The Duke - August 12, 2015

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Every cloud has a silver lining – and proof of that came with last week’s sudden arrival of microscopic alien creatures in our drinking water.

After a predictably retrospective outbreak of sickness telephone calls to work, came what can only be called the Miracle of Mobility.

Within minutes of the scare story “going viral” previously bed ridden hobbling masses found themselves suddenly able to sprint to their local shops and supermarkets and carry home enough bottled water to float Noah’s Ark.

Secondly, restaurants were able to revert to flogging overpriced bottles of mineral water rather than free tap water.

Then, confirming what I’ve suspected for years, was the reassuring news that beer was the safest thing to drink. All right, it’s not too great if you like your liquids with milk and sugar, and it’s a tragic waste of the amber nectar if you start cleaning your teeth with it, but all in all it was another good 
excuse to pop to the pub.

Ironically it came as the shock news was published that half pints – and even the parsimonious third of a pint – are increasing in popularity.

Thankfully, rather than meaning we are drinking less, it actually reflects the fact that these days beer drinkers are being spoiled for choice.

New micro-breweries are opening on an almost daily basis, making it almost impossible to fully capitalise on the joys of an ale trail if you are swigging from a glass swimming with 568 millilitres of booze. Blame it on a 1698 Act of Parliament decreeing that ale be sold in pints or “full quarts” (two pints). Today’s very precise pint measure dates back almost 200 years to the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824.

Half pints have traditionally been sneered at by serious drinkers (and for too long cost more than half of a full pint) – even becoming slang for anyone of lowly stature.

Quite who thought of a third as a thirst quencher I have no idea but I remember being shocked to find them on sale in Australia more than 30 years ago (especially as much in the way of “real” ale was harder to find than dodo droppings).

Now there’s even a beer “platter” featuring three or four small glasses of different beers on a wooden tray – like a beer drinker’s version of a tasting menu.

BrewDog, which runs 21 pubs in the UK, loves them but also serves pints, halves, thirds, schooners (379ml) and nips. At the Great British Beer Festival, which opened at London’s Olympia yesterday, a pint glass isn’t even an option and visitors are encouraged to consume thirds instead.

Much of the renewed interest in all things beer must be down to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) pressure group. So where’s the Campaign for Real Food when you need it?

If such a body existed they would surely have despatched the pickets to Keighley in West Yorkshire where England’s first crisp sandwich shop opened recently.

The Mr Crisp outlet was inspired by the similar 
Simply Crispy pop up shop in Belfast and serves around 50 varieties of crisp in a bread roll for £1.

Rather than being reviled for dragging takeaway cuisine back a few decades it received the official blessing of Keighley’s mayor, Javaid Akhtar – and no doubt will be rolled out nationwide (complete with those neat little blue bags of salt) any day now.

Still, it’s positively haute cuisine compared to Nottingham which has the distinction of playing host to the UK’s first Pot Noodle vending machine.

Fans of the snack can now get their hands on a pot snack 24 hours a day. Yum?

...or why that nasty water bug is enough to turn one to drink

It’s official – reading this page is good for you.

Benefits include increased empathy, better relationships with others, reduced symptoms of depression and risks of dementia – and improved well-being throughout life.

Clearly I can’t take all the credit but I’m prepared to grab a slice of the glory included in a new report from the Reading Agency (a charity whose mission is to inspire people to read more).

Its latest large scale study looked at the non-academic side effects of reading for pleasure which included better communication between parent and children, increased self-esteem, reduced anxiety and stress and a greater understanding of other cultures.

Sadly for the UK our levels of reading for enjoyment are not the highest – for example more Portuguese youngsters read on a daily basis and almost a third of our adults don’t read for pleasure. That puts a bit of pressure on pages like this to remain (or start being?) enjoyable. Failing that it’s up you – and parents in particular. Here’s what to do. Take your children to the library and get them involved in reading activities; make sure you see them reading and read to and with them; make it a fun part of every day. And of course, keep reading this page!