3 September 2020

Daedalus and the Joy of Flight

The following takes place in a COVID-free world. Remember that? Well, look forward to it too.


Flights. Thirds. Quarters. Samples. Snifters.

They are Schrodinger's Order. They run the risk of being the bane of the beer enthusiast's life. Order one and you immediately look like a complete wanker. The server has to do thrice the work they usually do and there's a danger that you'll forget which beer is which by the time you've delicately, awkwardly and precariously walked your paddle halfway across the room to your little solitary table in the corner to commence photting and Untapping. (Other beer rating apps are available).

Incidentally, it always amused me that a flight came in a paddle.

On the other hand, the law, and your personal choice, is clear. You are not obligated to order a single pint of beer any more, or indeed halves. Why bet the farm on something new in case it turns out to be a slog? That thimbleful sample you've been graciously granted and have gratefully gulped may offer up some idea, but may not be enough to form a solid opinion on. 

Similarly you may not be too keen on wading through a full measure of the latest 6.5% roast coffee porter infused with the juice of the rare berry of the upper Ugandan bonkoko tree which only flowers once every three years when it is blessed with the urine of a young male virgin zebra.

It's totally tempting to tumble into the trying trial of tentatively tasting a triplet of tantalising tipples. But in a busy bar, on a busy night, with a queue behind you tapping their imaginary watches because who wears watches anymore now we've all got phones?

I feel we need a parable in order to make the decision for us. An ancient Greek parable of intrigue, invention and incest. Because it's Ancient Greece.

It's a warm summer's evening in ancient Greece. Upon ascending to his throne, King Minos of Crete, being a spiritual sort of fellow, prayed to the sea-god Poseidon to send him a beautiful white bull as a symbol of support for his claim to the throne. Minos, you see, like most little boys, was squabbling with his brothers about who should be king, and he decided to react in a completely normal way by attempting to get a vindictive sea-god on his side.

Nevertheless, Poseidon obliged and sent Minos a beautiful white bull with the instruction that, to show honour to the god, the bull must be sacrificed. Minos, upon seeing the fine beast, thought "I can't kill that" and decided to kill another, less beautiful bovine specimen.

This pissed off Poseidon. You really don't want to piss off a Greek god. They can dish out some creative punishments. Just ask Oedipus. Poseidon, as it happens, was well in with Aprodite, the goddess of love, so she paid a visit to Minos' wife Pasiphae and made her fall in love with the bull. As you do.

You following all this so far?

So Pasiphae is in love with the bull. Madly in love. Infatuated even. So she decides she wants to take human/bovine relations to the next level, a score of centuries before James Herriot made TV audiences wince every Sunday as he drove all over Yorkshire fisting livestock as he went. His excuse was he was a vet. Her excuse was she was horny.

Fortunately the Queen just happened to know an inventor called Daedalus, whose name fortuitously means "the inventor". Nominative determinism isn't just a modern phenomenon it seems. Daedalus knocked up (unfortunate phrasing) a wooden cow-shaped contraption that would allow Pasiphae and the bull to.....interact.

At no point did Daedalus think this was a bad idea. And he must have done a good job because nine-ish months later Pasiphae gave birth to a half-human half-bull creature known as the Minotaur.

A Minotaur is not to be confused with a "minor Tory", although to be fair both creatures are subhuman bastards full of bullsh*t.

Once he'd got over the shock of being stepfather to a walking manbeefburger, Good King Minos, alas, was perturbed to say the least. What to do with this thing? Only one option...build an inescapable prison. And who should build it? Well he looked in the phone book and.... yeah this guy Daedalus seems like the right man for the job.

Daedalus proceeds to builds Minos an unescapable prison, dubbed the Labyrinth, for the Minotaur to live in. To prevent knowledge of the Labyrinth from going public, Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in a tower on Crete. Because, again, that was the Only Option!

You get the feeling Dominic Cummings would have liked to have worked for this guy.

So after all his help, Minos threw Daedalus under the bus which was all the more impressive given buses were the one thing Daedalus hadn't invented yet.

Of course father and son tried to escape, but all boats leaving Crete were heavily searched and the waters were unswimmable. Daedalus and Icarus were trapped by Poseidon's waves.

So the only way to escape was by air. And this is the time before aeroplanes, balloons or drones, so they had to either wait a few aeons for Leonardo da Vinci to be born, or invent something.

They attempted to escape by flying from their prison using wings made from feathers, string and wax, three materials that just happened to be lying around an Ancient Greek prison. No Sky TV though.

And do you know what, they worked. But, Daedalus warned young Icarus, that due to the wings' fragile nature, it would be important not to fly too high lest the sun melt the wax, or too low lest the water of the waves weigh down the feathers.

Yeah, Icarus. Had they had rear view mirrors, Crete would have been a distant speck in them when he forgot his father's sage advice. It was probably a good job that Daedalus didn't have a rear view mirror, otherwise he would have seen Icarus' wings melt from being too close to the sun, and his subsequent death plummet into the Mediterranean.

Daedalus escaped to a rival kingdom on the south coast of Sicily and, having built a temple to Apollo using his extant wings as an offering to the god, lived out the rest of his days in relative peace. In a delicious irony that only Greek myths serve up, he eventually got the opportunity to drown Minos in a bath with boiling water after Minos had discovered him living there. 

The Minotaur itself was eventually slayed by an enterprising chap called Theseus who, upon sailing triumphantly back to Athens, having abandoned his new girlfriend (Minos' daughter) en route, unfortunately forgot to signal to his father, King Ageus of Athens, that he had survived the encounter. His father immediately committed suicide by throwing himself into what became known as the Aegean Sea.

Seriously - go and read some proper Greek myths. They're hilariously horrid.

Now, I'm not suggesting for a single moment that the next time you walk into a bar you make merry with the meat on the menu. Nor would I suggest you navigate a Labyrinth, unless of course you're trying to find the toilets in your local Spoons. However, I would urge you to, when faced with a situation where there are two unpleasant options, to take the compromise. Instead of missing out on a new beer, or betting the whole farm on it, be like Daedalus and take a difficult but necessary decision to take flight. 

You may look and feel a little silly as, clutching your glorified repurposed mobile spice rack, you navigate your way past the rival kingdoms of bearded Beer Dudes fuelled by milkshake IPAs, and the local CAMRA branch's bitter discussion. 

But eventually you will find your promised land, having neither taken the plunge into the dark depths of passing up the opportunity of a new taste, nor soaring to the unmanageable unsustainable height of a full measure of something that could turn your palate to a waxy mush.

Flights are cool man. Strap in, relax, and if you need to bail out, the emergency exits are here, here and here....

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