Tag Archives: beer

August 13th 1975

“Work. Went up Nigs and to Pub in the evening”

Once again I remain amused at the fact that (presumably) no-one batted an eyelid at the fact that this pair of 17-year-olds were in a pub and slowly getting hammered.

Nowadays, pubs can be fined as much as £20,000 for repeatedly selling alcohol to minors (Under 18s).

I can confirm that several pubs in the Winchester/Southampton more certainly – and repeatedly – sold me alcohol when I was supposedly underage, a few of them when it was very evident that I had ‘had enough’.


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July 29th /30th 1975

●”Dad’s b-day – Gave him beer kit”
●”Went to the Royal Tournament at Earl’s Court – Quite Good!”

It feels peculiar to me to be writing about my Dad’s birthday because we were celebrating his 46th…. 6 years younger than I am now! Where does the bloody time go?

It looks like we had a nice pair of days though. On his actual birthday I gave him a beer making kit which, admittedly, may have had more to do with my own teenage love of alcohol than his grown-up one. As I recall it involved a set of bottles, jugs and a barrel which, whilst the mix fermented, had to be kept safely in the hall closet for fear of it exploding. Nothing like having some kind of unlikely incendiary device in the house is there?

The Royal Tournament was a military pageant held by the combined British Armed Forces. It was first presented in 1880 and ran annually (excepting breaks for wars) until 1999 when its running costs started to outweigh the monies it usually made for charities such as the The British Legion.

It was broadcast by the BBC and every year Mum, Dad and I would sit down and enjoy the spectacle of military bands and troops going through their well-practised routines. I was never a huge fan of the music but the visuals usually impressed me… and remember this was on a little black & white telly!

This year however we decided to see it in person, trekking up to the massive Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre in west London.

There was a reason for the family’s fascination for this annual pageant. One of its undoubted highlights was the Field Gun Competition, a traditional trial of strength and agility which celebrated the 1889 siege of the British garrison in Ladysmith, South Africa during the Second Boer War.

In that long 120 day siege the Royal Navy transported and landed a number of field guns over almost impossible terrain for use against the Boers. One of the many stories involved sailors carrying one of the so-called 12-pounder field guns (which weighed considerably more than their name suggests) 2 miles after one of its wheels collapsed.

After years of merely presenting the guns in a parade, the field gun display evolved, contested by teams from various Royal Navy commands, where each had to transport a 12 pounder field gun – and all its relevant limber – over a series of difficult obstacles. The guns were complete at the start of the race – which is always against the clock – where they were pulled, complete, over a 5 foot wall before being dismantled for transportation across a 28 foot chasm. The pieces and all the crew members were then lifted up on what is known as a “wire and line” and sent across the chasm. The team and equipment are then passed through a hole in a wall – representing enemy territory – before the gun is rebuilt and three rounds are fired off. If that wasn’t enough the whole thing is then reversed.. the gun dismantled, back through the hole, across the chasm and up & over the wall to ‘safety’.

As can be seen from the above video of the competition from 1994, it’s a gruelling test of strength and endurance for the teams taking part and was an event taken very seriously by everyone involved…. which one year – I am very proud to state – included my Dad!

He competed in the Field Gun Competition in 1949 at Olympia, representing the Portsmouth Command in a four-way battle against Devonport Command, Chatham Command and the Naval Air Command. My Dad wasn’t amongst those on the pitch but he was the team’s First Aid officer, a hugely important role in the backroom. During the exhaustive rehearsals he had to treat one bloke who lost the tip off one of his fingers (who nevertheless continued to compete) and another who broke BOTH legs whilst hauling the gun over the wall. (Who I’ll guess didn’t compete that year?!)

A competitor from the Devonport Command suffered a worse fate when the 900lb gun barrel fell off the hook & line and killed him. Yes, despite this, the show still went on.

My Dad tells me they won on two out of the three days events, but that some kind of mistake on the third day cost them the ultimate trophy, with Portsmouth Command ending up second overall.

So, on this day in 1975 he doubtless sat in the arena watching the Field Gun competition with a hint of nostalgia in his mind, remembering his involvement 26 years earlier. I probably sat there cheering on Portsmouth too – perhaps the one and only time I could ever admit to that!

To make matters better/worse Portsmouth won that year!

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July 18th 1975

“Break-up for summer hols. went down Cricks during day then for dinner with Lorna”

The Cricketer’s Arms – or “the Cricks” for short – was the pub closest to Barton Peveril. Back in the days when a ‘minimum drinking age’ seemed to be more of a suggestion than a mandatory legal requirement it was not uncommon for the place to packed with school pupils and college students at lunchtime.

It was also not uncommon for students to rub shoulders with their teachers at the bar, either vying for the barmaids attention and quick service so they could get their ‘drink on’ during the hour-long break.

I’m not saying that the Cricks’ staff failed to upkeep their legal requirements from time to time – usually for a few days after they had been warned by police to stop serving underage drinkers – but most of the time the proverbial blind-eye was turned as long as none of the 16 or 17 year-olds got too out of hand.

We rarely did. I knew how to drink, as did a few others, but rarely did we topple over into incoherency and/or mouthy stumbling. For the most part lunchtime consisted of 2 or 3 beers (or, in my case, the spirit equivalent of Bacardi rum or Whisky) a bag of pork scratchings, vibrant chatter and money pumped into the jukebox. (Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” was – for whatever reason – a particular favourite, and the song ALWAYS reminds me of The Cricks whenever I hear it these days)

The end of a school year was a particularly busy time for the pub and today in 1975 was doubtless no exception.

