Archive for the ‘Gin Club’ Category

 (Again, all-new, exclusive article for your pleasure and information.)

Tu-Gin-Su, Hav-U, F***ing Boring and I went to the Castle. You go up New Town road and take a left. It’s tucked away, but cheerily lit and welcoming.

As soon as we went in I was just delighted. Why oh why have I lived in this town for fourteen years and never been in this place? It’s ADORABLE. A tortoiseshell cat called Titch lay sprawled across two bar stools. There’s soft pinkish flowery wallpaper. The place looks like it hasn’t changed for decades. Nobody’s messed with it. There’s a bell, a brass knight, a darts board, a Martini mirror. In the next room there is a Kit-kat clock, a Finest Scotch Whisky mirror, old paintings, wooden shiny panelling and notice-boards with kids’ pictures. We asked the bar-maid if a picture of a pub was the Castle. She asked someone else, who said, ‘nah, got that from a charity shop.’ They really haven’t tried too hard (in a good way). It’s original, and secret. Til now, ha ha.

We headed to a cosy corner near a fireplace, book shelves, a pile of board games, and a chilled chap called Paul who was doing the crossword. We stood our drinks on Brigadier beer mats with ‘Bang on,’ written on them. Tu-Gin-Su nodded at the curtains: ‘1980s M’nS’. She knows about such things. We chortled over a ‘Worzel Gummidge’ annual, ‘The Commonwealth Book of Cricket No. 3’, and ‘Deborah’s Secret Quest.’

F***ing Boring went to the hole in the wall cubbyhole thingy to get more gins and kit-kats. She wants to set Hav-U up with her cousin. He’s popping over from some far-flung place. ‘You’ll only have a day and a half to make it work,’ she said.

Hav-U, in her normal, sceptical mode, looked singularly unimpressed with the plan.

Fucking Boring told us about her first wedding, in France. The priest ranted on in French for ages: ‘blurgh, blurgh, blurgh, blurgh.’ The interpreter waited several minutes for a little pause, looked at the congregation, said, ‘Firstly…’ and looked back at the interpreter expectantly. It was apparently very funny/you kind of had to be there.

‘Are we walking the ponies Sunday morning?’ asked Tu-Gin-Su.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘of course.’

‘Or is it…hmm, weather-dependent?’ she asked.

I realised she meant, ‘You-not-being-hungover-dependent’. The last Sunday she met me at the ponies I was in recovery from Maura-next-door’s killer cocktails. Tu-Gin-Su took off rugs and picked up poos on her ownio while I lay on the grass puking quietly into the thistles. Not good. I should follow Fucking Boring’s lead and give up drink. My body has identified it as a poison.

I loved this pub so much though that when the others got up to leave, I borrowed two quid from the kitty and stayed for another half. The bar-maid didn’t realise I only had two quid til she’d poured most of a pint so I got the biggest half you’ve ever seen. I rang Fred who was on the train and asked if he would come home via the Castle. Got chatting to Paul in the interim. He said there used to be a great pub called the Fox, opposite the vet in Rye Street. ‘Pokey, three bars, proper olde worlde,’ he said wistfully. I told him I’d fallen instantly in love with this pub and he said, ‘yeah, it’s because nobody knows about it, we’ve got it to ourselves.’ Oops. Don’t say I told you.

Fred turned up and got a pint of Doombar in.

We rummaged amidst the board-games and came across: ‘Mid-Life Crisis.’ We couldn’t resist and started rolling the dice, hopping through our thirties, forties, fifties, and zapping each other with divorce and stress points.

Crisis after crisis drove us to drink: I had another Guinness, Fred tried a pint of Seafarer’s.

The game made us die laughing. ‘You discover your child’s nursery teacher is on drugs. Add 100 stress points.’ ‘Your spouse has been leading a double life. Take a CRISIS card.’ ‘You discover what a proctologist does for a living. Take a CRISIS card.’ ‘You haven’t been feeling well, so you see a psychiatrist who tells you you haven’t been feeling well. Pay £1000.’ I need to have this game for Christmas. Sign up anyone who wants to join in: we’ll be playing round the clock.

We said goodbye to purring black and white Oreo, and Titch. The bar-maid told us they are part of a great clan. It reads like Genesis: Mittens begat Alfie, Oreo, and Sprite, who begat Ella and Bisto, who begat Titch and Zorro…

‘Litrally’ what have I been doing all my life? *strikes head* I should have been taking a daily stroll with all and sundry through the grave-yard to the Castle.


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(Another World Premiere for this ALL-NEW never-before-published episode of The Gin Club, which was written in October 2013.)

My son Alfie has a lovely girlfriend called Sophie. She asked me if the Gin Club would be going to the pub she works in, The Nag’s Head.

Ooh, nothing we like more than an invite. Just Boring picked me up in her Mini. She’s doing Sober October, so she’s F***ing Boring now.

The Nag’s Head is a lot bigger inside than it looks outside. Very art deco. Packed with post-work spill-out making themselves heard at the bar.

Sophie was being a brilliant waitress. F***ing Boring ordered a coke. I should’ve told her coke is evil and kills worse than alcohol but am I really bovvered? You can bang on about things all you like but people never listen.

