(Finally this gets finished. I would like to apologise on behalf of us all to women readers and especially to Emma and Kate. I should probably also apologise to Magnus given the perhaps undue emphasis on his drinking frailty, but tough luck.)
The Blue Posts, Rupert Street, Soho
IMPORTANT NOTE: Tim Hopkins is not sexist.
The Rupert Street Blue Posts is a favourite of this weblog for one major reason – it is a little-known and cosy boozer where one can generally find a seat. Throughout our odyssey it had been held up as an oasis of comfort after the privations of Berwick and Kingly street. Unfortunately we had neglected to factor in that it was nine o clock on a Saturday night and at such an hour even an invisible pub would be jammed.
Luckily for us it was jammed with people too foolish to even know what stairs were for so we got a table in the Posts’ spartan but relatively empty upstairs room. The jukebox was on. “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos trilled forth. Was this song, I wondered somewhat randomly, about anal intercourse? Others demurred – I was surely thinking of corn on the cob. Magnus was silent. Pete and I got the beers while the others held the table: when I got back I was confronted by Dave who demanded I write “world domination for anal fixation” in the notebook, and who was I to argue? The conversation remained constipated – was Kelloggs called so because it contained the word ‘logs’? Magnus offered no opinion in favour or against.
In desperation I wrested the subject onto a man I’d seen on Treasure who collected pylon numbers. To no avail – there was only one thing to say about such a man, viz. he is a nutter. The conversation was starting to fragment – “Ned’s Atomic Dustbin were better than the Wonder Stuff” opined Tim firmly, the man who only three pubs earlier had been keen to remind us of the white dog shit/brown dog shit law of rock criticism (“it’s all dog shit”). What was happening to us?
A sharp-eyed Pete noticed something on the wall. A poster! But not just any poster! A poster on which you could write your own jokes! What madness was this? Nobody had written any jokes on it – this must change. I tried to make my pen write straight as I wrote the following Hopkins favourite:
“My wife went on holiday to Poole.”
“Yes, she’d recommend it to anyone!”
Returning to the table I found myself privileged to hear Tim tell his Greek joke (which is too long to give here but seemed very funny indeed at the time.). Chortling I headed for the jukebox with Pete, foolishly leaving my notebook behind. In the clutches of Magnus. When I got back I found a mysterious and illegible scrawl – robbed by drink of the power of speech, Magnus had found himself with no resort but to put his wisdom down on paper. What did it say? As far as I can tell, this:
“And cold [.......] acridity was the flavour.
My wifes, you see, are going abroad. As if they didnt like our drinking.
So this is Christmas
And what have we [.....]
Another year over
A new one just begun.”
Something was plainly afoot.
A new joke had appeared on the joke poster, put up by two backpackers. “Two parrots are sitting on a pirch. One says, What’s that fishy smell?”. As jokes go it was not awful, but the bizarre misspelling of perch threw us, particularly since the entire joke was based on it. Back at the table and Magnus was suffering – he could use some food, he said. NEVER! When on a pub crawl, eating is the worst possible form: this was generally accepted. But perhaps his second drink could be something a little…softer. Peter after all had switched to rum and coke. Dark rum, he was keen to point out. Dark rum, and man’s coke.
When a group of men get together, there will inevitably arise the thorny question of the opposite sex. When a group of men get together in several pubs, this question will most likely take its basest form and the result will be the social scourge of sexism. Now, we thank heaven are not yobs or boors: we were not going to discuss our sexual conquests or rate ‘birds’, certainly not. Our sexism took on a milder form, in the shape of a list of drinks, divided by gender. Some were women’s drinks: some were man’s drinks.
Man’s drinks included: Landlord bitter, Premium lager, and the aforementioned Dark Rum and Man’s Coke. But what of the women’s drinks? Light rum and diet caffeine free coke, obviously. Cooking lager. Wine. And the mysterious ‘Magnus juice’.
Our jukebox selection had come on, kicked off of course by “American Trilogy”, the VFM song of the 1970s, a good seven minutes of patriotic guff from the King. We – I am ashamed to say – sang along. Oh yes. All of us (except the still speechless Magnus). “Oh….I wisssssh…..I wuzzzzz…..in DIXEEEEE”. People were leaving. A charity collector braved the racket, bearing a striking resemblance to John’s ex, who for reasons obvious to those who know her can’t be named here. She was given short shrift, I’m afraid to say largely for this reason.
Elvis was followed by Slade. Pete held forth: “Merry Christmas Everybody” was the first ever single to go straight in at No.1. Surely a lie? No no, he couldn’t prove it but he knew in his heart it was true. (We checked the next day – it’s “Hound Dog” in 1959. Damn.). Meanwhile our raucousness was disturbing a young fellow trying to read at the next table. It seems an obvious question to ask, but really – who in heaven’s name reads books in a pub on a Saturday night? You are almost begging for some drunken pig to disturb you and ask what the book is. Which I, uh, did. The terror in his eyes was sobering. The book was the Australian issue of Granta.
Back to women. Could the Lie of Xerxes be used as a pick-up? We agreed generally that astrology was high on the list of turn-offs in a potential mate. As would be a liking for Radiohead’s Kid A. But, it was decreed, no women liked Kid A. Just imagine, though…just imagine what that groundbreaking record would have sounded like had it been made by women! Had it been made, in fact…..by FUZZBOX? We fell silent to contemplate the grandeur a ‘woman’s Kid A’ would no doubt possess.
Then, naturally, we started talking about the second Prodigy album instead. Dave had not seen the sleeve to Music For The Jilted Generation – what a golden opportunity to describe it! It turns out, though, that after several and divers drinks the inner sleeve of MFTJG is a very very difficult thing to accurately capture. There’s this rope bridge, right, and a chasm, and some police, and a load of crusties, and….hold on, there aren’t any chasms in England? What about the Cheddar Gorge? That doesn’t count, it’s not a proper one. Bollocks, it is. And so on. We settled on Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Crusties as the only adequate descriptor for this masterpiece of hippie nonsense art.
Never let it be said that the Pumpkin Publogs team is not concerned for its fellow drinkers wellbeing. But in our ragged state it took us a little while to notice that something was wrong with Magnus. Very wrong. In my notebook I wrote with concern, “MAGNUS IS SHITTED”. He was making odd noises. Pete tugged at my arm and sloshed his drink everywhere, but the beauty of the short is that you can spill it and lose almost no liquid. Meanwhile Magnus was in a bad way: the worst fate a drinker can possibly suffer had befallen him. He had the hiccups.
No cures for hiccups work. And yet everyone knows several and will tell them to you, happy in the knowledge you know them too and will hate your advisors within minutes. We were very eager to help Magnus in this fashion – drink backwards! swallow, don’t breathe! hold your breath! Finally he retreated to the toilets, the only places where a sufferer can have peace, at least until some bladder-wracked fellow pubgoer hammers on the door.
Upon his return (he missed a song by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who are a) awful and b) known by everyone in every pub despite selling few records) he had brought crisps. McCoys and Brannigans….but wait! Wait! Gone was the jolly fat butcher man from the Brannigan’s packet! Gone was the waxy papery texture! In its place was horrid McCoys foil and the Brannigan’s name written diagonally…just like McCoys! We all howled at the scandal of it: another victim, another staple of pubgoing life claimed by the merciless forces of the free market. This, I adjudged, was the Most Important Thing Of The Night.
Disgusted, we took our leave of the fourth Blue Posts and headed for the uncharted areas of St. James’. To Tim went the last word: “Guy Debord”, he wisely intoned, “Would have understood the urge to drink.”