In hindsight, my mistake was in thinking I was a Viking.
It was a houseparty for one of my friends in Cardiff, the delightful Cathy. She will laugh at anything, and is never found out of her hoodie, and she may drink her ale in lady-like halves, but she can still match me drink for drink with ease. I was sprawled out on the sofa introducing myself to some Spanish exchange students when my friend Jamie came in, carrying a five-litre plastic container, something like the size of a desk drawer on its end. A rich and mysterious looking brown liquid was sloshing about within.
‘What is it?’ I asked, wondering if one of his regular home-brew disasters had finally come to fruition.
He slapped the container. ‘This, my friend, is mead.’
‘Medieval mead. Specially brewed for authenticity. Have a glass if you fancy.’ And he went off to talk with Cathy.
I have never been behindhand in trying new drinks. My glass of warmish ale swiftly vanished, and I got to my two tipsy feet to sample the mead. The only thing I knew about it was that the Vikings drank it in horns, and that a horn held about two pints. So I poured myself a pint of mead, and sat down again.
It was delicious. I have never been much for sweet drinks since I sampled my first Guinness, but the mead was flowery, dark and sweet and tasting of all the scents of summer brewed together. It vanished with surpassing swiftness.
‘The mead’s lovely, isn’t it?’ I shouted to Jamie, when he glanced my way.
‘It’s great. You’ve got rather a large glass there, haven’t you?’
I looked at my quarter-pint incredulously. ‘Don’t be stupid. Vikings used to drink it in horns. I haven’t even drunk half a horn yet!’ I stood up on feet that suddenly seemed even tipsier than before, and carefully poured myself another pint of mead.
Everything gets a bit hazy from thereon in. I think someone tried to explain to me that mead was 14.5% abv, and that I’d been drinking wine like beer. Someone else told me it was probably time to go home. I just remember lying back on that sofa, grinning toothily at the ceiling, the most chemically happy I had ever been in my life. If Vikings felt like this every time they got drunk, how did they ever manage to get up the testosterone for all that raiding and burning and pillaging? This was bliss!
And then my friend Chris was walking me home, whilst I was laughing at everything and qupting the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam at the top of my voice. That was my first night drinking mead, but it wouldn’t be the last by a good way.