I don’t know if it was on this occasion or another but I do remember bumping into a friend of my Dad’s one time and having to ask him not to “tell on me” next time they met up. Mr. S did make – and stuck to – that promise, even taking it one stage further by buying me and all my schoolchums a round of drinks! I can’t help thinking that in this day and age he would have been arrested and sent to prison for “contributing to the delinquency of minors” or some such ludicrous politically correct nonsense.

In other news I also went out for a meal with Lorna. I wish I’d stated the place we’d gone to because I continue to remain clueless where people went on ‘dinner dates’ in 1975. I can’t remember any restaurants that would have fitted the bill for teenagers – maybe it was one of those crappy steakhouse places that were all the vogue for a while? (Surely though, they would be outside the limits of my meagre finances?). Drat my ever-forgetful memory!

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August 24th/25th 1973

• “Went (hic!) to the (hic!) Carlsberg factory (hic!) with Dad – good! – got souvenirs.. 18 beermats”
• “Went to Holgers for the day – nufin’ much done except eat, drink, walk, eat, drink and eat”

Ah yes… the famous Carlsberg brewery. It is located  just half a mile or so outside Copenhagen’s city limits. Unlike many other beer tourism attractions (i.e The Guinness Brewery in Dublin) the Carlsberg brewery (more correctly named the “The Jacobsen Brewhouse”) remains a fully working brewery, continuing to churn out some of the specialty beers the company (perhaps less famously) is responsible for.

For a 15-year-old who apparently has already discovered beer, a trip with my Dad to the brewery must have been a special event. I know I held onto many of those mentioned beermats for many years afterwards, only discarding them when the cardboard had rotted and broken down to such a degree that they were unusable.

Carlsberg was founded in 1847 by JC Jacobsen who pioneered the concepts of steam brewing, refrigeration techniques and the first propagation of a single yeast strain.  The first brew was poured on November 10th – co-incidentally my wife’s birthday – and Carlsberg beer has been enjoyed all over the world since.

In 1939, a staggering 55% of all the imported beer in the UK came from Carlsberg. Their famous – very strong – “Special Brew” was launched to commemorate a 1950 visit to Copenhagen by Winston Churchill.

It would be two years after my visit that the beer would launch its iconic “Probably the Best Lager in the World” slogan – voiced by Orson Welles – and another 19 before it controversially merged with English tea maker Tetley.

In 1973 there was one thing on my mind… the very end of the tour you take round the brewery.

Back then – unlike now when you get a 1 free beer token when you buy your admission ticket – each group were taken to a set of tables in a very stately room and told they could drink as much as they wanted from what was available in front of them. In the middle of the table there would be at least 6 bottles of every beer and soft drink they produced, from the regular Pilsner via the aforementioned Special Brew, and right up to the export-only “Elephant Blend”.

I’ll bet my Dad had a few (not too many) and I’ll bet I had a few (too many) that day, before snaffling away those beermats in my coat pockets.

Holger was my uncle, one of my grandmother’s many brothers. He was a somewhat misogynistbachelor who lived in a sizeable bungalow on the inner Danish coast in a tiny village called Sønderby. Getting there required the services of several buses, tube trains and overland connections from Denmark’s excellent public transportation system. (The system remains astonishing to this day, and I often dream of living in Denmark and not needing a car at all!). Upon arrival at Holger’s place we would – seemingly immediately – all chow down on a stunning selection of foods, beers and spirits he would have ‘brought in’ that very morning from a local store.

After lunch we would invariably take a stroll down to the shore, paddle our feet in the sea and then walk back for…. even more food and booze.

Sønderby North Church

Holger had a clever (and super intelligent) agreement with the local authorities in Sønderby regarding his property. Instead of having to pay property and land taxes every year he instead willed his home to the authority, the latter taking the (well judged) opinion that the value of the property would always be worth more than any unpaid taxes accrued over Holger’s lifetime.

This arrangement has always sat well with me as an idea and I trot it out to friends on a regular basis. It won’t appeal to families who would doubtless prefer to leave the house to their children, but for childless individuals/couples I think it is a perfect local taxation compromise.

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July 14th 1973

“Work all day. Sharon’s had a haircut. Went up Nigs in Evening and helped his Dad to make beer”

Read nothing in to me noticing 14-year-old Sharon had a haircut.

Especially if you’re my wife and feel that I rarely notice when you’ve had your hair cut. I’m old.

How does one help a friend’s Dad make beer?

Maybe I was the marketing guru, offering suggestions for names for his homebrew?

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March 2nd 1973

“Only worked till seven – felt a bit worn out after the past hectic week” / “Bort 3 light ales for the drinking of”

This cracks me up so very much.

One, the past week has apparently has been so hectic (reads back on entries, sees mention of scalextric, table tennis and one night’s homework) that I am now “a bit worn out

Two, I was fifteen years old.

Does it not strike you as a little odd that this 15-year-old was actually able to buy 3 light ales for the drinking of? I probably bought them at the very same supermarket I was working at, so it’s not as if anyone who served me would not have known my age. In 1973 maybe there weren’t laws stopping this kind of thing?…. checks internet… can’t find a reference point….

Three, THREE! I was buying three beers. Me, at 15 years old. What. the. hell?

I know that nowadays – and given the greater ‘chavvy’ culture of teenagers in Britain – drinking excessively as a youngster is almost ‘mandatory’, but I certainly don’t believe this was the same case in 1973 and that ‘decorum’ – if not the law – dictated that we kids didn’t DO this kind of thing.

My wife has pointed out that the purchase of three may suggest that I was instead buying them to go with the ‘family’ meal that evening – one for Mum, one for Dad and one for me – but I can’t be 100% certain of that now, can I?

If, indeed, I bort three and drank three bottles/cans of beer it would explain certain destructive habits I would fall into some 5 or 6 years later

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