jarring. Great lines like ‘God put black people on earth to blow bush and take a lot of shit, and white people were for drinking beer and dying of boredom’ made me laugh, but they’re all too often sandwiched between some plain weird stuff. The sex scenes, which frequently feature the phrase ‘love tunnel’, reminded me of a fourteen year old virgin boasting to his mates in the playground about the girl he ‘shagged on holiday.’

When it came to the conclusion, there was a reveal, but it didn’t rely on shock value. It almost felt like we’d both forgotten about the murder mystery element and he shoehorned in a rushed ending. It still works because the meat of the book isn’t really about that, but it still felt a bit weird. Overall, it was pretty good, but not as amazing as I’d hoped it would be.


Planning For The Future by Joe Hakim

I’m stood on the corner of Clifton Gardens, looking at the shop and trying not to look suspicious, which is difficult since I’m wearing a big black puffa jacket and a rolled-up balaclava on the top of my head.

It’s getting late now, the shop will shut soon, so it’s nearly time to make my move. I keep checking my phone, and it’s ten minutes since I saw someone go in and out, so it’s now or never really. I dot my cig against the lamp-post and have a quick look around to make sure no one’s peeping out their window, and then I head across the road.

Here we go.

The bairn won’t stop fucking screaming. Don’t know where he gets it from. He’s nowt like me. According to Mam, I didn’t say owt for years. In fact, at one point she took me to doctor’s because she was worried that there was summat wrong with me, like I was slow or deaf or summat. They did some tests and they all came back fine.

The week after the tests, and we’re at my Aunt Jan’s house, and we’re having Sunday dinner, and Aunt Jan’s keeps asking me if I want more mashed spud, and I keep shaking my head, but she keeps asking, and eventually I turn around say: ‘Fuck off, I don’t want any mashed spuds.’

Mam said she didn’t know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or clatter me around the head.

So yeah, he’s nowt like me.

I’m trying to psyche myself up, but I feel fucking ridiculous. Me, wearing a puffa jacket I haven’t worn since back before Eminem had a face-lift, rolling the balaclava down over my face. I’m supposed to look scary, but I feel I’m wearing a shit terrorist Halloween costume.

I need to focus, get my shit together if I’m going to pull this off. In theory it’s simple, but the adrenaline’s kicking in now, so all the careful is dripping out of my ears.

Short, deep breaths. A bit of grunting and roaring like, try and control the nerves.

I can do this.

Our lass is all right. Great with the bairn like. But she’s always banging on, there’s always fucking summat. Money usually. She knew the score when she got with me. There’s nowt out there for people like me. I didn’t want her to get pregnant. That was a decision she made. She could have got rid of it. Him. Could have got rid, but she chose not. I stuck by her. My mates said I was fucking mad.

‘Yer off yer fucking head mate,’ Mark said. Bit rich coming from a fucker who’s stoned most of the time, but there you go.

Push on the door and the bell tinkles as it opens. Take the knife from my pocket, ready to start throwing shit down, but there’s no one behind the counter. Fucking cheeseballs.

I look around, and then I hear a voice says: ‘I’ll be with you in a sec.’

Looking at the mirror above the door, angled to the back of the shop, I see Patel crouched down, putting some stuff on a shelf. Fuck’s sake. Put the knife back in my pocket. I figure that it’s best to whip it out in front of him. It’s ok, it’s ok. Improvise, adapt and overcome. Like the special fucking forces.

It was good for a bit. Mam was chuffed to fuck. She’d been at a loose end for as long as I could remember, ever since Dad walked out. Her daily routine involved supping cheap-shit wine and watching repeats of American soap operas and talk shows, so I think she was excited at the prospect of having summat to do on an evening other than pass out in a stupor.

Our lass managed to get herself a flat. Although officially I was still at Mam’s, I spent most of my time round at our lasses. She wasn’t too happy when the lads came around for a session, but I never complained when her mates came round.

We were skint, but we’d get more benefits once the bairn was born, so we went to Bright House, got a cooker and a big fuck-off telly and that. The terms were mental, like five quid a week for the rest of our natural lives, but we didn’t care. ‘We could all get blown up tomorrow,’ was the way our lass put it, and she was right.

Patel gets up and comes over. ‘Alright mate?’ he says as he scoots behind the counter. He doesn’t clock the balaclava at first, and when he does, it’s like one of them Youtube videos where people record their mate’s reactions to eating a hot chili or summat.

I whip the knife out, all menacing like. ‘Empty the fucking till,’ I say in my best Christian-Bale-as-Batman voice.

