It seems odd writing about drink the day after the city I live in descended into anarchy. But having just got back in after going to help clean up the streets of Hackney a mile down the road, I found a crowd of 500 people had had the same idea, and all of us had been beaten to it by the awesome council street cleaners. We passed burned out cars being taken away, shops with the shutters down unable to clean up until the police had checked the scene, but the streets were clean and showing next to no evidence of rioting.
In other words: extraordinary times. But life goes on, and should go on as normal.
Walking home I felt conflicting emotions: overwhelming pride at being part of a community which is starting to fight back agains thuggery, coupled with an overwhelming desire to get out of town and go to a festival or something.
And then I remembered I'm doing exactly that.
This weekend is the first International Craft Cider Festival, and it's happening in Caerphilly, South Wales, from 12th to 14th August.
I'm particularly intrigued by it because it's a real festival - it's over a weekend, there are various venues, bands playing, and we'll be camping. It looks like it's going to be amazing.
And the other part of it is that it truly is an international festival. I'm currently working on a book about cider with ace photographer Bill Bradshaw, and we're discovering small cider making communities all around the world who are only just starting to realise they're not alone. This is one of the first events in the world that will offer some kind of international perspective, from the Apfelwein culture around Frankfurt to the flamboyant sidra performance pouring of Asturias in northern Spain.
There will be tasting masterclasses on tasting and cooking with cider, three cider bars - England, Wales and International, food and that, and a bustling marketplace.
Oh, and Bill and I will be giving an illustrated talk: 'The Secret Stories of Cider: A journey around the world's most misunderstood drink'. It's going to be an update of where we've got to, the adventures we've had so far. As such, it's an absolutely exclusive opportunity to hear extracts form one of my next books months, if not a year or more, before publication - I've never done this before. But better than that, it'll be illustrated by Bill's wonderful photography, which I'm really not doing justice to here:
There are day and weekend tickets available - day tickets only £10 a day, weekend tix £25. You pay for talks and tastings on top of that, but our talk is a mere £2.50.
Hope to see you there. Looking forward to - well, maybe normality might not turn out to be the right word, but life-affirming, optimistic and joyous - I think they're good words, and we could all do with a bit of them just now.