It's 9pm and I needed some beer. Not normal beer, but interesting beer, local beer. Real ales, Kentish if possible.
There's two options, buy some in or go to the pub. I tried both.
So, where to buy real ale from a shop? The first idea was Mr Lawrence's wine place down in Crofton Park. It's about a mile away, so I jumped in the car. But it was closed.
There are a number of convenience stores in Crofton Park, as well as a Co-op, but I didn't know what they sold, so I drove on to likely target number 2: Degustation, the wine-selling deli near the station. Closed again!
That's one problem with many local places – they are open not at your convenience, but at the owners' convenience.
So I went to Mira Off Licence, on the parade of shops opposite the Barge. He had some ales! Brilliant. He had five or six different types of real ale, plus a good range of unusual lagers.
The guy on the till seemed genuinely pleased about my purchase, saying that the Ruddles Ale was particularly good.
But just as this life-enhancing local experience was getting going a teenage boy came in and came right into my private space, and asked me, with an implicit threat, to 'lend' him some money to buy his Rizlas! Is this the 'tax' that comes when you go local?
Maybe it is simply the product of the real-life exchanges – nasty and nice – that come with direct encounters with real people, rather than the avoidance that comes at the supermarkets. (Though I have had similar encounters at the New Cross Gate Sainsbury's, where local homeless people beg for the pound coin you put in your trolley.)
Next step was to check out the Wickham Arms, the pub on Upper Brockley Road. Despite it being only a few yards away from my house, I have only been to it twice in the three years I've lived there. So girlfriend and I went in on a mission to check out the local.
It was a Monday night, so a quiet one. A few blokes standing or sitting, we sat at the bar drinking our London Pride. The ale was good. After a while a bloke comes up to us and asks what we'd like to hear on the jukebox – sweet! He had paid for some credits, and was offering us a go. How welcoming can you get?
So, real ale mission accomplished. Have found a local place selling bottles of ale, and found my local pub also serves up a good pint. I also was reminded that with small, local places you do not know when they'll be open or what they will sell, until you go there.
The encounters with people along the way were interesting, both for good and bad. I was reminded that Brockley's still a tough place at times, and you have to prepared to stand up for yourself, but also it is a nicer place then I had sometimes imagined, where total strangers do you a favour for no cost or advantage.