True Grit ? Not Much !

Now that’s a proper movie trailer ! You can’t beat a good western. 40 years ago every Bank Holiday you could be sure one of the three tv stations would show The Magnificent 7 or High Noon. Alias Smith and Jones was the most popular tv show in our house (mainly cos my mum fancied Pete Duel) and The High Chaparral was high in the ratings, even though my dad reckoned it was a poor man’s Bonanza . “Saturday Morning Pictures” at the local cinema always showed Champion the Wonder Horse. It was fantastic.

As a spotty herbert growing up in south east London, me and my equally spotty mates would mosey on down to the Ponderosa, armed to the teeth with cap guns and plastic bowie knives, pretending to be Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood or even Alan Ladd (the cowboy of choice for the shorter 6 yr old). Cum Christmas time everyone asked for a cowboy outfit, long before that phrase became synonymous with Virgin Media or the FA.

But few parents shied away in buying their offspring fake Smith & Wessons, dads happily made their sons bows n arrows and no one thought for one minute that they were nurturing little Johnny into the next mass murderer or serial killer. At the time of writing I have never shot, stabbed or scalped a single person who didn’t deserve it, even though as a kid I had every weapon the local toy shop could offer, (I regularly watched Tom & Jerry too).

Kids played in the streets for hours and hours, filling the air with “piow, piow” sounds and “woo woo woo woo” noises as the cowboys chased the injuns around the houses, up the avenues and down the alleyways until our mums called us all in for our tea. If you walked down my road during any school holiday you couldn’t escape the smell of sulphur from the hundreds of cap gun shots fired that day. You’d probably find the the odd sucker-tipped arrow in your garden, next to the empty Jubbly cartons and Jamboree Bags (cowboys and injuns ate on the go).

I remember one afternoon me and my mate Alan Martin were hiding behind Mrs Baker’s garden wall, waiting to ambush some redskins who were creeping up the road, baying for white man’s blood, using the Unigate Dairies’ milk float as cover. These braves lived in the block of flats at the top of the road and we knew they’d soon be off home to watch Pinky n Perky and Mrs Baker’s garden was the perfect spot to cut them off at the pass. I checked my holster string was tight around my thigh, I pulled my neckerchief (my mum’s paisley scarf) up over my nose and mouth and checked I had a full reel of caps in my gun.

As I did so a warm feeling overcame me. Alan must have had one Jubbly too many that day cos in the excitement he decided to relieve himself down the back of my leg. The unmistakable sensation of someone else’s tepid urine saturating my jeans caused me to leap out of my hidey-hole and my cover was blown. I turned to remonstrate with my once partner, probably should have pistol-whipped him, but chose to burst into tears instead. As the woo woo woos started up and the arrows rained down on on us, Alan ran away and I stood there in a puddle of piss, not caring if the injuns scalped me, skinned me or strung me up by my nipples. I squelched home, ignoring the cries of “you’re dead, Bealing, you’re dead !”. I was steaming. Literally.

Things were never the same after that. I went off being a cowboy and took up cricket instead, though I always refused to go into bat if Alan was wicket keeping. When I eventually got to see True Grit a couple of years later I absolutely loved it. Never having been a huge fan of “Da Duke”, this was the best thing I’d ever seen him in. He was funny, he was horrible and for once wasn’t taking himself too seriously. I wanted to go out and buy myself an eye-patch, and if it wasn’t for the spector of my mate’s weak bladder I probably would have.

Westerns were changing. The old white hat/black hat world of Gary Cooper was over. Even Clint, who was slick and sleek in Rawhide, was still the goody but was now unshaven, mean and moody. I wasn’t allowed to watch most of these nasty, bloodthirsty movies, and I had to wait some time before I could find out for myself if there was indeed any spaghetti in them.

