Friday, 25 December 2009

Serious drinking

[If Christmas means anything at all, it means repeats of old classics. This is a column by the great feuilletonist Flann O’Brien/Myles na gCopaleen, probably best known to beer enthusiasts for his poem "The Workman's Friend" featuring the line "A pint of plain is your only man". Though first published in the Irish Times over half a century ago, I am inclined to think that his suggestion is more reasonable than many currently circulating — Barm]

Do not for that singular interval, one moment, think that I have been overlooking this new Intoxicating Liquor Bill. I am arranging to have an amendment tabled because it appears that there is absolutely nothing else you can do with an amendment.

My idea is to have the hours altered so that public houses will be permitted to open only between two and five in the morning. This means that if you are a drinking man you'll have to be in earnest about it.

Picture the result. A rustle is heard in the the warm dark bedroom that has been lulled for hours with gentle breathing. Two naked feet are tenderly lowered to the flower and a shaky hand starts foraging blindly for matches. Then there is a further sleepy noise as another person half-wakens and rolls round.

'John! What's the matter?'


'But where are you going?'

'Out for a pint.'

'But John! It's half past two.'

'Don't care what time it is.'

'But it's pouring rain. You'll get your death of cold.'

'I tell you I'm going out for a pint. Don't be trying to make a ridiculous scene. All over Dublin thousands of men are getting up just now. I haven't had a drink for twenty-four hours.'

'But John, there are four stouts in the scullery. Beside the oat-meal bag.'

'Don't care what's in the scullery behind the oat-meal bag.'

'Oh, John'.

And then dirty theatrical snivelling sobbing begins as the piqued and perished pint-lover draws dressing gowns and coats over his shivering body and passes out gingerly to the stairs.

Then the scene in the pub. Visibility is poor because a large quantity of poisonous fog has been let in by somebody and is lying on the air like layers of brawn. Standing at the counter is a row of dishevelled and shivering customers, drawn of face, quaking with the cold. Into their unlaced shoes is draped, concertina-wise, pyjama in all its striped variety. Here and there you can discern the raw wind-whipped shanks of the inveterate night-shirt wearer. And the curate behind the bar has opened his face into so enormous a yawn that the tears can be heard dripping into the pint he is pulling. Not a word is heard, nothing but chilly savage silence. The sullen clock ticks on. Then 'Time, please, time. Time for bed, gentlemen.' And as you well know, by five in the morning, the heavy rain of two-thirty has managed to grow into a roaring downpour.

The Plain People of Ireland:
Is all this serious?

Certainly it's serious, why wouldn't it be serious, you don't make jokes about anything so funny as the licensing laws, why would I bring turf to Newcastlewest?

The Plain People of Ireland:
If you're serious so, it's only a trick to get more drink for newspapermen.

Nonsense. Newspapermen couldn't hold any more than they have at present.

The Plain People of Ireland:
Oh faith now, that's enough. That's enough about that crowd. Remember well, many's a county council meeting, fluther-eyed note-takers couldn't get the half of it, stuff that days was spent thinkin' out.


The Plain People of Ireland: Faith indeed that was loud enough, well you may talk about putting down drink. Putting down is right.

Ut's only mey undajaschin, d'yeh ondherstawnd.

I can see even another domestic aspect of this new order. It is after midnight. The man of the house is crouched miserably over the dying fire.

'John! Look at the time! Are you not coming to bed?'

'No. I'm waiting for the pubs to open.'

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