One for the road

Black Seal Rum: 151 proof

By Colin Bird

‘WORK is the curse of the drinking classes’, at least according to Oscar Wilde.

Alcohol is one of those things that used sensibly can enhance a conversation, inspire great deeds, and even have medicinal benefits.  Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

But of course, in the wrong hands it can cause extreme unpleasantness.

There is a fine line between being hilariously tipsy, and embarrassingly plastered.  We laugh along with the giggler trying to carefully enunciate each word, but rightfully shy away from the aggressive loud-mouth drunk throwing up outside Mercadona.

But it’s a fact that numerous amusing stories and fond memories are unashamedly based on silliness brought about with the aid of a sherbet or three.

Many years ago, four of us were in our regular harbour-side watering hole, aptly named The Rum Runners, when two young Royal Navy ratings staggered in.  They were no more than lads and had obviously been painting the town red in the time honoured way.

We were ordering drinks and they overheard us ask for four specials

“Wos that then?” one of them asked, as he saw the bartender extract a bottle from beneath the bar.

Black Seal rum”

“Wos speshul ‘bout that?” he demanded.

“It’s 151 proof”

“We’ll have two large ones” the bar tender was informed as he finished topping up our own glasses with ginger ale.

“Straight” the matelot added.

We looked at each other before gently explaining to young Hornblower that it would be advisable to dilute the rum with something, even water. But they were having none of it and raised their glasses for a toast.

“The Queen!” they bawled and downed the drinks in one.

There was a pause.  We knew something was about to happen because vocal sailor number one, tried to focus on sailor number two, mouthed something inaudible and began to keel over backwards in slow motion.

Stiff as a tailor’s collar, he hit the floor, bounced a couple of times and lay there inspecting the ceiling with a puzzled half smile on his boyish face.  His friend fell into a chair, then slid like melting snow onto the floor muttering, “The Queen, the Queen”.

Luckily their ship was moored opposite and between us we managed to haul them across the street into the waiting arms of their colleagues on evening watch.

Forty years ago now, but a story always recounted when we get together.

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