Sunday, August 29, 2004

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder

It appears I have been guilty of talking absolute cock.

No, no, don't try to deny it, it's true. In the previous instalment of this august journal I may have given the impression that it was my intention to seek out every opportunity to suck up booze like there was no tomorrow.

Not true.

Since my brush with divine bartendering in the form of miracle beer, I have emerged a deeper, finer Colonel. Armed with a stiffened resolve and a will of steel, I have nobly forsworn all alcohol since then. The effect caused has been little short of sensational. Fellow drinkers, with whom I have spent many a golden hour throwing the stuff back, have expressed concern, scorn, derision and incomprehension in equal measures. The rumours abound in the local drinking dens and plague spots.

"He's got the clap."
"Nah, he's turned into a queer"
"I reckon he's found God"
"He's an arse anyway"
"Yes"
"Can we talk about football again? Good."

And so it goes.

There is a considerable upside to a period of abstention. One's pocketbook enjoys a respite due to the lower price of soft drinks, always a consideration in these straitened times. There is also something comforting about waking up in one's bed at the weekend and being in full possession of the facts as to how you got there. The absence of a thumping headache and the slow onset of shame as you gradually recall some of the less dignified antics and lo-jinks you indulged in while in your cups is a positive boon also.

There are also some new-age quacks who claim there are health benefits associated with laying off the good stuff, but like all right-minded folk I tend to steer clear of that type of wacked-out, left-field, weirdy beardy, looney bin theory. Their reasoning is clearly specious, one instinctively feels.

However, I am not a fundamentalist muslim and anyone who says I am is a damned lying hound. All good things must come to an end. On friday this coming week I will rejoin the land of the topers to join my fellow revellers at a stag weekend. The groom-to-be appears to regard Whitby as a fitting location to see out his last hurrah as a footloose man about town. Whatever the merits of Whitby as a destination, I am sure of one thing; they sell beer there. And I will be sloshing it back until it bubbles out of my eyes.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it says "Drink beer".

And in slightly smaller letters "But don't go daft, eh?"

Monday, August 16, 2004

The new "going out"?

Owing to a slight infection of the breathing pipes and a regrettable "banana republic" attitude to personal finances, I have spent the whole of this weekend at home.

Although I am a man of simple tastes, I do rather enjoy getting out and about come the weekend. Nothing outlandish, mind you. A few quiet drinks of a thursday evening, throw them back until one on friday and saturday and an all-day session on a sunday. Nothing that the most abstemious schoolmarm type would raise their eyebrows at, a paragon of moderation you might say.

However, there would be no excursions this weekend. Also there was no beer, not a drop of wine and nary a whiff of spirits in the old homestead. Truly these are the times that try a man's soul. As I rattled around the house, a sort of internal dialogue was playing in the old noggin, much like the angel and devil you would see on Tom the Cat's shoulders in the old cartoons.

Devil: Well this is a load of old cobblers
Angel: Think of the good it's doing you, though
D: Not as much good as a pint of Guinness. I'm bored.
A: Nonsense, there are tons of things to entertain. The olympics is on, there is a thrilling test match in progress and the premier league football begins today.
D: All of which are best enjoyed in a crowded, smoky pub, surrounded by shouting, foul-mouthed beer users while swilling countless pints of ice-cold ale.
A: At least you won't go making a slavering, gibbering great arse of yourself this week.
D: You know as well as I do that I always comport myself like a proper gentleman. With one or two exceptions, where I'm sure my drink was tampered with or something. A bad pint, perhaps.
A: Hmm.
D: Anyway, I won't meet any ladies in here, will I?
A: So what, you never get anywhere with them anyway. If you're that bothered, you have an internet connection, look at naked ladies and sort yourself out that way.
D: NO, I DON'T DO THAT. AND NEITHER SHOULD ANYBODY READING THIS EITHER.
A: I AGREE. MY EARLIER SUGGESTION WAS MISGUIDED.
D: What am I going to do all weekend then?A: Read an improving book, write some poetry, sketch a still life drawing, maybe do some housework. The choices are endless.
D: Hmm...

...

D: A wank it is then?
A: Oh yess.

Of course I exaggerate for comic effect. I wouldn't do that sort of thing, it's bad for you. Anyway, the long weary weekend wore on. Cricketers batted their ball around, footballers huffed and puffed, Sychronised swimmers pranced and splashed around. Fast forward to Sunday evening. I was preparing a simple repast of chinese style chicken, mushrooms and noodles. I went into the bottom compartment of the frigidaire in search of oyster sauce. Instead I pulled out a dusty, brown bottle that made my old heart sing. In a stylish blue label, it was a bottle of Ampuri Indian lager.

My very own miracle beer.

I may have tasted a more beautiful or tasty brew in my time, but I really don't remember when. It was like a little piece of heaven in a bottle. For several moments I was truly at one with the universe. It was good.

Is there a moral to be drawn from this story? Perhaps it is that you only truly appreciate something when you have to go without for some time. Or maybe that abstinence is good for you and that alcohol is best when taken in moderation.

Of course not. To quote Ice T "shit ain't like that". What this tells us is that beer, sweet, beautiful beer is the greatest thing on earth. The only thing that matters is getting at that drop. Whatever it takes, you gots to get that good stuff. And God help you if you get between me and my pint.

