Swansea was a mysterious place where limbs would vanish to re-attach themselves at inopportune moments.
Alcohol figured large, whether it was the three pints of Guinness to settle me the night before an exam, or as the regular lubricant that passed away time. I didn’t 'do roaring drunk' except on big occasions like finishing my degree, or MA or something equally grand. Then the results were spectacular. Most days it was pints and darts somewhere in the Mumbles.
On one occasion, walking back home, we stopped at a fish and chip shop. At this particular 'chippy' we tended to inspect each chip - especially the fat ones - before we eating it. The owner was missing fingers on both hands, and after a few pints subconscious fears kicked in. How had he lost them? Were we eating one now?
It was with such thoughts that we passed a launderette and dry cleaners. Outside was a discarded plastic tub. Under lamp-light it looked grubby but had a chemical smell which reassured us that it was basically clean. Whose idea it was I can’t remember, but we all agreed, this would be ideal for making beer…endless pints of cheap and drinkable beer. The emphasis was more on cheap than drinkable, which was just as well.
The evening came at last to try our home-made beer. All forty pints of it. The look of it should have been some kind of warning. Necromantic and oily with little grey flecks, it had a smell that could awaken the dead. A sorcerer’s brew. Wiser men would have tipped it down a drain. We decided to have a drinking contest.
The taste confirmed we were drinking something unutterably bad – fermented bleach with an after taste of cabbage and decayed fruit. Like some horrible game of Russian Roulette we each drank a pint in turn, waiting to see who would be the first to drop out - in one way or another.
Eventually there was only me and John Davies left. Ill but defiant, having drunk so much neither of us was willing now to admit defeat. Some countries follow a similar foreign policy.
I’d drunk what was to prove my final pint when it was John’s turn to match it. After four painful swallows his face turned a peculiar shade of green and he ran to the bathroom with me in close pursuit. No way was he going to tip that pint down the sink.
He sat on the edge of the bath drink in hand and vomiting. I sat alongside, a commiserating vulture, the rest outside confirming fair play. Someone afterwards told me how good I was, comforting and encouraging John in his moment of pain. If only they knew I was whispering viciously into his ear: ‘Drink you bastard, drink.’
Two tormented souls like something from a Russian novel.