It’s Monday 4th December 2017. I am tipsy. Or drunk. I am never sure of the sliding scale of insobriety. We were never taught that in school. We were never given a little cardboard scale with an arrow that could be adjusted between sober and blotto. That lesson was sorely lacking in the curriculum. So as I was saying, it’s Monday, blah blah blah and here I am, drunk on a good quality spiced rum and listening to a compilation of Christmas music. It’s the sort of compilation where Enya’s Silent Night follows Slade’s Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. In other words, every three minutes the mood shifts and I don’t know whether to jump up and down in my luminescent pink 80s leggings or kneel and thank God for giving us The Krankies.
Right, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this blog. Alcohol. Growing up in the late 70s, my father, who called himself a Muslim but wasn’t, strictly observed a select few of the tenets of this faith that he arbitrarily believed in. One of the tenets he randomly observed without ever explaining, was abstaining from alcohol. Beating my mother and sexually abusing my sister was fine, but alcohol? No way. If the prophet Mohammed caught him drinking alcohol, all hell would break loose. He couldn’t even do it when Mohammed wasn’t looking, because Mohammed would know. This aspect of Mohammed was kind of cool when I was a kid, but I still preferred to read Whizzer & Chips and play Top Trumps. I did sometimes wonder if there could ever be a ‘God & Prophets’ themed Top Trumps set as it would be interesting to see if Jesus or Mohammed would win in the ‘omnipotence rating’ category.
So he never drank alcohol. I think he was so vigilant regarding not letting it into the house, he didn’t even allow luxury mince pies laced with alcohol to enter our home, or even chocolate liqueurs, which oh my god I loved. Because you see, visiting my white and Welsh grandparents every weekend, they would often let me eat both chocolate liqueurs AND bacon. I loved them for this. Being 8 or 9 years old and biting on a chocolate liqueur, enjoying the crisp crunchiness of the inner sugar coating that formed the container for the alcoholic liqueur, and then feeling the warmth of the liqueur wash around my mouth, was an important part of my pre-teen years, as was the eating of a bacon sandwich straight afterwards.Which reminds me – bacon flavoured alcohol. That’s a gap in the market I hope to exploit one day.
But thankfully my parents divorced in 1981 and so from that point on alcohol was on the menu. My mother, whom upon reflection and with the benefit of hindsight, probably had mild ‘learning difficulties’ which were either a product of or exacerbated by her severe epilepsy, took to alcohol like a leper to a skin graft. She ended up becoming a party-giving, alcohol-loving promiscuous reflection of her former self. My sister was a mirror of her, having numerous boyfriends of which my mother would suggest should live with us. Many of my sister’s boyfriends drank too and I remember one morning, having got dressed for school with my mother remaining in bed as usual, sleeping off last night’s antics, I opened the fridge and saw a four pack of Carling. I was about 11 years old and had decided last week that I was going to ignore the usual career paths and become an amateur anarchist instead. In the spirit of amateur anarchy, I tore one of the cans from the flimsy plastic holder and walked to school. I met my friend Wayne Weston on the top floor of Middle School and we stood outside our form class where I proudly retrieved the can from my bag and we drank half each. I’d like to say that the half can of 4% alcohol had a hilarious and memorable effect on my 11-year-old brain, causing much merriment and hi-jinks for the rest of the day. It didn’t. I think I burped twice and then sat through double Maths in my usual disinterested way, occasionally snorting up sachets of pepper stolen from the canteen through my empty Bic pen.
My next significant memory of alcohol happened when I was about fifteen or sixteen. A gang of us – myself, Gareth Davies, Marcus Stoole, Wayne Weston and Roger Boeing, went to the Rose & Crown in Old Cwmbran. I think I drank about ten cider’s, each with a squirt of blackcurrant to ‘take the edge off’. I am not sure what edge this was referring to and it didn’t seem to matter in the end. I was absolutely drunk and I remember being supported between two of my friends during the long walk home.
But really, this is a Christmas blog and is supposed to have a Christmas theme, so I shall dispense with these early and slightly chaotic memories and jump to my early 20s when I was living with my Nan, as it is the memories of drinking alcohol with her that prompted me to write this blog in the first place.
My Nan loved port. It’s fortified wine. Now, being a gamer from an early age and playing games such as Civilisation, ‘fortified’ to me means reinforcing a structure with a battalion of archers, a catapult and maybe a legion of artillerymen. Port had none of this and just came in a bottle marked Taylor’s or Cockburn’s. Incidentally, Cockburn’s is nothing to do with a slightly singed penis. It’s pronounced ‘koburns’ in the trade, which is a shame really as they are missing out on several witty marketing campaigns.
But I digress. My dear beloved Nan loved her port, and in the early 90s I have strong memories of us sitting there, drinking port from these very delicate but elegant small port glasses, so-called as they were actually intended for port, and laughing at this and that together. I used to have camcorder footage of us doing that very thing, drinking port in front of our six foot artificial Christmas tree sometime in the early 90s, but that footage disappeared when my hard drive fucked up ten years ago.
She liked her Stilton too of course, a classic accompaniment to port. Oh and Advocaat! Yes, that traditional Dutch beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy and looks like custard and has the same consistency. Both my Nan and Bamp loved that. I do remember trying it in my late teens, when living with my Nan and Bamp, but never really took to it. I wonder if it still has a reputation as a pensioner’s drink? I’ve actually just read the Wikipedia entry on it that states in Holland and Belgium it’s traditionally served on waffles. I have no idea what my grandparents would have thought of that idea.
I started writing this blog about two hours ago and since then have got distracted by television and consumed a lot more spiced rum. So apologies if the rest of this is not as meanderingly concise and witty as the previous sections were.
Well, that’s it really. I could turn this into some deep, thoughtful dissertation about the effects of alcohol on society and how it will be used by the New World Order to control the populace, but I can’t be bothered.
Have a good Christmas everyone!
Next in this series is going to be my long overdue review of The Amazing Mr Blunden, which I think is the quintessential Christmas film, even though Christmas itself is barely referred to.