I used to like drinking. A lot. No, sorry, that wasn’t grammatically correct, let’s try again: I used to like drinking a lot. During my 20s and early 30s, when I was playing regular sport and was not fit, but a lot fitter than I am now, I used to enjoy the prospect of stupid and borderline-suicidal drinking-sessions. For example, I remember one Easter rugby tour to Limerick in 1994 when I can’t have slept more than a few hours and must have consumed at least 10-12 pints of guinness a day, for four days straight (though as we know from Greaves’ Rules we shouldn’t be counting after the second round). I must confess to having a slight hangover for the rest of the week when I returned home and to work, but the point is I got through it relatively unscathed.
Rugby tours were the fixture on the calendar when you knew that you and 50 of your closest mates would travel to some part of europe and get completely shit-faced, play rugby and get completely shit-faced again for four days and love every minute of it. No shirking was allowed, anyone caught avoiding beer was either punched or doused in ale—then handed a fresh pint, sleeping at the bar was a no-no and, for the youngsters, even eating was frowned upon. One year in Blackpool a mate and I, in attempt to escape the carnage in the bar, went to a local cinema to hide and slept through Reservoir Dogs. When we returned to the hotel bar and our deed was discovered we paid the price of mockery and derision from our peers. We brushed it off and, having had a couple of hours of shut-eye, continued to drink through the night— thus negating any benefit that our trip to the Odeon may have given us.
That’s all in the past now. It’s not that these booze-fests don’t continue at my rugby club, or any number of the thousands of clubs up-and-down the country, it’s just that I just can’t take it anymore. Drinking a gallon-or-two in a day still holds it appeal to me and is not beyond my talents, but having to get up the following morning and do it again, and again AND AGAIN scares the life out of me. But it’s not that I don’t like a sharp single-or-eight on a special occasion. I remember sitting in the newsroom at The Daily Telegraph one day in 1991 when the BBC news on tv announced the shares were suspended in the shares of MGN (Mirror Group Newspapers) pending further announcements. Robert Maxwell had thrown himself/had been thrown overboard from his yacht in the mid-atlantic, missing presumed dead. The howls and whoops of laughter that went up that day were only drowned out by the pop of corks and the chink-chink of glasses as the massed ranks of journalists celebrated the death of a crook. Fleet St being what it was, everyone knew someone who had been fired, turned over or shit upon by the Bouncing Czech and the party went on long into the night. It’s always easier coming into work with a hangover if everyone you work with has one too.
There have been some great leaving dos and wakes over the years too— when the drink has flown in the City Golf Club, The Punch, The Old Bell or any number of those lovely old boozers in EC4, or even E14, WC2 or SE1—in fact anywhere where we could raise a glass to the dearly departed or the damn-right-lucky to get out. The more I go to and the older I get, the less I drink and the more it hurts. Hangovers are a terrible thing at the best of times and I’m here to tell you that they don’t get any easier. It’s called getting old, I guess, but we mustn’t give up the fight. Only the other day I was involved in a Danny La Rue memorial session down my local. It lasted for no more than three or four pints, and in truth I was on my own but I was damned if having no-one to play with was gonna stop me from marking the life of the great man or woman.
Off for a Sharp Single now. Toodles.