The British Question

Thanks to @AlsBoy, who tweets the following British pub sign.

See, that’s really all there is to worry about.



A Head with a Decent Beer on it, Please

The beers were on Angela Merkel last night as she attended her rugby club’s annual dinner and dance. Initial reports that the waiter – Agamemnon Giorgos Papadopoulos- had intentionally soaked the German Chancellor were vigorously denied.

It was a bitter Pils to swallow

Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira

Not only a brilliant footballer, but a lot of points in Scrabble, Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira, or just Socrates to you and me, has died. Having survived a long career of being forced to wear some of the smallest shorts in sporting history, his hobbies of smoking, drinking and fathering kids (see And Where were the Germans? previous post) finally caught up with him.

Said The Daily Telegraph:

“Socrates – who also played at the 1986 World Cup finals – was a flamboyant footballer who boasted a myriad of contradictions.

He was a qualified doctor who never gave up his enjoyment of a smoke and a drink; he was an outspoken political activist, regularly protesting against the Brazilian military junta of the 1970s and 1980s.

He once listed his heroes as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and John Lennon, fathered six children and spent his retirement penning passionate articles on politics and economics as well as sport.

Socrates won 60 caps for Brazil, scored 22 goals and was a contemporary of the great Zico.

After officially ending his playing career in 1989, he bizarrely reappeared 15 years later, at the age of 50, with Garforth Town, an amateur side in the backwoods of northern England where he featured for just 10 minutes of action.”

A bit of a bolshy bastard, who loved a gasper (this is me talking now, not The Telegraph), Dr Socrates is remembered as much as a champion of the little man and a fierce campaigner against tyranny and dictatorship as he was for his swift, elegant play, his back-heels and his marvellous goal celebrations.There’s a video on Youtube of his appearance at Garforth Town, but this is how you really wanna remember him.

In a world when all we’re left with is the dignity and charm of John Terry, the wit and wisdom of Joey Barton and the grace and sportsmanship of Robbie Savage, it’s nice to remember a time when soccer was populated with gentleman and scholars, in every sense of the word.
And shorts that cut you in half.

That’ll Bring Water to Your Eyes


A Very Sharp Single

I like beer. I like it enough to get annoyed when I have to wait too long to be served one. Occasionally I make allowances for my Guinness to settle because I know I’ll get a proper pint if the barman leaves it a while mid-pour. However, when I just need a cold refreshing pint of lager, I want it now and I want it often. Step forward Grin on Industries. These chaps seem to have invented a natty little device that pours lager quickly and, to counter too much head, through the bottom of the glass. This should keep the queues down at the local. Ok, here they use an American brew (or beer substitute, as it’s known), but I see no reason why it shouldn’t work on proper beer.

Use By End – See Lid

The ‘Best Before End’ date on the bottle of beer I’m drinking is Feb 2011. Now there’s a hypothetical date if I’ve ever heard one. I can’t remember ever going to the fridge with my customary thirst, only to be disappointed as the only beer there in is out of date. Ok then, smart-arse, have you ? I guess, if I’m really honest, that beer does eventually go off but I suspect not in my lifetime. If ever there was a waste of machinery, process and ink it’s that little line which tells you when your brew is best drunk by. I know I’m best drunk by 11 o’clock but, really, for how long do these guys reckon we keep beer in our fridges ? It’s mid-July now and if the rest of that case is still in the cool box by February next year then something has gone horribly wrong.

That case of champagne which they found at the bottom of the sea last week was dated 1789 and they reckon it’s still quaffable, so what’s the chances of a bottle of Grolsch going on the turn in the near future ? Slim, I suspect. I can only assume the printed date is all a cunning ruse to make us drink more and drink quicker. Shame on them, I suppose, but rules are rules and who am I to put the brewing industry out of business ? Millions of people rely on people like me to keep them in gainful employ and I’m not gonna be the one to put their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Long ago a mate of mine worked for a brewery and his job entailed driving a lorry laden with “out of date” or “damaged ” cans to the crusher to be disposed of. Sadly, sometimes he got lost. For one long wonderful summer everyone he knew (me included) had fridges, eskis and cupboards jam-packed with cans of Budweiser which were 4 weeks overdue and Fosters with slight dents on them They literally had fallen off a lorry, but we weren’t complaining. Neither brand is my weapon of choice but ,hey, who cares ? A lot of milk went off that summer – I didn’t have room for it in the fridge.

I’m off up north on Friday for a weekend’s cricket in the Wirral (that’s posh Liverpool to you and me) so I went through my ever-expanding medical bag to see what I’m gonna need to get me through this short tour. On first glance it doesn’t seem too bad at all. I have nice new tubes of Savlon (for cuts and grazes) and Voltarol (aches and pains), fresh packets of Crampex (muscle cramp) and Dioralyte (guess). The Imodium Plus (ditto) is only a year old, so they’re good to go (as it were). The ever-present loo-roll is in mint condition.