Then for years the genre (yes, I used it) went missing. They went out of favour, certainly in Hollywood, with just the odd European oddity making it to cult status. The late 70’s and 80’s were littered with cheesey cobblers like The Long Riders or Young Guns. But when Lonesome Dove came along in 1989 there was some hope that somewhere, someone was thinking along the right lines. Dances with Wolves quickly followed, then came The Unforgiven, many people’s favourite “cowboy” of all time. Things were really warming up. Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, and Ned Kelly were all thoroughly enjoyable romps and Brokeback Mountain evoked memories of the time when men were men and other men were glad of their company.

But when No Country for Old Men was released in 2007, closely followed by The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford I could have happily have died with my boots on there and then. Surely it couldn’t get any better than this ? They looked beautiful and felt good. These were adult movies like they started making in the 60’s and the 70’s before they forgot how to. We were back to Little Big Man, The Wild Bunch and A Man Called Horse. That’s worth a Yee-Harr in anyone’s language.

Now, just when I was thinking it couldn’t get any better, look what they’ve gone and done. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as, er, Glen Campbell. I’m in heaven ! I don’t need my old mate any more – I’m nearly wetting myself with excitement, waiting for the movie to open early next year. As I should have said to Alan on that fateful, moist afternoon: “Fill Your Hands, You Son of a Bitch”.

Kissing Hitler (and everyone else)

Ok, ok, so it may not have been his finest hour. But for many of us of a certain age The Persuaders was our first real glimpse of the man that was Tony Curtis. The Boston Strangler out over-acting Simon Templar. Harry Houdini out safari-suiting James Bond. Whatta guy! Only then did we start to realise what we’d been missing. So this was who our mums had been swooning over for all those years, and this was the piece of manhood for which the young ladies of Hollywood had been gagging since the late 1940s.

Women (and no doubt some men) all over the world swooned as he wielded rope and handcuffs as the Strangler and Houdini, wore next to nothing in The Vikings and Spartacus and even melted when he wore a faux Herman Goering number in The Great Race. In Some Like it Hot he gave a wonderful Cary Grant impersonation and made for a pretty decent woman. If he’d been a young actor today he’d be labeled as both a gay icon and a smouldering gift to womankind. The one about who both your girlfriend and her slightly iffy brother would go to bed and thrash themselves to within an inch of their lives. One scene in Spartacus , when Curtis sensuously bathes Laurence Olivier, had to be removed from the original released edit for fear of multiple spontaneous combustions all over the US in movie theatres.

For every classic he starred in he also made a stinker. But by the time The Persuaders came into my life it dawned on me I’d probably missed his best bits, something which couldn’t been said of a legion of Hollywood starlets. Tony liked a bird, and the birds liked him. He’d go onto marry six times, underlining his reputation of a master swordsman, but he most famously had failed to bag the one that everyone wanted- Marilyn. He’s famously quoted as describing kissing Monroe in Some Like it Hot as akin to “Kissing Hitler”. Poor sod. Presumably Janet Leigh gave better lip service to him (perhaps more of a Himmler) as they married and produced Jamie Leigh Curtis, who years later would be, incredibly, at the centre of another gossip-led sexuality debate. (Anyone who’s seen the bedroom scene in True Lies could surely be in no doubt.)

“What’s the secret to a long and happy life? Young women’s saliva!” Tony Curtis

As his movie career waned Curtis took up art, for want of a better word, but never let anything get in the way of beautiful young women and magnificent wigs (some of his syrups would have done Phil Spector proud). But we shouldn’t dwell on the last rather sad few years of this once talented and likeable man, trying vainly to relive his youth and hold back the inevitable passage of time. Nor should we feel anything but mild envy for the life he led. Making 85 as he did is testament to the fact that you really can have your cake and eat it too.

I like to think of him running up and down those oars as that one-handed viking, or wearing a frock and playing the sax for Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators.

And let us not forget who first stood up to defend Spartacus. I’m Spartacus! (and so is my wife).

“I wouldn’t be seen dead with a woman old enough to be my wife.” Tony Curtis

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
Is a man I can’t but help disparage
He’s the leading Nazi,
For the UK Independence Party

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
“Send the Polish back through Dover and Harwich”
That’s his manifesto
Deporting Nige would be the best, though.