I’m expecting him to obey, but he’s frozen on the spot. A big red flushed chili face. He’s staring at me, dead intense like.

‘Put yer fucking hands where I can see ‘em,’ I bark. ‘Don’t be pressing any panic alarms.’

He puts his hands up, I’ve shocked him into action. Good. Just need him to empty the till so I can fuck off now.

The bairn popped out, big, pink, round and loud. And there we were. Domestic fucking bliss.

Money was tight. Never seemed to be enough. Just the cost of the bairn alone: prams, clothes, toys, all of that shit. Our lass started banging on at me to get a job, start earning. I tried explaining that I didn’t need to do that now that I was knocking a bit of weed out. But it wasn’t good enough. ‘You fucking smoke more than you earn,’ she said.

The letters came through the door, letters about the telly, the fridge, the fucking leccy bill. And all the time the bairn is fucking screaming, and our lass is getting on me case, and it’s like, fucking hell, when did all this creep up on me?

It all came to a head one afternoon when Mam came round. It was only half-two and she was half-cut already. She stumbled in through the front door, saying, ‘Where’s me bairn? Where’s me bairn?’

Our lass looked over at me and rolled her eyes. ‘Don’t fucking say owt,’ I said.

We’d finally managed to get the bairn to sleep after feeding him, but Mam insisted on holding him. She kept banging on about it until our lass relented and fetched him into the kitchen. Mam took the bairn, held him.

‘Aren’t you beautiful?’ she cooed.

Mam had a fag in her gob, crappy knock-off baccy, and as she spoke the end of it dropped onto the bairn’s forehead.

The bairn woke up immediately, screaming his head off, and then our lass started screaming, ran over and grabbed the bairn off Mam. ‘What the fuck have you done yer stupid cow?’ our lass yelled, and this set Mam off roaring.

Our lass had the bairn’s head until the running cold-water, while Mam’s sobbing, saying, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m fucking useless.’

I felt as though my head was going to explode. I walked into the living room. Stood in front of the big telly, the one that our grandkids will probably still be paying off long after we’re dead, and I just kicked it, planted my foot right in the centre of the screen. The glass shattered, and the telly rocked back and forth like a boxer reeling from an uppercut, tipped over onto the floor.

Next thing I knew, I’d smashed everything up. The table, the shelves, everything on them. Bits of glass and plastic everywhere.

Patel’s scooping the money into a small blue carrier.

‘Do you want the coins as well?’

I belt the counter with the butt of the knife, and he tips the shrapnel into the bag.

He seems to be taking forever, and with that, I hear the bell on the door go. I’m caught off-guard, and I spin around to see who’s just walked in. And that’s all it takes. There’s an explosion somewhere off to the side of my head. The shockwave sends me careening into the spinning rack of birthday cards, which I take down with me. I look up to see Patel leaping over the counter, a small wooden bat in his hand. I hold up my hands to try and shield myself from the blows that rain down on me. I hear a sickening crack as a couple of my fingers break.

Eventually, Patel stops. I’m aware that there’s someone else near me. I hear Patel’s voice as he rings the coppers.

As we wait for them to arrive, Patel lifts my balaclava, exposing my face. Even though I’m bloody and bruised, he recognises me. He looks more sad and disappointed now than angry.

‘Why?’ he asks me, shaking his head. ‘What the fuck was you thinking?’

‘I have absolutely no idea.’

Operation Ajax

How does a coup start? Usually with a tyrannical leader, severe injustice and a population that has been pushed to breaking point. Alternatively, it might start with a democratically elected leader that is ousted to boost the power of a monarch and serve the interests of people that don’t actually live in that country. That’s what happened in Iran in 1953. But before we get into that we need to roll back a few years to the creation of everybody’s favourite environmentalist group, British Petroleum.

In 1901, a British man decided that he might want to do some mining in Iran. He met with the king of Iran (it was Persia back then) and they agreed that William Knox D’Arcy would be given rights to search for petrol for 60 years, and pay £20,000 for the privilege. These days that would be around the sum of £12 million.  The king got a pretty raw deal because he was only offered 16% of any profits that the British made. By 1907, Mr. D’Arcy had transferred ownership of the oil rights into the name of the British Burma-Oil company. A year later, they hit oil.

Everybody got distracted for a while when World War One happened but in the aftermath, the world was being reorganized and Iran thought they would see what they could get out of it. They didn’t ask for much, they simply wanted a small portion of the profits from oil that was in their country. They were effectively told to do one and nothing much changed.

