I should have become a monk. A decision like that can only be made sitting on a barstool, and indeed, on this particular occasion that a life in the monastery comes to mind, I am ordering another beer.
Beer and monasteries, perhaps surprisingly, traditionally go together. Perhaps even more surprising is that one of the reason monks brewed beer was to help enforce abstinence from the vagaries and vulgarities of life, sometimes caused by a large intake of the amber nectar known as beer.
In those lustful pagan days, where breasts were revered as the fountain of knowledge, with a male's fertility almost sacred, the newly Christianised priests, monks and other Biblical sundry knew they had a fight on their hands.
There was no way to temper the relish peasants had for beer, and dance, and other activities less and less moral in nature as the nights wore on, and many a day was wasted as workers attempted to shake off a previous night's drinks.
How could the church get these people to bed - to sleep, ensuring they were available the ensuing day for good old hard toil all day as the Bible clearly prescribed?
Hops. This new ingredient, much prized for giving beer the bitterness, also makes the drinker drowsy. Trappist monks set about brewing this new style beer in the hope it may curb many a pagan festival. Nowadays it is a rare that a microbrewery does not have an IPA beer, with its hoppy flavour.
I order a dark Chimay beer, made in Belgium by monks, and slump back against the barstool.
I should have become a monk. Or maybe even head honcho monk, I think, by the time I reach for the next beer. Though then I would have missed all the young maidens in their colourful skirts and plunging decoltés of latter childhood and youthful days, and no hops in any ale could ever be enough to reduce the sensual beauty of such feminity; ah, the tastes accompanying the rosy colours, the aromas, the giggles, glances, graceful gazelle walks. How beer stirs memories.
I order another Chimay beer. What kind of monk would I have been? Ah, one helping the young woman reach her sacrilegious path, to find the object of her faith, no doubt, out in the hop fields, in sunny days, and in barns on rainy days where hop leaves were laid to dry, no doubt.
"Another Chimay?'' says the barmaid behind the bar, tilting head and beer glass in question. A salacious wench and goddess all in one, with lines to match and smouldering looks, who could discuss the philosophy of religion and her admiration of rugby players all in one sentence.
Ah, if I could only be still playing rugby.
She stands at the beer pump, coaxing the frothy ale out of the beer tap with ease, this woman from the Baltic Republics in colourful red skirt, her breasts full and a hint of a smile revealing absolutely nothing about her thoughts.
"So what position did you play rugby?'' Her voice is fragrant: ''Let me guess.''
Ah, if I'd stayed in a monastery I would have been spared of these palpitations I felt when young barmaids placed beers on beermats with long fingers onto bars in front of my eyes.
"Brewed by monks," she says, her fingertips polishing the reddish brown glass, wiping some of the foam away, the polish of her fingernails not quite as dark as the Belgian beer: "Though I am not a nun," she adds, somewhat enigmatically.
a true vocation-
did Basho avoid the bars
or fall in love in every inn?
ah, the narrow road to the deep North