Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Drink Was an Ice Cream Omelette Until I Visited Plato's Retreat

I confess I am a late convert to 24-hour drinking.
For the last six decades or so, my alcohol intake was limited to handfuls of Maynard's Original Wine Gums, which - I'm happy to report - have no wine in them at all. On special occasions such as Hogmanay, I would treat myself to a Snowball before retiring to bed at 10.30pm with cotton wool in my ears.
Drinking a Snowball is not exactly pleasurable, unless the idea of an ice cream omelette appeals, but the mix of egg and alcohol always sent me straight to sleep. This allowed me to doze through the festivities outside and rise early on New Year's Day to chip the frozen carrots from my window-sill.
My objection to alcohol was not a matter of principle. Indeed, only after relaxing my regime did I realise that it was based on my broader aversion to pleasure. My mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am), was no pleasure-seeker, and used to take a dim view of my father's excesses, which were no more than a bottle of India Pale Ale on a Friday night, unless there was a game of dominoes on, when he would stretch to a pint. The ale made father's nose glow slightly, and Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) would compare him unfavourably to a Belisha beacon while she prepared a supper of toasted cheddar, butter biscuits, and Nescafe with hot milk from the pan.
This feast was designed to sober father up, but, more often than not, it sent him into a state of agitated torpor in which he would find himself unable to settle in front of the television. Usually, he waited for the National Anthem, which he greeted with exaggerated enthusiasm, in case Her Majesty or any of her loyal lieutenants might happen past the window. On domino nights, he would bolt down his Toast Topper and swig wildly at his coffee, often causing a moustache of cheddar and milk-skin to solidify on his top lip. By morning, feathers from the pillow would have attached themselves to his face, giving him the look of a distressed chicken. We were all thankful when the foam pillows arrived.
So it was that alcohol had no great positive associations for me. The bottle of Asti Spumante, which I won at a beetle drive in 1972, gathered dust, waiting in vain for something to celebrate.
And thus it would have continued.
But, late last year I had a moment of revelation. The public house at the end of my street changed hands, and changed its name. The Gravedigger's Arms became Plato's Retreat, and among their many promotions was a Philosophy Night, every second Monday. As was obvious from the sudden lack of noise, the Philosophy Nights were spectacularly unsuccessful, culminating in a night on which the advertised topic was: "If the Philosophy Night Happens, But Nobody Comes, Did It Happen at All?"
Well, I am not one to shirk a challenge, and I visited the pub that night just in case the enactment of a philosophical paradox caused structural damage to the neighbouring buildings.
I saw many strange things that night in Plato's Retreat. Now, I must drink to forget them.

3 comments:

seriousmince said...

If you only allow yourself one alcoholic drink a year, and have no one with whom to share a bottle of vintage Champagne, then it should be a Snowball. However, the humble Snowball has moved ahead since the days when Maynard's wine gums were so hard they had to be kept up the leg of your gym pants for a month before they were soft enough to masticate. Try this:
dip the rim of a glass (any glass will do, but a champagne saucer will look nicer, if less authentic, than a chipped tooth glass) in freshly squeezed lime juice. Then place it, rim down, into a bowl of sugar.

1 part chilled advocaat
2 parts chilled lemonade
½ lime, squeezed
sugar to decorate the glass

Stir with a Tunnocks Caramel Log and serve with a slice of lime and a cherry.

A few of these and you will be able to hear the ghostly echo of hooters from the Clyde shipyards, whether it's Hogmanay or not.

David Farrer said...

Mr Elder:

Welcome to the world of blogs. I have linked to you from Freedom and Whisky, but if you take a look at my other blog you may enjoy the photographs of Peebles.

Learson said...

If a feminist articulates her philosophy alone in a forest, is she still wrong?