When World War Two broke out, Iran made the sensible decision to stay well away. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really their choice. Stalin had spent the last few years ploughing all of his resources into building massive amounts of war machines, which he now realized needed fuel. Iran had plenty, and they also had the Trans-Iranian railway that went through to Russia. So, Britain and Russia decided to invade Iran and kick out the Shah.

After the end of the war, Britain left Iran but Stalin decided he wanted to stay because he was interested in the black stuff. America decided to stick their oar in at this point because if Stalin wanted something, they suddenly decided that they wanted it as well. After a lot of pushing, they managed to get rid of Russian forces but Stalin continued backing pro-communist groups in the country.

In the post-war period, Iranian nationalism was growing in strength and people, again, started to ask for a bit more control over their own oil. Nationalist leaders didn’t trust the British to even pay the tiny amount that they did owe to Iran. They asked to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (it changed names about a hundred times before it morphed into BP) but they refused. They had nothing to hide, but they just didn’t want anybody to know that they had nothing to hide. The Iranians were getting fed up of the British exploiting them, and pissed off with their government for not doing anything about it.

A prominent politician called Mohammed Mossadegh thought that Iran’s government should operate like the model of many European countries: a figurehead monarch that had no real power, with the decisions being made by the elected parliaments. Mossadegh created the National Front (not the same as the unsavoury one over here) as a way to wrest power away from the Shah, who had power to override all of the elected bodies in government. Beyond that, their main policy was the nationalization of the Oil industry. In just a few years, they’d managed to fill most of the positions in the elected bodies in government, it seemed like people wanted paying for the resources that they sold. The current prime minister was opposed to oil nationalization, so somebody murdered him. No prizes for guessing who succeeded him.

Mossadegh decided, as his first act as prime minister, he would salt the wound by pardoning and releasing the man that assassinated his predecessor.

In 1951, parliament approved oil nationalization and Mossadegh went to the British with a deal.  He was very generous to offer them a 50/50 split, considering it was 100 percent his. But the British got greedy and viewed the nationalization as a breach of contract. The USA were also a bit worried because if Britain didn’t have any sway over the oil fields, there was a chance that Russia might get a look in. The initial reaction was to impose massive sanctions on Iran.  Then they tried to fight it in the International Court of Justice but they were told they had no case there either. Since all of the legal avenues had failed, British authorities starting scheming.

The Shah was getting increasingly wound up by Mossadegh’s attempts to curb his power but to start with, he didn’t do much more than grumble.

Meanwhile, Stalin was backing a communist party in which was gaining ground, hence America’s interest. Thus, a plot to overthrow the Iranian government and replace it with something more favourable, was born. America, in their traditional style, would call it something ridiculous: Operation Ajax. Britain on the other hand called it, Operation Boot because, you know, we were giving him the boot.

We were kind enough to wait for permission before starting a coup, which the Shah didn’t give to start with. Then Mossadegh decided to dissolve parliament, giving all power to himself and his elected cabinet, leaving the Shah with no sway whatsoever. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the Shah gave the go ahead to the CIA who started pumping money into stirring up beef against Mossadegh.

They drew up a decree to sack Mossadegh and replace him with a General Zahedi. They got the Shah to sign it, just before he buggered off on holiday with his wife, and sent a messenger to deliver it to Mossadegh. He ignored it and all of his supporters started kicking off. The attempted coup fell flat. The Shah ran away to Baghdad and eventually managed to get safe passage back to America.

Zahedi started stomping about shouting about how he was the rightful prime minister but nobody was listening so he came up with a sneaky plan. People were already a little worried about the prospect of a communist revolution and he decided to capitalize on it. Infiltrators, hired with CIA money, were sent to the pro-communist groups to encourage them to start a revolution. They took the bait and started smashing up any symbol of capitalism they could find. Amidst the chaos, the CIA and Zahedi started the second phase of their scheme. They hired more infiltrators but this time they were sent to the damaged areas to stir up fears of the communist revolution and convince everyday Iranians that their only option was to revolt themselves and get rid of Mossadegh. Massive crowds took to the streets and battered the communists before turning on the government. By lunchtime, the army had joined them and that was pretty much it. After a tank levelled his house, Mossadegh ran off but he turned himself in a few days later. Zahedi replaced him as prime minister and he was sentenced to three years in prison and then put under house arrest for the rest of his life.

And that’s the story of how western ambitions completely uprooted the politics of a country halfway across the world. It’s a good thing that never happened again.