Thank you and goodnight.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Bay of Pigs

What ho! Just checking that this patch of internet is still here and hasn't been bulldozed to make way for pictures of "horny MILFs in your area" or photos of kittens looking mischievous. Thankfully, all is shipshape and bristol fashion and the normal business of waffling and spouting off can resume apace.

On Saturday I visited the lively coastal resort of Whitley Bay. One of the chaps in the local pub has been fool enough to get bullied into getting married and tonight was to be the closing chapter of his bachelor days.

We gathered in the local between seven and eight o'clock. There were about twenty-five to thirty of us, some particularly rum specimens there were too. However, despite the presence of some fairly tough cookies among the group there was some trepidation in the air. Glasgow Rangers football club had been playing in a tournament in nearby Newcastle and had brought a large following with them. There were vague mutterings regarding being "stabbed up by radgie sweaties" and even cowardly talk of relocating the binge to Morpeth.

Such unworthy thoughts were pushed aside by the necessity of arranging transport. The stag and a few companions would be travelling in a limousine booked for the occasion. Myself and my compadre Ginger had a taxi cab booked. Nobody else had made any provision for transportation. Clearly we were in the company of chaps who are all well and good in their normal working roles of hitting things with hammers, whistling through their teeth and informing customers that it will cost them, but fall somewhat short in the planning and organisational stakes. Our cab arrived and self and the ginger one made off for Whitley half-expecting to be the only ones to make it to the other side.

Arriving at a prime town centre location it was clear there was something special in the air. The town is something of a magnet for stag and hen evenings and tonight was no exception. A tribe of Native Americans plunged into The Hairy Lemon, a bevy of improbably-dressed female police officers emerged blinking from Pier 39, a posse of aled-up cowgirls stumbled into Rio's. In short, the place was, to use one chap's colourful phrase, "crawling with blart".

We begun in the refined, sophisticated atmosphere of Banana Jo's. Motown hits rang out, inane patter was peddled by a disc jockey and scantily-clad dancers strutted their stuff on the stage. The punters went on happily with their business of getting noisily sloshed in as short a time as possible.

We met up with the rest of the party who had miraculously got their arses into gear and arrived in town. Also present in the town was a massive Caledonian presence. One chap, who had clearly supped not wisely but too well, was sleeping it off while slumped against the wall of the pub. On tiptoes, we edged past him and through into the bar.

It's a strange thing, but when you have a few ales the night tends to become rather episodic. You remember parts of it but not the intervening events that lead up to them. Possibly snorting poppers does not help much. Therefore, the build up to the rusty-headed one and I getting a charming girl from North Shields to share her lipgloss on us is gone. A shame, although I do recall feeling noticeably more sassy and chic as a result. Truly, I must be "worth it". Likewise, I am unable to recall the exact sequence of event that led up to one of the group informing a female of slight acquaintance that she should "respect the cock". Possibly a discussion on poultry keeping, it may be better that we never know.

At eleven o'clock, buoyed by the fine products of Messrs Stella and Budweiser, and looking ghetto fabulous due to the efforts of the good people at Maybelline, we were eager for more action. Nightclubbing seem to be the answer. Off we shambled to a fairly ramshackle place called "Blue". After parting with six of your english (or scottish) pounds we entered a joint that bore all the trademarks of an eighties meat market lager palace, as featured on "The Hitman and Her". Frankly, this was all to the good. Meat markets are fine and dandy when you're in the market for meat.

In this respect, results were not long in arriving. Myself and one of the younger members of the group got talking to a couple of young ladies, who I will refer to as "Kerry" and "Her Mate". After some brief chit-chat there followed a prolonged bout of what the swimming-pool moral guardians describe as "petting". Most invigorating it was too. The evening grew increasingly episodic as it wore on. The girls disappeared. I found myself in a far-flung corner of the club. A strange female with very large chests but relatively few teeth told me her dad played pool in my local pub. She said it as proudly as I imagine Senator John Kerry's children talk of his exploits in Vietnam. She followed up this charming anecdote by pulling down the trousers and drawers of one of her companions, a mature type who will be lucky to see 55 again. While this made for quite an entertaining spectacle, by the third or fourth time she did it I thought her behaviour rather odd. As I edged away I caught the eye of the third member of this unusual company. A small, fat beady-eyed bespectacled beast of a woman, the sensible course of action would be to ankle off to the bar without a backward glance.

Instead, I started to "pet" with her.

We found a table and more petting followed. This was a strange turn of events. More pettage ensued, although there were raised eyebrows when she notice my hand had innocently strayed up the thighs of her senior citizen flasher friend, who had joined us at the table. Harsh words were spoken and the bespectacled lady suggested that perhaps it would be best if I did not have my hand on her friend's undergarments. I made my excuses and left.

Somewhat befuddled by now I sought solace in a pint glass. Most of the gang had headed for home by now and I felt my place was with them. Then I bumped into Kerry and Her Mate from earlier in the evening. For the sake of completeness I indulged in a third bout of petting with Her Mate, having been bestowing my affections on Kerry when we had previously met. This was met with good grace by all parties and a pleasant time was had by all. However, all good things must come to an end and it was time for home. By fortuitous coincidence, I found the taxi queue which had reached Cecil B De Mille proportions. Right at the front of it were three of my companions from the stag night. Gratefully, I flopped into the back seat of the eventual taxi and we wended our merry way home.

Damn, I should have asked Kerry and Her Mate about the fuck buddy thing. That sounds up their street. Still, you can't think of everything, can you?