Our anti-hero has been instructed to meet the Prince of Wales on the roof of the former Fiat car factory in Turin, but things have gone badly wrong. Jackson seems to have been kidnapped on arriving at Turin airport. He has been dumped, with his baggage, on the wrong side of a police security barrier and left to wave hopelessly as the Prince’s motorcade speeds past.With one mighty leap, I was free. I had been sprung by Silvia.Who is Silvia? What is she?Actually, this one spells her name Silvja. That is because she is a Latvian, albeit from Lancashire.I was palate-smacked. I didn’t believe that a Lancashire Latvian would risk all for a Yorkshire Lithuanian. One becomes cynical in the musing game.We were working for a shadowy organisation called Food From Britain. Among other strategies, it is behind a Real Ale Society and a Single Malts Club, both in Italy. This year, I was drafted to present tastings for these clubs at the Salone del Gusto, the huge show held every two years in Turin by the Slow Food movement.Aspecial guest this year was the Prince of Wales, whose interest in traditional farming and organic foods, and whose company Duchy Originals markets the end product. Food From Britain had decided that the Prince and I, both campaigners in our own ways, should meet. Despite the dislocation caused by my kidnapping, Silvja was determined that the rendezvous take place. She deputed someone to take my luggage , and ushered me to a waiting driver, impeccably uniformed, impassive behind Ray-bans, waiting possessively by his VIP car.We were in the parking lot of the former Fiat car factory, now an exhibition complex and the venue for the Salone. The Prince was in the rooftop bar. I was to be driven up five storeys to the roof. This was achieved by means of a spiral roadway like those in a multi-storey parking lot, except that there was no access to any of the floors.
The rooftop bar was large and crowded. The Prince was working the room. He was inevitably surrounded by his handlers, who knew who he was meant to meet, and for how long. This curious caucus race progressed around the room until we came face to face: the man with the ears meets the man with nose.My bodyguard introduced me as a writer of standard works on both beer and whisky.“How long did it take you to become such an expert?” he asked.“Thirty years,” I responded, adding: “You noticed.” “Are you familiar with my beer?” he asked.“Duchy Original Organic Ale – dryish, malty, toasty,” I parried.“We are making a new winter ale,” he continued.“Winter Ales are usually pretty malty. How about moving on to promote English hops?” I asked. “They are outstanding and need some help”He countered: “Watch this space.” I told him that the most dedicated beer enthusiasts tend to love hops, just as devotees of whisky love peat.“My favourite is Laphroaig,” he reminded me. We were just warming to winter malts when his handlers reoriented us, and he moved on to the next subject, so to speak.I had not completed my mission. My intention had been to present him with a signed copy of the fifth edition of the Malt Whisky Companion but the book was in my luggage. The omnipotent Silvja said she would see what she could arrange.Next morning, the Prince came to the booth of the Single Malts Club, and this time I did complete my mission. The Prince lingered for a moment to flip through a few pages.“One is always surprised how many single malts there are,” said. “I can educate myself with this.”Then, perhaps a reference back to the previous day’s conversation: “Your youth was not misspent…”