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Scrumpy

RAB’s posting below, with it’s prominent promotion of scrumpy, reminds me of the first time I ever had the pleasure of scoffing the stuff.

It was in about 1981, I was newly arrived in England and was still in sightseeing mode. One Sunday afternoon I went up to the British Museum to have a captains, and called in to the pub opposite, the Museum Tavern, to have lunch before I went on my troll through humanities past.

Well, wasn’t that a mistake. I ordered a steak and kidney pud to fill the void, and I saw a chalked sign advertising scrumpy. Now, I had heard of scrumpy, but I had never had any so I thought this was an opportunity. It was sweet, a bit like dilluted applejuice but with a bit of a bite, and it went down as easily as lemonade. I downed a pint while I was waiting for lunch, so when the pud was delivered I ordered another pint, and downed that while eating. When the food was done and gone I ordered another half pint, not wanting to overdo it, finished that off, and started museumward…..

Then it hit me. I wandered the museum in an alcoholic haze for about 30 minutes, but I really wasn’t getting much out of it. It was a beautiful afternoon, early in the English summer, and taking it easy and relaxing somewhere became my preference, so I left and went to sit under a tree in Bloomsbury Square.

Fell asleep of course.

Great Sunday afternoon that.

One Comment

  1. RAB says:

    I’m pretty sure that there is an anecdote in each and every one of us that begins…

    “The night I met Scrumpy… Well it’s that sort of drink isn’t it? So here’s mine.

    I’m 16/17 or so and desperate for entertainment, but there’s bugger all happening in Cardiff in the sixties. South Wales is the back of beyond. Oh there was the odd major tour like the Beach Boys that came to Capitol, or Hendrix who came to Sophia Gardens, but beyond that we had to get a train to Bristol and the Colston Hall to see any decent bands like Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Mothers of Invention etc. So we went to folk and poetry clubs held in pubs instead.

    Well ok, sometimes the secretary of these clubs managed to scrape together enough cash to play for a bona fide “star” like John Martyn, Roy Harper, Bert Yansch or Keith Christmas, but usually it was the local hopefuls singing endless versions of Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London” (Blokes) or Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” (Birds, and horribly off key).

    This one night at the interval, one of my more knowing friends said ” let’s pop down the road to the Criterion and have some scrumpy!” I’d never had scrumpy before. The only Cider I had met before was Woodpecker, a fizzy weak sort of apple flavoured pop really. I wasn’t much of a drinker in those days, and even the local brew Brains wasn’t very strong. it was designed to shift the coaldust out of miners throats, not to get them pissed, because they had to be back at work down the mine in the morning. So off we went…

    Well the Criterion was a bit of a shock to a well brought up and rather sheltered 17 year old like me. It was wall to wall Irish drunks who looked like they used brillo pads as flannels, and Ladies of the Night of pensionable age. Not so much “Want a good time Deary? ” as “How Fuckin desperate are you?” all ripped to the tits and laughing their asses off.

    So anyway I bought a pint of this Scrumpy stuff. It was still, not fizzy, it didn’t really taste that appley either, kinda like water with an edge. I did notice this kind of petrol spilled in water sheen to its head though, but thought no more about it. That one slipped down a treat, so I got another. Well to cut a long story a bit shorter, by the time it was time to go back for the second session of bleedin Streets of London etc I found I had gotten pissed from the legs up. I was bumping into everything. I was trying to leave the building without actually opening doors, and the drunks and whores were having a great laugh at my expense.

    Well my friends dragged me back to the gig, but by now I was feeling very ill indeed. My Vertical Hold had gone completely. Now loss of vertical hold is one of those things that you youngsters won’t remember. It happened when your black and white tv went on the blink and the frame just kept disappearing off the bottom of the screen. It also happens when you’re very pissed, however hard you try to focus on something, it won’t stay still.

    So I stayed outside and threw up a few times and gradually felt better (well a bit). Eventually I got the bus home. I went upstairs and foolishly lit up a ciggie ( I thought I was back to normal but was still totally pissed). There was a bloke in the seat in front of me reading a book. I thought, in my still addled state, this was an odd thing to do on a bus at 11pm, so I leant forward to ask him what he’s reading… and threw up all over him!

    Now in most cities and most periods of time I would have been heading for A&E or the Morgue after that, but this bloke was a true good samaritan. He just said “It’s alright, it’s alright!” dabbing away at the sick with a tissue. He even put me off the bus at my right stop. I have never been more embarrassed in my entire puff!

    But it’s a lesson that learns ya innit? I have also never ever been that pissed again. I like a drink, but have learned how to control it. To know when the edge is coming and not nail a bit more on. Bless you sir, whoever you were. You taught me one of the fundamental lessons of my life, tolerance and forgiveness.

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