14 – Cats and Dogs, Barrels and a Touch of ESP
Of course things happen when fellows get together. They always have. They always will. It is just a matter of what and when. It was a Saturday night. Quite a usual time for things to happen. It was the night of the stag night. And incidentally the night of the big flood. Or to be exact the big flood during the day after the big storm.
Quite a sedate affair compared to modern day stag nights. But that was the form then. Before smoking bans and drink drive laws. Nothing planned. The meeting place was the pub of course. When they opened at five thirty. The boozer. Not our normal boozer. “Special night let’s have a change.” Our contingent, only ten strong, were all on time if not a bit early as the pub door was not unlocked. Freddie who is rather an impatient sort started rattling the door handle. Rattled it a bit and then quite loudly.
A voice piped up, a bit stroppy, probably because of being behind the safety of a locked door.
“We are not open.”
“Because you are making a row.”
“And if we stop?”
“I will open the door in five minutes.”
So Freddie was slapped about the head for losing us valuable drinking time. The pub opened exactly five minutes later.
“If you had not rattled the door you could have been in quicker.”
No comment from our side at present just a touch of persuasion to prevent the landlord’s head being lost from his shoulders.
One pint each and then we were off.
“Only the one lads?”
“We are off to a more friendly place. If you had opened earlier, on time, without the little fit, we would have been here a while. In fact quite a while.”
“Your banned.” Was thrown at us as we left.
“He’s either for an early grave or the bankruptcy court.” Was a reasonable comment from Billy.
We decided to head for the bowling alley. Soft seats and a big bar the attraction. Booked a lane. The wait was one and a half hours. Unbelievable for a game that requires a real naff looking shirt and fancy shoes. We settled into a bay listening to the music and drinking only a copious amount of beer. A cheese burger and several pints later Rich, a non-smoker, dips his hand into the pocket of his jacket and pulls out a pipe. Short little thing with a slight bend. “Going to have a smoke.”
“What’s with this smoking crap then Rich.”
“Adds an air of respectability. A suggestion of upper class intelligence.”
“Both sadly lacking in your case. Chuck it in the bin.”
Lights it up and started puffing away.
“Do us a favour Rich. Rich! Oh come on Rich.”
The stink was appalling. Great clouds of blue grey smoke billowing about the place. Coughing and all sorts. “Will settle down in a minute.”
Well behind us was this gang. We knew them a bit. Had seen them around. A bit snapped up as they were clearly entertaining. A few girls that is. They took exception. Mostly because the fumes were heading their way. Not unreasonable of course. But mates stick together. Don’t they. “Put that smog out” was their most printable suggestion. Rich just puffed a bit harder with this air of fake upper class smugness you know nose slightly upturned and complete indifference to his surroundings.
That was it. A grab made for the pipe, ripped out of Rich’s mouth and chucked out to the walkway. Smouldering away on the carpet. Rich straight up flailing away catching one of the standing by now girls in the face. She went down squeaking and her man jumped the bench into the arms of Benny who inadvertently dropped him. The others following thrashing about trying to hit someone. We all evacuated the bay stood watching the mess. They got sorted and came our way in a fury. The damaged girl up with nose being dabbed.
Security entered the scene. No messing, went straight for Rich who neatly side stepped, bent down, picked up his pipe and strolled away. All hell broke loose. Three security guards chucking people out. Squawking girls slapping faces. Hissing, scratching, writhing. Security taking a right bashing. They could certainly make a fuss when necessary could girls. The other fellows and us continuing to scuffle all the way to the door. And outside Rich sitting on a wall puffing away. More of a point was made with a bit more “pushing” and “shoving” then they drifted off. We having stern words with the instigator, chucked the pipe and threatened wrath and destruction if we ever saw it again.
It was still early having lasted in the bowling alley only one hour. We did sink a few there though. Quite a few in fact so were nicely placed to take the local Chinese cuisine by storm. By the time we got there it was approaching eight o’clock but even so, as with all Chinese and indeed Indian places of this dubious calibre, a table for ten was no problem. They merely sat us in the centre by joining together three tables of four. Nice crisp white table cloth that was shortly to become that pinky orange sweet and sour sickly sauce colour. Chop sticks. Phil took them. He had worked in Hong Kong for a while. At least that is what he said but rumour suggested a much more dubious reason. We all chucked them in favour of spoon and folk. Not necessarily because we could not use them but we were not proficient enough to prevent the sniggering waiters having stories to tell their many grandchildren. If they ever reached that age of course.