Try, try, try assassinate him
(Him and Nick Griffin)
Shoot down planes and lacerate him,
Dead: No-one would miss him

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
Don’t believe in gay or lesbian marriage
Flew in a two-seater
To try to be a Labour-beater

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage,
Got embedded in his undercarriage
Crashed, the Eurosceptic,
And lets just hope his wounds go septic



Why, why, why can’t we deport him?
Him we should banish
Strip, bind, gag and just export him
And hand him over to Spanish

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
It’s quite obvious that he’s a cabbage
UKIP’s vote got littler
Now fuck off, Nige, you pseudo-Hitler.

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
Is a man we really should disparage
He really is quite nasty
Fuck the UK Independence Party

pic by

Words © The Sharp Single, with apologies to Sammy Cahn, (but none at all to N.Farage)


Norton Your Nelly

The dreaded Eurovision Song contest will again soon be upon us. Once Terry Wigon decided he’d had enough of the block voting, any fun to be had pretty much disappeared. I freely admit to spending many a happy Saturday night each spring, chuckling away to the wit n wisdom of Terry as he ripped in to the acts, their costumes, and their dreadful, dreadful songs. For the past few years it has been presented on the BBC by Terry’s fellow Irishman and reluctant celebrity Graham Norton. Eurovision is a poor imitation of its former self.

We can thank the competition for ABBA, and rue the day it introduced the world to Riverdance and the morbidly offensive Michael Flately. The music has always been biblically average, the fashions tragic, and the judging makes FIFA or the IOC seem positively fair and above board. The Russia/Ukraine dynamic will be worth a watch at the very least this year. But none of this really ever mattered as Wogan was as cutting and funny on commentary as Norton isn’t. With the correct amount of Guinness, single malt whisky, chicken dansak and convivial company a Eurovision party was a great source of ironically camp mirth and merriment. And you could always run a book on the outcome while giggly along to Terry’s witty, if mildly xenophobic banter. Norton likes making himself laugh, which he does a lot, but laughing out of context is no real substitute for his predecessor’s class.

Of course to some sections of society it still is one the highlights of the year. The ESC is, rather unsurprisingly, hugely popular in within the gay community. A pal of mine (a confirmed batchelor) runs an extraordinarily popular blog dedicated to Eurovision, which tens and tens of thousands of people visit to find out everything they ever wanted or needed to know about the song contest. Now while I’m not suggesting that everyone who clicks onto that site catches the other bus (I just clicked on it for research purposes, honestly) it’s clear that there is a huge appetite out there for this mincing wince-fest.

The newly-admitted eastern European states have embraced the contest with their huge hairy arms as a chance to express themselves. Where once they only had the excitement of annual Soviet Bloc cabbage-throwing competitions or acid rain drinking contests, Eurovision has given them the chance to show the watching millions how their prog rock and endless folk ditties can compete with the worst that Europe has to offer.

Over in Ireland it’s as eagerly awaited as The World Cup, the Second Coming of the Lord, or the Third Cumming of a Catholic Priest. The Irish have had their share of success over the years (certainly more than they’ve had in soccer or rugby) and to win the contest sends yer average Dubliner into fits of orgasmic delight. Heaven only knows how Gay Irishmen react to a win. Kleenex and change of underwear all round, I would think.

So no, it won’t be on my must-view list this year, I’m afraid. I’m not Irish, I’m ball-breakingly hetrosexual, there’ll be no Sir Terrance W and no song this year (or any other) will ever match My Lovely Horse. They really should have entered it, you know.

Big it up for Channel 4 who won’t let me embed the Father Ted video, but you can see it here.

and now a word from our sponsor…



Wooly Bully

Is anyone in the slightest bit surprised that, with the couple of years that Gordon Brown (texture like sun) has spent at No.10, he loses his rag every so often? Just look at the numpties who surround him: Miliband (twice) Ainsworth, Harperson, Darling, the Cheeky Girls: Ben and Peter. (I suspect they like a bit of the rough stuff, naughty boys!)
No wonder he rants and raves. I bet he can hardly believe what’s happened to him. But a bully? Nah, surely not. And even if he is, does it really, truly matter any more? I suspect not.

