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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Wet Legs

There was rarely, if ever any crowd trouble at Liverpool or Everton matches, for one simple reason. The police turned a blind eye to the law. In those days licensing hours dictated that pubs shut at three pm in the afternoon and not open again until 5.30. The problem was Saturday football usually ended somewhere in between – so the pubs stayed quietly opened, siphoning off the huge crowds enroute to Lime street station. A law was broken but everyone benefited. Then, it may have been the 1980’s, a new and zealous Chief Constable enforced the law. The pubs were forced to stay shut. Thousands and thousands of thirsty people walked en masse the three or so miles to the rail station, and crowd trouble began. You need to know when to turn a blind eye – in the classroom, marriage, dealing with children – or in this case thirsty adults. When it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

With relaxed licensing laws, the ‘lockup’ has lost most of its magic. When I played with an Irish band in Newport, we regularly played at O Reilly’s on a Sunday lunch hour. The pub ‘closed’ at three pm, and the regulars including us stayed on drinking behind locked doors. The Liverpool ‘Lockup was much the same.

I went for a drink with my cousin, Michael McDonald, somewhere in Kirkdale I think. We didn’t get there until Ten pm, which worried me because pubs shut at Ten Thirty. I was introduced to Mike’s thirteen or so friends – then somebody bought a round – 14 pints. Bloody hell, I thought, we’re going to have to drink fast. Ten twenty somebody else in the group bought a reciprocal round…and then the ‘lockup’ began. I was choking down my fourteenth pint sometime around 1.30 in the morning. I had to go to the toilet.

Walls bounced as I clung for purchase, and an immense cloud of steam filled the latrine as I released the contents of an overstrained bladder. Four of Mike’s friends joined me, two on each side. We peed in companionable silence. Then someone asked me where I came from.

‘Liverpool,’ I said, puzzled.

“Yer wha? They turned, still pissing. “What’s happened to yer accent?” They spoke like concerned doctors confronted with pneumonia in Belize.

I had no answer. Just a pair of very wet legs.

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