The tins of Deep Heat and Deep Freeze sprays have ‘use by’ dates or 2002 and 2004 respectively, but they’re both still half full and I’m buggered if I’m gonna buy replacements. The tube of E45 cream (marvellous for jock-rot) is so old that the date has faded to the point where I can’t even read it, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze another season out of it anyway. The packet of sticking plasters says to use them by 2008, but I am ignoring that as it’s just plain stupid. My main worry is the whacking great tube of Nurofen Gel which I use for anything that isn’t covered by the above. The ‘Use By’ date on that one is June 2014. I’ll never make it.

Best Before Oct 1994

Episode IV: A New Hope

…So we popped into The Hare and Billet last night as part of my quest for a new decent watering hole. “Let’s have a nice quiet drink” I said. I opened the door to discover four 70’s throwbacks setting up amps, and drums and mics and pedals and…oh christ, everything. The band took up half of the pub, with speakers the size of Belgium. The bar’s about fifty feet long. Where did they think they’d been booked into? Shea Stadium?? We stepped over the cables and boxes strewn inside the door and went to the bar. “Well ok, I’m sorry, but I expected it to be quiet” I said to Mrs B, “let’s have the one and see how it goes”.
She concurred, though both of us feared the worse. No matter, brave new world and all that, let’s take the pub at face-value.
“Pint of Guinness and a gin and tonic, please” . Guessing correctly, the barmaid looked at The Incumbent and squarked “you want ice and lemon in that?”
“yes please”, she replied. She flashed me a grin. Perhaps this was indeed the promised land.
“you wanna double up on that for an extra quid?”
“no thank you, a single is fine”.
One tumbler with one measure of gin, 3 icecubes and a little slice of lemon therein arrived on the bar.All was well with the world.

27_08_2004 - 01.29.05 -  - gin_and_tonic-jpg

But then, in one devastating movement, with a flick of the wirst and a not-so-much as a by-your-leave she emptied the entire contents of a bottle of tonic water into the glass. The gin was drowned. It’s always been a pet hate of mine, and the same applies to my beloved. Our optimism had been proved to be on the previous side.
“Can I get another gin in there please?” I asked, with all the dignity I could muster.
“You what, love?”
I held out the glass. “Another gin, please. You’ve drowned it.” It didn’t register with her.
“you can’t have it for a quid, you have to order it as a double. It’ll be 2.45” (I think that’s what she said, but I couldn’t hear past the steam coming out of my ears)
“But you drowned the first one. She needs another in there to be able to taste it”
“But it’ll be 2.45”
“I don’t care, we just want another gin”.
The measure was dispensed.
“2.45 please” she smiled
“I know” I handed over the money.

In silence, I woofed my beer, Kate woofed her gin(s). We went to O’Neills.

Quite nice in there, innit?


Saturday Titfers

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.

In a quiet side street of the charming hamlet of Charlton, (as in ‘Charlton Athletic Nil’), South East London once stood a little pub called The Valley, named after the local football team’s home ground. A pretty unremarkable little boozer, which my brother and I used to go in for “just the one” at lunchtime on match days (we were supporters, you understand, not players. The players were in the boozer across the road).  It was suitably scruffy, unknown to traveling opposition supporters, and mercifully free of the formica and stainless steel decor favoured by the Slug and Pianos, the All Bar Funs and the Trout n Tillbox pub chains so popular with the roof of today.

But the feature of this pub which will stay with me forever was an old photograph on the wall. Or to be precise, a photo so large it stretched across two walls, floor-to-ceiling, in the main bar. It showed life as it was 60 years ago, a life sadly no longer with us. The photo at the top of this page , similar to the one in the pub,  will give you an idea of what I mean.

Pictured was the old, massive, main terrace at Charlton’s ground, presumably photographed just post-war. Several things struck you when you looked at the picture: That they used to sell-out home games; Some of the supporters were smiling; No-one was kicking seven shades out of anyone else; and everyone in the photo was male. But there was something else: of the nigh-on 20,000 people in the photo everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was wearing a hat. Be it a trilby, a flat cap, or whatever, EVERYONE wore a hat. Question: when the time came to throw your hat in the air in celebration of Charlton scoring a goal (quiet at the back!) how did you get your own hat back? It must have been carnage.

Charlton beating Liverpool 3-0 (yes, honestly). Not a dry hat in the house.

Charlton beating Liverpool 3-0 (yes, honestly) December 1959. The home goalie, Willie Duff, dives to clear some smudges from the photograph. Not a dry hat in the house.

I have a particularly big swede and I suspect I would have often walked home with someone else’s cap, 3 sizes too small perched, at a jaunty angle, on the top of my head, while some other poor little sod wore my one, having to walk four yards before the hat moved.

In 1953 Charlton beat Middlesbrough 8-1 which presumably meant that some of those present changed hats 8 times during the match. I wonder if after twenty minutes you ended up with a real corker of a titfer you just buggered off home and sod the result? Were you refused entry to the ground if you were hatless? What if your chapeau was a birthday present but the bloke standing 7 yards away caught it during the melee after a late equalizer? My mum would have gone Garrity if I returned home without it.

Sad I know, but it’s something that’s always bothered me.
The pub’s not there now. Demolished for yuppie flats, A Costa Coffee bar or somesuch. Gone the same way as epidemic hat-wearing, a thousand proper boozers around the country, and home goals at The Valley.