"Where there is fire, let us bring petrol"

"Where there is fire, let us bring petrol"

Chances are, come May 7th we’ll be waking up to our first day of many many long years of a Tory Government. I remember back in the dark days of 1979 going into school on the morning after the general election to come face-to-face with my labour-voting English master, slumped over his desk.
“So the Tories got in then, Sir” I said to him.
“Yes, Bealing” he sighed. “And we’ll never get rid them. It’ll take years for people to trust Labour again”.

He was nearly right. We did eventually get rid of Maggie, then Major, but it did take forever and a day. I fear we are in a similar situation now. A large proportion of the voting public have forgotten what a Tory Government is like. If this current opposition were any where near attractive or believable to the electorate we would be witnessing a landslide in May, a rout of Gordon’s rabble. As it is, the public seem to be reeling at the thought of handing power to Dave, Osborne and all those other chinless berks in blue.

Extraordinarily, some commentators are actually predicting a hung parliament! That this administration, useless, hapless and hopeless as it is, is STILL in with a shout in the election, only goes to show what a loathesome, incompetent bunch this current crop of Tories are. What does Gordon have to do to lose this vote? Considering he’s been blamed for floods, plagues, pestilence,global financial colapse, a corrupt parliament, a dishonest police force (I said nothing, honest) and now bullying within Downing Street, I think 7 points behind the Tories in the polls is a remarkable acheivement.

Personally, I can’t see anything past a Tory victory, as much as it hurts to admit it. However, just in case you, like me, quite fancy another 5 years of Gordo Gaffs, or even the fun of a hung parliament, why not click on this link, print out one of these posters and stick it up in the office/in your front window? At the very least it’ll keep Tory canvassers away from your door.

And if you don’t I’ll send round Peter to give you a damn good thrashing.


Unfair Dinkum

How very dare they!! You travel all the way Down Under to represent HRH Nanny and this is what you’re welcomed with.

What must have Prince William, The Heir to the Throne thought when he arrived at Sydney today? Big, Butch, Bonking, Billy Windsor doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment. Methinks they have him confused with someone else.

Wrong Royal, mate!


It Is Written


When crap journalists can think of nothing else to write about, and editors have nothing sexy with which to fill their pages, we are left with long and exhausting lists of predictions for the coming year. Here at The Sharp Single things are no different. So read this and you need not read another til, ooh, next week I should imagine.

2010 and all that.

In January David Tennant becomes Dir Gen of the BBC, narrowly edging out the twin-bid from Mathew Horne and James Corden. It’s believed that the board said they didn’t want too much hilarity during important meetings, and yet they still plump for Tennant. Peter Andre marries himself. Katie Price explodes. Her life has gone tits-up.

The recession ends in February. Then it starts again a week later for those of us under £150,000-a-year when the government raises income tax to pay for a Champagne and Crayfish bar at the 2012 Olympic Equestrian stadium.
Following another attempted rectum-launched terrorist attack on an airliner, all passengers are now asked to remove their underpants through customs. John Prescott and Amy Winehouse are exempt. In the third week of February, due to an administrative error there is no sale on at DFS. Early march sees Hazel Blears join the Tory Party, and Peter Mandelson join the Brownies. Boris will say nothing sensible or vaguely relevant all year.
I lose 20 lbs by the end of March, in preparation to put on 25 by late June. In an astonishing turn of events, Jude Law continues to receive offers of work. In April, a virulent strain of Gnu Flu sweeps through Fleet Street and Sky News studios. Some people are almost likely to very probably have a tickly throat. The epidemic is expected to last until a proper news story breaks.

A Briton wins the first seven races in the F1 Championship. Meanwhile, in sport, Chelsea win the Premiere League by one point from Arsenal when, in the Blues last game three late deflected off-side penalties are allowed by the ref, a Mr S.Wonder, apparently. (By the end of the year, each match will be officiated by 7 refs, 2 linesmen, a sheepdog and The Met Police.) Alex Ferguson is finally pickled and displayed in the Man Utd museum for all eternity. United appoint Victoria Beckham as their new coach.

