Let me not pretend that I have lived the life of a saint. I was never a heavy drinker in the sense that I regularly drank many pints of beer and rolled home stinking drunk. I have rolled home stinking drunk as when a taxi deposited me at my parents’ home in Southall after a banquet with the Lord Mayor of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson. I have also been so drunk that I did not roll home, most famously on a night bus back to Tottenham when I woke up at the terminus and had to stay on the bus to get back to my stop :).
My first wife would have it that when she went into labour with our first-born that I had come home with a ‘skinful’ as they say in England. Whatever my state, I was able to help her through the initial labour, and then drive her to the hospital after she had complications and ended up having a Caesarian section, For sure, I was sober by the time the baby was delivered and I got to hold her first, while my wife recovered from surgery.
Britain had and still has a reputation for binge drinking. In the past, that was blamed on licensing laws that strictly limited opening hours, so people tended to consume too much in too short a time. Since laws were relaxed, one sees less of that and pubs have also become more sociable places, for families and offering good food.
When I was much younger, my parents used to take a drive to some places outside London to find a nice pub and have a leisurely drink. In those days, children weren’t allowed in pubs, so I was left in the car with a bottle of soft drink and a bag of crisps or peanuts. It was safe to do so. Now, kids can go into pubs but not sit at the bar or order drinks. Or, we’d find a pub with a nice garden, where we could sit together.
My heaviest drinking was occasionally while at college—what else do students do? It was also in my prime as a footballer, when the teams would head to the pub or bar after matches. In Wales, I could stumble home on foot, filled with Marston’s Pedigree. While at the Bank, our clubhouse served Young’s and its Special is a tasty brew. 👍🏾👏🏾When, we played away, beer was usually good. Most times during my Bank career meals were served to the teams after matches so we had well-lined stomachs. A friend and I shared driving most weeks, so we could each drink a bit, but GM he always would need to be able to drive home from my house whoever drove to the game. Outside of football, drinks would be around meals—beer and curry bashes and at-home dinner parties as our careers took off and we could splash out on plonk.
I never played drunk, but I’ve been in matches with teammates who were plastered. I played for a Sunday pub team in Wales and once had a teammate roll out of the pub at 930am with a pint in his hand. He actually was better drunk as his normal fiery mood was then mellowed.
I’ve also played where our opponents really wanted us to drink ourselves stupid, most famously in Belgium on tour and drinking tall Kwak glasses of Belgian lager.
Everyone needs to try drinking a yard of ale:
Years of English life mean that I developed a taste for real ale—cask-conditioned and hand-pumped. I never really loved lager, though some of the beers in Belgium and Germany are mighty fine. Jamaica’s Red Stripe is good. But, I also developed a taste for wine, mainly red, mainly French. Trips to France and Germany for tasting and shipping back many bottles were part of many summer holidays. I once had a well-stocked cellar in London and kept abreast of vintages through Hugh Johnson. Then, I decided to just drink what I liked. Moving to the USA and then tropical places, where conditions for keeping wines are less favourable, and wine snobbery seemed more apparent, I drank wine less. My wife made up some of the slack 🙄🤸🏾♂️and bought a wine chiller and even hosted wine-tasting evenings :). We enjoyed some wine tours in Australia and Argentina and she mentioned buying a vineyard in Mendoza. But, I’m casual about wine, nowadays; I hardly drink a glass a week. In Jamaica, I’ve grown to like rum, naturally. Time was when I had a good collection of single malt whisky.
Now, I have one grown child who has grown to like her tipple and can take me to bars and buy me drinks. Her younger sister has had a sample or two of champagne and wine and beer and turned her nose up at them.
During these trying times with COVID19, drink may become a handy crutch for some, so while those of us who can drink in moderation and handle situations well without a stiff drink may be relaxed about the bottles on the shelves, be mindful of any friends who seem ready to hit the bottle early and maybe hard.