Posts Tagged ‘Shepherd Neame’

Thinking about other ‘intentional’ journeys I’ve done in the past…

In 1981 I tried to do the Shepherd Neame Passport. This was a challenge to visit a number of the brewery’s pubs during the year, with prizes based on the number achieved. One had to buy a drink and get the passport stamped. As I recall, the lowest-level prize was a tie (wide and synthetic), and the top one a crystal decanter celebrating that year’s Royal Wedding. Each pub’s stamp was also a chess piece, and the passport was a card like a chessboard. Completing a card involved completing a board with the pieces in the correct places, which made it quite difficult – the odds of getting that last bishop or whatever lengthened as the boards were completed.

My MO was to arrive at a town (mostly in Kent) and try and hit all the Sheps pubs in one session, having constructed a route, some little constellation of points on a map. Or else I would get to a number of villages  in one trip. I would have a half of Master Brew (a hoppy bitter) in each, with speedwalking and bus journeys between each. As a skinny but robust 20-year-old, this would leave me pleasantly tipsy (rather than deranged or catatonic, the kind of results I could expect were I to  repeat the process (especially as Shepherd Neame have a lot more pubs now)).

I never got enough Passports to win even the bottom prize. I was still relentlessly chasing a last piece in the cold December, when a landlord in St Leonards offered to give me one of the awful ties, which he was using as a lead for his dog. (“I thought I’d seen the last of you passport Comanches”…) At that moment I decided that the Passports themselves, covered with colourful stamps that combined an illustration of the pub name and a chess piece, every one a memory (now blurred and smudged), would be a better reliquary than the tie…

The Passport schemes have since been discontinued, viewed now as an encouragement to drink-driving and binge drinking.

On those journeys, my maps were like heat-seeking missiles programmed to find a particular sort of alehouses. I would bypass or rush past historic cathedrals,  attractive viewpoints, dismal shopping precincts, oast houses, cows, non-Sheps pubs (including better ones) in search of the objectives – an example of how the maps we choose work by filtering out all kinds of stuff, good and bad, to give us a workable system.

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