Gordon Brown loses the election and takes his seat in the upper chamber as Lord Thankgoditsallover. Fox hunting is re-legalised by the new Tory Government, as is hanging, public masturbation and child chimney-sweeps. Charlton Athletic make the play-offs only to lose to Millwall, 3 fan deaths to 1 (Duckworth/Lewis method).
In late May, the newly-appointed Minister for War, Mr Liam Fox, announces the Government’s new big push in Afghanistan. Plans are made to enlist every first-born child from labour-voting households (that’ll teach ’em). June 16th, fifty-three women in Florida, California and St Andrews simultaneously give birth to babies of mixed-race and a smashing set of choppers. The women, all blonde, rather soiled-looking, hotel cloakroom attendants immediately sign contracts with The Mail on Sunday. Gillette sales plummet. Or soar. July 21st, a string bag full of lemons is seen being delivered to The Crown public house, Blackheath. But no ice.
By the beginning of August, after a summer of riots and general discontent, Police officers are allowed to carry machetes while on crowd-control duties. All fingerprints and DNA of police officers are removed from the system, to be replaced by those of mortgage-defaulters and lollipop ladies.
Brazil win the World Cup. By now, England have already been roasted by the West Germans, Capello is poached by Portugal and grilled by the press. Then he goes and gets smashed.
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is seen urinating up against the Grace Gates at Lords after a particularly convivial lunch during the One Day International vrs Australia. The press dub it ‘Gategate’.
In late September after a ‘leaked’ press release it is widely reported that this year’s must-have toy for Christmas will be Mattel’s Stoat Family Fortunes (David Tennant Edition). A week later all stocks are sold out. Individual members of the Stoat family change hands on eBay for up to £300, except the very popular ‘Piper Stoat’ which you can’t get for love nor money.

In October I turn 40 years old for the seventh time running. Later that month armed police from the crack ‘Arrest Innocent People Squad’ raid a flat believed to be the HQ of a sleeper cell of Al Qaeda, responsible for the alleged underpants plot earlier in the year. Yet again, their information is found to be shoddy: Having forced their way into the premises, all they find is a derelict, uninhabited shit-hole, of no use or interest to man nor beast. And that’s not this years’ only connection with Wales: After a particularly wet autumn at Celtic Manor Golf Club, play is suspended during the foursomes on the opening day of The Ryder Cup when US player Stewart Cink’s caddy is tragically drowned while replacing a divot. Organisers pledge never to attempt to hold the event in Wales again, at any time of the year.
November 2nd and the Google Street View van finally visits my street, when it catches me stealing my next door neighbour’s wheelie bin, to replace mine which was stolen the week before
Thursday Nov 25th, Brisbane: Australia finish the first day of the first Ashes test on 431-1 (Ponting 230no, Katich 125no. Swann 1-250). Ian Botham arrested pending inquiries into an alleged incident in the bar afterwards which leaves 6 members of the Aussie press corps needing treatment. Four (empty) cases of Shiraz and a cricket stump are bagged and sent to forenics.

December: Keith Harris and Orville win Strictly Come Dancing, beating Clare Balding in the final, watched by 48 million catatonic viewers. On a visit by my children, mid-month, I resume the mantle of ‘Best Dad in the World’ – the first time I’ve held the title in 12 months. Their Christmas lists are then handed to me.
On Dec 23rd, a new supply of Piper Stoats arrive on the docks in Liverpool. Massive queues form and14 people are crushed in the ensuing riot when it’s announced sales are limited to one buyer each. Dec 29th: Mattel recall all sets of Stoat Family Fortunes due to a massive, dangerous design fault. Hundreds have been maimed by Piper’s sharp protruding teeth. Richard Branson makes an aggressive takeover bid for the company. Awaiting details of the photocall.

