Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Kids On the Pop

I was discussing the relative merits of cider with somebody yesterday. As we all know, in recent years, it has undergone a miraculous renaissance. Using ingenious marketing methods like swapping the ‘e’ and ‘r’ around and showing young people quaffing it ecstatically, the brewers have managed to revamp boozy apple juice as a refreshing alternative to beer.

This entire campaign has passed me right by, for the sole reason that I have always - and will always - associate cider as the drinking choice of the discerning pisscan. My view of it is completely tainted, because the last time I had some was in Platt Fields Park in Manchester when I was fifteen. I got to enjoy its sweet taste twice. Once on the way in and thirty minutes later on the way out, when it left mostly through my nose.

very time I see the adverts, usually showing a group of demographically cross-sectioned, twenty-somethings having a lovely time whilst clinking their glasses, I’m always taken back to that place. It was near the seesaw, where me and Budgie Gallagher (that nickname will get its own blog one day) and a few of our friends shotgunned a couple of bottles of Strongbow and became violently ill. Perhaps we should have sat down and had it with ice, instead of drinking half a litre in a one-er then having a go on the swings.

It does make me think about a broader point, though and it’s the fact that I’m a complete hypocrite. When I talk to my eldest son (nearly 13) about the perils of substance abuse, I consistently fail to mention that I - and almost everyone I speak to who grew up in the 70s and 80s - seem to have embarked on their boozing career at a very early age.

When I was playing under 16s football for Hulme Lads, we used to go for a pint after the game. Not a sneaky half shandy behind the pub. The team, still dressed in football kit, would go into The Crown, with our manager and have a couple of pints and game of pool, whilst we conducted our post-match analysis. This wasn’t even considered unusual. We didn’t even have rubbish ‘Kev Webster’ moustaches. When I was fifteen, I looked like I was twelve.

A quick survey amongst my friends produced similar stories. Julie was getting served in her local when she was thirteen. She used to duck behind the bar when her older brother came in for a more legitimate pint. When he was sixteen, my mate Paul was told that he could only go for a pint one Saturday night if all his homework was up to date. Desy D couldn’t take his English O Level because he’d got a bit pickled at lunchtime, in the Birch Villa.

What am I going to do? I don’t like being a hypocrite, but I can’t see myself sanctioning a Christmas piss-up at the Yates Wine Lodge for the kids’ footy team that I run.

I don’t want to trivialise the current worry that society seems to have with the binge drinking culture, but a quick look backwards feels quite revealing. When our Joe came back from the Falklands, I fully participated in the celebrations with four cans of Kestrel in my dad’s shed, aged 13. The following year, I sat down and watched the FA Cup Final with my dad and a couple of bottles of his home brew. Did it do me any harm? Almost certainly, but it does help me get things into a little bit of context.

When my kids eventually find their way to a bar, aged 18 and holding a current passport, they’re not likely to drink some of the nonsensical, mind-rotting stuff we were putting away. Cider wasn’t known as ‘Central Heating for Punks,’ for nothing. Here’s just a quick sample of what was being ordered and consumed in industrial quantities in the bars of Manchester back then.

Cider and Black
Cider and Lager (Snakebite)
Cider Lager and Black (Red Witch)
Guinness and Black
Guinness and Lager
Blue Stratos (not a nickname, just an aftershave. To be sipped gently)
Blue Bols and Vodka (a Blue Lagoon)
Blue Bols and Vodka dropped into a Snakebite (An Experiment)

1 comment:

  1. recall the deep joy of bunkin off school to sample the delites of Crazy Mikes cocktail cabinet - sherry egg nogs, green goddess, n Tom Caxton ome brew bubbled up in a disused fish tank.