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.
27 responses to “The first time…”
“They may have raised their eyes to heaven, grunted and resumed their rhythmic plod unperturbed.”
But then again, you’ll never know..they may have been like the Hounds of Hell right on your heels 🙂
Especially if they could sniff Mars bars in our plastic bags.
Squeaky voices, short stature, too young vs. taken by surprise and slow to react =
Underage drinking. Hmmm…
Some of those foot patrolling RUC fellas toting guns, were mighty scary to a strong Dublin twang, even without carrying booze. For years I walked around Belfast with my mouth shut!
You were clearly following the local government of the tongue: Whatever you say, say nathin’.
Cheers! I hope your son is not reading this!!
Hmm – good point (he belatedly thinks to himself).
I’m not a drinker, and I’ve never been chased by police. You lead a much more exciting life than me. 😉
You see? People say there should be more bobbies on the beat and this is the result – underage drinking.
You see? People say there should be more bobbies on the beat, and this is the result – underage drinking.
In the college town I was at during school days the bars did not care if you were under age as long as you had an ID showing 21 or older. The picture or gender did not have to match. I let all the younger fellows use my driver’s license all the time. Then once I went out with them and got carded and they would not serve me because “everybody uses that ID and we are tired of it.” I could never convince them it was really me.
Hee hee – hoist on your own petard.
You should have borrowed someone else’s – but then you’d probably have been caught stealing someone’s identity.
Breaker is still available, although the beer cognoscenti wouldn’t much care if it weren’t. (“Washing up liquid”; “greasy”; “cardboard”; “oily”; “rubbery”; “soapy”; “chemical”; “bland”; “awful”.)
“Reasonably pleasant taste at first that soon fades into amazing blandness.” – sounds perfect for a first time drinker.
Just think – if my first drink had been Guinness, it might also have been my last.
That is a first worth a million seconds! What a story. And how well told. It takes me back to some of my own capers like the first packet of cigarette bought from a fierce looking shop keeper and a few other unmentionables. Great post BWT.
I decided to skip the unmentionables – no doubt Padmini will approve of me sparing my children the revelations.
That was certainly a very dramatic introduction to the demon drink. I can’t remember my first taste of alcohol. Probably not until my late teens, as my parents drank very little and I went to a boarding school where there was no alcohol, either licit or illicit. Never did get excited about the stuff, I only drink a few glasses a week and could easily give it up altogether.
Neither of my parents drink, nor did any of my grandparents – er… I guess that fine tradition has ground to a halt.
Your post brought back memories of my first visit to The 6 Counties/Ulster.
It was 1968.I was 16.My mate in Yorkshire had a Belfast Dad.We decided to travel to Ireland.Hitch from Belfast to Dublin.camping on the way
He Primed me beforehand.He came from Protestant Stock on the Shankhill.We agreed that I would be Protestant in the North & he would be Catholic in the South!
We arrived in Belfast by boat.Loads of armed Police on the dockside.All wearing guns (& ,yes,fat!)We walked to The Shankhill .Getting lost enroute (& both of us with Yorkshire accents!).It was marching Season……all the banners & suchlike everywhere.It was like walking through another planet.
[3 years earlier I had driven with my family through East Germany.Police Checkpoints etc .We were travelling to visit my Family in Poland.
The North felt much more intimidating in comparison!]
Anyway…………I must have passed Mustard as a Prod!
Although.I remember underage drinking in a Shankill Pub one night & knocking over a stranger’s pint of Guinness. But ,thankfully,my mates family were with us & it was forgiven!Although ,had i made a sign-of-the-cross as penance,maybe things would have been different?
Your penance would not have been three Hail Marys anyway.
I like the way you ratchet up the stakes:
* Underage drinking? Check.
* Going somewhere edgy where you have to conceal your true identity? Check.
* But no! That’s not enough! So… Knocking over a stranger’s pint? Check.
If you were in Lethal Weapon you’d definitely be Riggs.
Underage drinking? Buying alcohol for others underage?! And running awasy!! Worse knocking over someone’s pint of Guinness?! lol…quite the rebel was this young Blackwatertown!! Not much has changed in that respect I take it 😉 As to making the sign of the cross…lol…penance or not you were still a very naughty Blackwatertown!! 🙂
Ah no – I was merely an innocent abroad.
Are you sure they were after you………? Or was it the drink..?
Next time you see a Joseph Holts’ Pub (Up North England) try a pint of Black! Every pint sold is also a donation to charity. Excellent.
Not sure if I like Carl’s comment more or the fact that you found an opportunity to use one of my father’s favourite sayings! Seriously, I can’t remember my first time. We were allowed to have a glass of wine at home so I guess reaching actual drinking age was a slip into adult hood rather than a drunken rite of passage. Love you’re story though.
Naughty naughty. I never drank booze and don’t intend to. Just never appealed to me. (It would sound funny to order it at a restaurant, though. “Hey, I’d like some booze, please.”) …Wine in Communion at church doesn’t count! Or else I’d have been guilty of underage drinking. But, it’s okay if the church people give it to you. Yep.
Just wanted to say you have a great site.
This is my comment on your blog though I’m a regular reader.
I’m considering thieving some ideas from you. Thanksn in advance.