Happy 2011 to both of you


While Shepherds Watched the Doc by Night

Like many insomniacs, I switch on the early morning news on Christmas Day merely to check out which celebrity has snuffed it, or which natural disaster has wiped out which part of South East Asia this time. Is it weird that something notable always happens on the little baby Jesus’s birthday, or is it just that we remember them more because it’s Christmas? Horrid and strange things happen all year-round, but for some reason the holiday period ones always seem to focus the mind. He does, indeed move in mysterious ways.

He comes but once a year.

Or at least he has been this year. Take events over at the Vatican overnight. In what is gradually becoming an epidemic of Roman nutters (see previous posts), a woman leapt the worshiper-control barrier and lunged at the Pope who was on his way to give his Christmas message, pulling him to the ground and badly grazing his knee. Apparently the same woman attempted the same move last year, but fell at the last hurdle. A scuffle ensued as security guards, Il Papa’s aids and assorted devil-dodgers bundled this serial Pope-Wrestler to the floor in a scrummage of cassocks, arms and legs not seen in the St Peter’s Basilica since the swimwear section of the Vatican Choirboys beauty contest last spring.

No word has come from the attacker to say why she keeps lunging at the Holy Father, but promises she’ll be back next year when she hopes to at least draw blood. Well done the security services.

Elsewhere in God’s beautiful world, the Archbishop of Canterbury will announce this afternoon that children are being forced to grow up too quickly. The ABC will go on to highlight the exploitation of children in “the meaningless and savage civil wars in places like Congo and Sri Lanka – children who are abducted, brutalised, turned into killers, used as sex slaves”, which will come as great succour to all those children abused in orphanages, care homes and boys clubs looked after by priests and pederasts wherever the Catholic Church set up shop. But I’m sure all the other denominations are completely blameless. Definitely.

In a completely unrelated story, two Irish Bishops will resign in the wake of the sex scandal which has been ‘uncovered’ in Ireland. Thank The Lord that’s all over with. God is everywhere. All-seeing, all-knowing. He must have sent us padre paedophile for a good reason, mustn’t he? Many small boys would rather not wait for the second coming to find out why.

He's Everywhere!!!!!

Talking of Omnipotence, is there any way of escaping David Tennant this Yule Tide? He was in Buzzcocks, on QI, he’s on every BBC link between programs, and appears as Hamlet this weekend. Yesterday morning he was on again, albeit in cartoon form as The Time Lord, and or course he will be there in the flesh this evening,at prime time viewing, as the Doctor for the much over-hyped last time, apparently.

Does the BBC think everyone loves Dr Who? Do they? Well I don’t ( that surprised you, didn’t it), and I never have AND I resent the inference that we are all supposed to be swept up by this tsunami of pseudo-trekiness where we all gleefully get swept along with Dungeons and Daleks, writhing in orgasmic pleasure every time the jocular Jock raises that eyebrow at the camera. They’ve built him up to be some sort of overnight national treasure! HE AIN’T!! He’s the vaguely charming star of a children’s sci-fi series, let’s leave it at that please. He’ll be the face of the Test Card next (one for my older readers). In between BBCTennant we’re subjected to trailers Britain’s worst comedy duo in a sitcom about welsh people. Fuckin hell.

I’m off now to play my new PS3 game, FIFA Football (Doctor Who Edition). I could do with my own TARDIS to take me to January 2nd when it’ll be all over for another few weeks until the “hunt” starts for “the new Doctor” and Gavin and Stacey announce comeback series. As Bob Cratchit‘s TIny Tim might have said “God save us, every one. Just keep those filthy Father’s off me crutch.”

No new or funny jokes were used during the making of this program

Oh yes, Merry Christmas to you too.


Standing Your Corner

As if the result of the first British Lions test wasn’t depressing enough:


Britons ‘shun birthdays and pubs’

The Press Association

The economic downturn is making Britons mean, with people ignoring friends’ birthdays and refusing to buy rounds of drinks in the pub, a survey has showed.

Nearly a third of people said they would no longer buy a round of drinks when out with friends for fear they would end up out of pocket, according to Moneysupermarket Vouchers.

