††††††††††† I have enjoyed alcohol since I was about nine years old. My parents decided to tease me one Christmas by letting me sip at a can of Guinness. They were convinced that I wouldnít like it. Before they stopped me, I had drunk most of the can. I found it very tasty.
††††††††††† My Mother was reluctant to let me near alcohol, other than a glass of wine at Christmas and such. Though I liked wines, I was never as impressed with them as with beer.
††††††††††† My next big encounter with alcohol was at a cousinís wedding reception.
I was placed at a table with the other children. A waiter came asking us what we would want to drink. Most kids asked for coke or lemonade. I jokingly asked for a Vodka and orange. To my amazement, he brought it for me. He whispered to me that he had Okayed it with my Dad. I was on instructions however not to mention it to the other kids who just thought I had Orange juice. It was a valuable lesson. Keeping my mouth closed was useful.
††††††††††† My father was a staunch Tory, in the pre-Thatcher days. He even stood for council election but he was unsuccessful in this. He was however a member of a Miles Platting Conservative Club and they happily served me beer from the age of thirteen upwards. It was my first regular pub.†
††††††††††† I rarely got so drunk that I couldnít stand, and beer has never made me want to fight anyone. Too much beer usually makes me want to just go to sleep.† My first and only real smashed out of my skull experience came when I was 17.† My Gran had just died. On the eve of the funeral, my Uncle, Frank Chappell, now my Stepfather told me that he only had two cans of beer left for me. He gave me two Watneyís party Sevens, in effect; I had fourteen pints to get through. I did it. In fact, I survived that, but after the funeral, I was drinking anything in sight, the whiskeys, vodkas, beers and Bacardis, etc. On the way home I was extremely sick from alcohol poisoning.
††††††††††† It was a more natural sickness, Hepatitis B, that nearly killed me soon after that, and I was under Doctorís orders to stay off the booze for six months. Many people said I would never achieve it, but I found it quite easy. It was fun to go in my regular pub haunts and order Coke or Orange Juice. My friends barely believed it.
††††††††††† My Fatherís own death, a month to the day after my Gran, (his mother), lead in part to my involvement in a religious cult, which you can read about at BRAINWASHING.† The cult imposed a ban on members taking alcohol, which I initially observed as I was still under medical orders not to drink anyway, but gradually I saw how many in the cult freely drank alcohol anyway when the leaders were not watching too closely. I followed suit and reacquainted my liver with its nemesis.
††††††††††† I became a regular customer of a few pubs that I frequented as a writer, after workshops and readings. I also became a regular quiz night participant in some local pubs. I even set the questions myself on many occasions.
††††††††††† At one such pub a new landlord became very hostile to quiz players who were not regular customers on other nights. In protest the quiz players moved en-mass to another bar. He lost a whole nightís regular custom in one stroke. I went with the quiz teams, but I still went in his bar (The Dean Brook) on other nights, for which he treated me as a traitor. He later barred me (twice) on flimsy excuses, and refused to pay me for a nightís DJíing (my only such experience), despite my going down well with his customers.†
††††††††††† My post-cult student days (as a mature student) saw me drinking a lot in Bolton. Itís a wonder I got a decent degree at all. The college bar was one haunt, and I also became a member briefly of the local Ukrainian Social Club, which did fabulous and cheap pub grub lunches. I was also a regular of the Man And Scythe Bar, not realising that I would become a Civil War Enthusiast years later. (The pub played a major part in the Civil WAR massacre in Bolton.†
††††††††††† The other bar I frequented there was The Blue Boar. There was controversy here one lunchtime when I helped organise a mass walk out by the majority of the customers.
††††††††††† I had become good friends with Boltonís well-known Comedian, Bob Williamson, who had enrolled on a course at the college. We often dragged Bob out on our drinking sessions. On route to The Blue Boar one day, Bob saw an old friend, who was in some distress, having only that day found out about his fatherís death. Bob decided to take him to the pub so we could help cheer him up. At the pub, Bob got his guitar out and sang some of his well-known comedy folk songs. Everyone appreciated it, except the landlord who suddenly decided that live music was not acceptable.† I pointed out that this was an exceptional case, as Bob was trying to given support to a man in deep mourning. The landlord loudly shouted that he didnít give a toss. Myself, and a few other customers decided to get a petition together, and most people in the pub signed it. I handed it to the Landlord, who tore it to shreds before our eyes. Bob, his grieving friend, myself, and other college students decided to leave for another pub. To our astonishment, most of the pubís customers came with us. I half expected to be barred from The Blue Boar, but when I went back a few days or weeks later, the landlord served me as if nothing had ever happened that day.
I only returned to the pub after my second dismissal after he had left.† Other landlords there were perfectly friendly to me (even the one who chased other customers out with a loaded sawn-off shotgun one night, when I had not been present).
It was under one Landlord, Ralph, that I took part in a Children Of Need fund raising night by sitting / lying in a bath tub full of mushy peas, which helped raise £1,000. You can seethe whole story at THE BATH OF PEAS
The discovery of a Manchester City Centre Cult Film & TV Bar, FAB Cafť having opened, and having a strong interest in the genre) tore me from the local pub to become a regular at FAB, and its companion bars, Tiger Lounge & Satanís Hollow. They have been the epicentres of my social life ever since. It was a chance meeting with a Civil War re-enactor there that led me to join The Sealed Knot. You can read about those adventures at MY CIVIL WAR PAGES.†
There are often excellent Beer Tents serving a great range of real ales at re-enactment shows, and I get to try out pubs in lots of villages and towns I might not have seen had I not joined them. Wherever I go, and whatever I do, beer is inevitably associated with my destiny. Itís a wonder Iím not in Alcoholics anonymous by now.
You can see my own good (and bad) Beer guide at BEER.
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