Growing Up in a Boozer

It might sound a dream, but it's not easy to pretend you're old enough to drink when your dad's the landlord and has your birth certificate upstairs...
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It might sound a dream, but it's not easy to pretend you're old enough to drink when your dad's the landlord and has your birth certificate upstairs...

Bottoms up

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Most blokes like the idea of living in a pub. The beer is quite literally on tap, you have access to a pool table and every time you grab some peanuts, you get to see a little bit more of a pair of breasts.

What most blokes don’t like is the reality of working in a pub. The hours are long, the pay is shit and you have to spend time talking to pissheads whilst sober.

So if the dream is to live in a pub, without actually having to do any of the work, then I can safely say that I’ve lived it. My parents ran a pub from when I was seven until I was seventeen and just like Sharon from Eastenders, I too grew plump on a never-ending banquet of crisps and pork scratchings.

It sounds glamorous but there were drawbacks. Most teenagers reach an age where they are not old enough to legally drink, but are mature enough to grow a bum fluff moustache of sufficient substance to trick the local publican. Underage drinking is less easy to pull off though, when the landlord of the only pub for miles around is your dad and he knows the exact whereabouts of your birth certificate.

Of course, I wasn’t going to let such complications hold me back. Back in the days when my parents ran a boozer, all-day drinking was just a distant fantasy in the addled minds of hardened alcoholics. Pubs used to shut in the afternoon and when the folks were off out somewhere, I had free reign to get those optics pouring.

Like most fledgling teenage drinkers, I had no idea what my particular poison was. When I was behind the bar, there was no ‘usual’ as I undertook an eclectic alcoholic education. One day I’d mark my return from a hard day at school with a pint of mild, the next I’d pour myself a rather more sophisticated Tia Maria.

This was a regular occurrence for some time, until one day my solo drinking session went badly wrong. Having got back from school to find myself home alone, I decided that I’d treat myself to some of that Guinness which the Irish and Rutger Hauer always seemed to be recommending.

I confidentially poured a pint and with a customary long wait for the head to settle, I pushed back the pump… It kept pouring.

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In a panic I jolted the pump back and forth to stop the flow. Still the black stuff flooded out of the tap. It was like I had struck oil, only oil with a distinctive bitter taste and a creamy white head.

No matter what I did to that pump, the Guinness wouldn’t stop pouring. Before long I had pints of the stuff lined up across the bar and had resorted to grabbing empty two litre lemonade bottles and sticking them under the tap, whilst I tried in vain to halt this onslaught. I was like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke, with the subtle difference that instead of being hailed as a hero, I was destined to have the shit knocked out of me by my dad.

By now there was Guinness all over the floor of the bar. A shamrock was even beginning to form. I had to do something drastic and was about to go down into the cellar to disconnect the barrel. This wasn’t the simple solution that it sounds, as I had absolutely no idea how to do this and was fairly likely to cause another Frank Spencer-esque catastrophe. In desperation I gave the pump one last push… Somehow it stopped pouring.

The subsequent hour was spent tipping three quarters of a barrel of Guinness down the sink (somewhere George Best is spinning in a grave) and mopping the floor before my parents came back. A lesson had been learned and my after-school drinking club had very suddenly lost its appeal.

I still don’t drink Guinness, but the experience didn’t put me off pubs in general. Whilst most kids had nothing more entertaining than The Bill being broadcast in their living rooms, my house gave nightly theatre space to a myriad of memorable characters, who were by turns funny, interesting, clever, stupid and sad. It was an education in people and society to rival anything you could find in a university.

Sixteen years have now passed since I lived in a pub, but the beauty of that experience is that any time I feel like it, I can pop into any boozer in the country and know that a little part of me will be back home. Cheers.