Jarvis Cocker: Do you remember the first time?
Me: Oh aye. Lots of them.
And oddly enough, members of the RUC arrived uninvited for quite a few of them. For instance, I can honestly say that it was the police who drove me to underage drinking.
I was on the wrong side of Belfast, “enemy territory”. Myself and my mate John off to a party at the home of one of “the other sort”. We were into all that cross community, doesn’t-matter-what-religion-you-are type of thing. At the same we were keen not to get our heads kicked in by locals who were not quite as welcoming as our hosts. So there was a little bit of nervousness on the one hand – but a moral imperative and a touch of adventure on the other.
We got there fine. But then agreed to go out to the local off licence (booze shop) for other party goers who either looked too young (and were too young) to be sold alcohol or were worried about being noticed as strangers. I didn’t drink myself, but it seemed the gentlemanly thing to do.
I know. Skewed values. Gentlemanly = buying alcohol for underage drinkers.
John was buying for himself. I was buying for the more timid. We tried to look nonchalant, deepen the timbre of our squeaky voices and appear taller than we were. the bloke at the counter couldn’t have cared less. The booze was ours. No problem.
Until I spotted through the shop window, an RUC man on foot patrol across the street. Quick, time to get out of there. Which was stupid, because I should have remembered they never patrolled alone, even in an area where they felt amongst friends and didn’t have an army escort.
So we dashed out like… like… hmm… Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, out from the off licence and right into the other RUC man patrolling on our side of the street. Luckily he was taken by surprise and slow to react and we were off weaving through the traffic, over the road, through a hedge, through a garden, through a hedge, up a hill, yadda yadda, lots more hedges.
All this time with armed RUC men in hot pursuit.
Well… they might not have been. They may have raised their eyes to heaven, grunted and resumed their rhythmic plod unperturbed. (They did tend to be a bit portly – all those Mars bars in the back of landrovers.)
But they could have been after us. We didn’t stop to look.
By the time the intrepid duo – me and my mate John – made it back to the party house, bottles and cans clinking in flimsy plastic bags, back through enemy territory to the relative safety of the party house… Well, John was thirsty and I was curious.
After all, for someone who had never touched a drop of alcohol, I’d gone to a lot of trouble to get my hands on it. So why not try it?
Breaker. That was the brand. Extra strength I think. (Better value I suppose.) And it tasted… okay. Not too bad. I was expecting it to be dire. But most beer is alright if it’s sufficiently cold and the drinker is sufficiently wired.
Oddly enough, I’ve never seen that brand for sale again – otherwise I might try it for old time’s sake. Happily I’ve since moved on to better brews like the obvious Guinness and incomparable Rebellion.
But I suppose I should raise a glass to the stout (geddit) fellows of the since abolished RUC, for setting me on the path to liquid pleasures, sore heads and spontaneous sidesteps. Slainte boys.
You may want to discover what first times the rest of the Loose Bloggers Consortium have revealed – click on their links further down in the right hand column.