Given our state of inebriation ordering was fortunately not difficult. Everyone knows the Chinese only know their food by numbers so we just went round the table and each blurted out two numbers. At random. No menus needed. The assortment of food that arrived would have astounded the most free minded spirit. At least four dishes were discarded as being disgusting and six sweet and sour jobs, mostly chicken, that dyed the table cloth such a disgraceful colour. There was something brown floating in a sort of soup that actually tasted reasonable but the suspicion of next day trauma put most off. Frogs legs in gunk, a few assorted indistinguishables and such a pile of egg fried noodles that a champion knitter would be proud of. Rice was absent. Beer was in abundance.
We piled into the noodles with a touch of the sweet and sour and a couple of the more tasty others. Not sure if tasty is right, just palatable others is probably more suitable. Little Dave decides to visit the facilities. There are two Daves, Big Dave and Little Dave. Big Dave is five foot six and Little Dave is six foot four. This may seem odd to some people but quite obvious to those would knew them and knew them well. Big Dave arrived in this world in March and Little Dave in June. It is therefore right that March being senior should have preference when deciding the correct allocation of titles. Anyway Little Dave is off to the loo. Returns in a state of some euphoria. “I’ve just nicked a whole barrel of beer. It’s out the back in the rear lane.” It turns out that the store room on the left on route to the loo was unlocked and the door open.
Well Big Dave is off like a flash and returns with “got one and it’s in the lane.” Everyone is amazed. Little Dave clearly has the wherewithal to heft a heavy beer cask but Big Dave? That aside there was suddenly a massive flash and crash and it started to rain. All the cats and dogs coming down at the same time. Within a few minutes the street was awash. It turned out to be the worst storm for a century. A million millimetres of rain in five minutes or something like that.
We left the restaurant and headed for Joey’s which was quite near collecting the beer barrels on route. Getting soaked. Little Dave managing but struggling a touch. Big Dave just strolling in the park with some new found super strength. At Joey’s we had one full and one empty barrel. Little Dave nearly dead from carrying his, especially up the two flights of stairs. Big Dave trying to conjure a sweat and a weary look. With no barrel tap there was no means to open the full barrel. A swift whack on the end of a large screw driver with a mallet solved the problem. The escaping pressure painting the ceiling with a nice beer coloured foam but there was enough rescued to complete the evening. How to dispose of the evidence was a good question. As already said this was a time before drink drive laws. The equivalent of the breathalyser was to walk a straight white line at the police station without falling off. The usual punishment for failure, a ride home in a police car and a “sleep it off son. Collect your car in the morning.”
So Billy had his van outside. Load up the barrels and whizz them to the river bridge about two miles away. Two hundred miles an hour round sharp bends and narrow lanes driving purely on ESP. Dump the barrels into the river and back. That pretty much was the end of the evening. Apart from the two bottles of Red Label from Joey’s private stash. Then black out until the nine am news.
The storm was so violent that the river had risen beyond all previous levels and flooded a vast area of the low-lying parts of the village. It was the practice of the water authority that supervised the river levels to close the sluice gates in extreme circumstances to flood the water meadows up-stream to save the village. This time however the sluice gates would not close due to an aluminium barrel being stuck in each. Two hours passed before police divers could free the gates by which time enough water had passed to deposit two feet of water into the village. The river bridge was just a few hundred feet up river from the sluice gates.
There was a further consequence. The church where Doug was due to get married was under water so the wedding was postponed. The reception was still held though. In the village hall which was on higher ground. The local rubbish band doing their normal gig routine of oldies which as usual failed miserably. The church service rescheduled for a few weeks later. The earliest time available. Doug’s fiancé was well miffed but still enjoyed the pre-wedding honeymoon to the Seychelles and one year on they are still married. There was of course another stag night the night before the rearranged wedding which was deemed only right and proper. But a trip to the Chinkie nosh was avoided. There was a pact of brothers written in blood that no one was to ever divulge the secret of the beer barrels. To this day with all ten of us still above ground the truth is still destined to be buried with us. That is of course assuming nobody reads this guilt inspired account.
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