12 Noon Bank Holiday Monday 4 June 2012 Heading Back to London
I decided to stay over in Newcastle which worked out because my return ticket was for the wrong date, anyway. I had purchased the wrong ticket again. It’s impossible for me not to mess up on an early morning ticket.
Yesterday, Phil or Andy, Englishmen, asked me what the word “schmuck” meant, and how it was used. I had ready example.
I was feeling guilty about staying in Newcastle. I would be missing Queen’s Diamond Jubilee flotilla on the Thames and street parties in Nunhead. The kids are in France with the mother so I was only letting myself down, but still. On the other hand, I don’t want to seem to support the monarchy, either.
Instead, I did something truly British: The all-day drinking session. Geordie’s call it “going on the hoy”.
The British love sitting inside a pub on a cold day drinking with mates. They love sitting outside a pub on a warm day drinking with mates. They love drinking with mates anywhere.
I’ve lived in England for 12 years and I’ve never spent the day drinking. I don’t really like to drink and couldn’t see the point of just hanging around a pub all day. I have better things to do. Napping. Worrying. Etc.
Drinking in America is guilt-ridden, giggly and gleeful. It is a sin and most everyone knows it. That is what makes it fun. And there is always a competitive purpose to drinking in America: Who can get the drunkest, the fastest, the cheapest. Or who can you get drunk??
Here it’s different.
John Monty Smith, my friend, the comic, [and the guy who gets me more work than any other as the organizer of The Grinning Idiot comedy shows] and I started with a shandy at 1:00 pm at a David Kennedy’s, then moved to the Cluny, the Cumberland and ended up at the New Bridge where Callum was running a pub quiz. I drank seven or eight pints in nine hours and did little else except chat with John and his friends, the two Andys and Phil. Andy Bourne is a friend of mine from Edinburgh and Newcastle who has seen my Free until Famous a few times.
Here in England people drink to get a buzz on. It’s to make one more sociable and to make others more bearable, or even more delightful, at least for a few hours.
It’s like dancing. There’s no end point – just through points. You don’t dance to reach the end of the song and one doesn’t drink in this country to get through the bottle.
My seven or eight pints would be like two six-packs plus a few extra bottles in America – actually more since English beer is at least 25% stronger than your typical Bud.
And since everyone is drinking the same amount, everyone is sharing the cost, everyone is just hanging out, it is a very collegial way to spend one’s time.
By the time I went home at 11, I ended up a bit buzzed, very tired, with two new friends and a closer relationship with my mates John and Andy. A totally lovely day unlike anything I’ve ever done. Weird that.
It did end a bit ugly: pub quiz. Our team came in tied for second amid speculation that the winning team cheated. iPhones and google will be the death of pub quizzes.
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