Four out of 10 people also admitted they now carefully study a restaurant bill to ensure they only pay for what they have ordered, while 27% said they no longer bought their friends birthday presents.

Is anyone else out there thinking what I’m thinking? I reckon this ‘economic downturn’ must have been going on for the last 25 years. I have always ended up in the company of those who are bit backward coming forward. Beer ain’t cheap, I suppose, but if you haven’t got the money then don’t come out and play. Isn’t it always the same few people who end up getting clobbered with the big round, and always the same scheisters who have to leave, seem to be in the loo, or out of sight when it’s time for them to stump-up?


They often use the tried-and-tested method of getting to the boozer first, when there’s only a couple of you at the bar, buy a round of two drinks and then that’s it for the night—even when five or six others arrive. If they can hang on for another half-dozen rounds, these master tacticians will manage to leave the pub or fall over before they’re called up to contribute to the night’s merriment.

There is, of course, a simple way around this: make sure everyone plays by Greaves’ Rules, as my regular reader will be fully versed in. Amazingly there are still those out there who have never read the great William Greaves’s words of wisdom. Put em right!

Who among us hasn’t watched from a safe distance, (normally at backward square leg, saving the one) while a group of young ‘uns (usually students) approach the bar and each individually, one-after-the-other, order their own drinks ? (a cider, a WKD, a Vodka Red Bull or worse, a Malibu-and-something). The beverage is served then the ubiquitous small-change purse is held up, tilted at an angle as a collection of coins slide out and fingered through while the buyer comes to the right amount. A drink costing 2.95 will usually be paid for with seventeen different coins, with nineteen different denominations. With the amount of 1ps, 2ps and farthings this lot carry around with them, they are never without the correct money (hours of touture when you happen to be standing behind them in the queue for the bar).


As an aside I’d like to point out that that Lesbian Vampire Killers was released in the UK on March 20. Yet the poster advertising it still hangs in the gents (Dan, Dan’s gents) in my local. I wonder why?

I digress.

There’s a english language school in Blackheath and every Thursday night in one of the village pubs where the scene above is acted-out with the added complication of eight or nine students (known locally as the Mind Your Language cast) speaking eight or nine different languages and offering the bar staff a bewildering array of foreign currency. Whatever they’re teaching them up at the school, lesson one isn’t :” Excuse me barman, can I have a pint of extra cold Guinness and a pickled egg, please?”.

Through a series of pointing, nodding and smiling, they return to their table with something vaguely close to what they fancied then proceed to sip, squirm then share each others tipple as they laugh about the stupid English and their rank ales and lagers. We all know that feeling of sampling the local brew. Having travelled my fair share of the world and drunk in a goodly number of its bars and pubs, I’ve never been shy of sampling what the natives drink. Never one for visiting “Ye Old Red Lion” in Marbella, or the “Traditional Oirish Pub” in Tripoli (and we all know the type of Brit to be found therein), it’s always a thrill to enter a hostelry offering potions and tinctures unknown to the bar staff of your local highstreet boozer.

Italian leather coin purse pic

How well I remember my first encounter with grappa in a hotel bar in Milan (in fact I don’t remember much after the second one), or that old bloke in the police bar in Bermuda who once poured me a glass of the island’s special dark rum (his toast being “here’s to whatever happens next”). Drinking Dark and Stormies as the sun sets over the Caribbean or gallons of Three Coins in a bar in the Dutch Fort in Galle, Sri Lanka are always the sort of fond memories I like to take home with me from my little trips. After ten days in the States I even found a beer which I could taste. Honest.

So here’s to the foreign students supping on their first pint of warm British ale. Here’s to the 19 year old lad, studying music at Thames Poly (sorry, Greenwich University) who dares to buy his very first pint that he’s seen those old blokes enjoying. Welcome to our world of exciting and exotic brews and potions. Treat the barman well over the next few decades and he’ll introduce you to untold treasures and pleasures from his House of Fun. Drink to excess what you love, shun and spurn what you hate— there’s plenty of alternatives and options for every taste and you’ll find one you like eventually. But whatever you do, do me a favour: Buy your fucking round.