Our friend and culture vulture Poppy (not her real name!) joined us for gin as she lives nearby, and was holding one of her many book groups there later. We talked about Pippa Middleton calling our new headmaster ‘undeniably fanciable’. Was this a slur on his reputation, in the very week he started at the school? It did lower the tone a bit, we agreed. ‘Well, it did…and it didn’t,’ said Poppy, ‘because it was a member of the Royal Family.’ Yes, anyone else in the whole world and it would have lowered the tone. ‘Even Nelson Mandela?’

‘Well, he wouldn’t have said it…’ said Mad Lucy, rather reasonably, for her.

Conversation moved on to the Stortford Threader, a fearsome woman who lurks in Jackson Square. ‘She plucks hairs out of their roots viciously and quickly,’ declared Mad Lucy.

‘Ooh, go on, tell us about when she looked at your chin,’ I said.

‘Oh alright…’ We all leaned forward, clutching our gins. We’d heard the story many times before. ‘She’d finished my eyebrows. I got up to go but then…’ we held our breath, ‘….she looked at my chin, up close, very close. She looked me in the eye and said, ‘Chin?’ I shook my head, terrified. ‘But you have very hairy chin!’ she exclaimed, her words booming around Jackson Square. ‘Very hairy chin, very hairy upper lip, very hairy sides of face, VERY HAIRY FOREHEAD!’ ‘

We howled with laughter. Mad Lucy does it so well. She ended up with a stripped face. F***ing Boring said she likes to tidy up her minge, but does not want a nude minge. Poppy said absolutely no nude minges because they result from the dictates of the porn industry. We talked about Movember, and Caitlin Moran’s Hairy Muff chapter. It is sad that the youf feel obliged to be hair-free, and suffer in-growing hairs, cystitis, irritation. Poppy maintained this pressure is culture-led.

I said, ‘well, when we had Alfie in a New York birthing centre, they wanted to whisk him off to hack off his foreskin. I had to hang on to him for dear life.’

Mad Lucy, who has spent time in Iran, muttered ‘Read the Koran….Sand under the foreskin, not good.’

‘We didn’t live in a very sandy place,’ I pointed out.

‘Well, no, but if you lived in the desert in a yurt you might want to get it done.’

Tu-Gin-Su mentioned Tracy Emin’s image of a plucked chicken ‘on her bits’. Did Tracy do this to make us hate the nude minge? Probably, because it’s a horrible image. We talked about how sometimes men are forced to be waxed too, even on their tender bollocks.

Ooh, that gave me an idea. I could volunteer my dear husband to have his bollocks waxed for charity. He would raise tons of money! So, if you meet him in town, please congratulate him on his philanthropy. He’ll have no idea what you’re on about, as he never reads anything I write. This means he’ll only find out once his Justgiving page reaches five grand, we start the camera for Youtube rolling and tell him it’s time. ‘Time for what?’ he’ll say.

‘Time to get your bollocks waxed, of course,’ we will say. ‘A thousand people have donated a fiver for this to happen. You can’t pull out now.’

Sigh. What a wondrous image: I feel a short story brewing. Anyway, back to our conversation: ‘I like to stay hairy,’ I said, ‘because I like being an animal.’

‘Now that could be interpreted in several ways,’ said Mad Lucy.

F***ing Boring said primly, (remember she’s Sober for October), ‘well, I prefer being neatly trimmed.’

Poppy said, ‘The real problem is that the need for smoothness is so embedded in our culture that people don’t realise they have a choice.’

‘Hairy is ugly though,’ said F***ing Boring.

Poppy said, ‘Why should something entirely natural be ugly?’ She then ruined her point by confessing that her highly principled tufty pits made her so self-conscious at her aqua-aerobics class that she had to stop going.

Sophie approached to take glasses away. ‘Let’s ask the youf what they think,’ I said. ‘Sophie, do your mates feel obliged to wax or shave all over?’

Sophie laughed but wisely did not enlighten us as to the hairiness of her mates. She did bring us another Guinness or three though.

Tu-Gin-Su said, ‘we don’t want hairy bits popping out of our tights though, do we?’

Mad Lucy told us how she wore the hijab in Iran and wafted around in the heat of the desert. She said underneath there’s a surprising amount of glamour going on.

I told them all about the big Russian mamas in the waxing parlour in NYC where they used to give people accidental orgasms. Oh alright, by people, I mean me. Look, it was completely unintentional! Not my fault! BTW I bet it happens all the time, but no one ever fesses up. Seriously not easy grappling with small-talk while in unexpected throes though.

Shit. Should have gone Sober for October. Then these embarrassing things would never come out.

F***ing Boring said to Poppy, ‘Just because you’re hairy doesn’t mean you can’t be my friend.’

Poppy said, ‘Equally, just because you’re smooth’ (and fucking boring, she should have added) ‘it doesn’t mean you can’t be my friend.’

I decided to hang around for Poppy’s ‘book’ group. They had apparently prophesied: ‘By the time we turn up you’ll be proper mashed.’

They turned up, and true to form, we was already proper mashed.

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(Ha ha, we have now progressed to the first of:  the new, never-before-published episodes of the Gin Club – World Premiere!)

So, groovy groovy, Bishop’s Stortford has its very own record shop, in our local, the Half Moon, no less. This is an absolute stroke of genius. You can just see the blokes dragged down town of a Saturday afternoon doing a swift u-ie on the way into M’n’S saying, ‘Look, darling, just remembered, gotta pop to the ‘record shop’. Meet you in there in an hour, yeah?’ If they’re clever they will remember to support their case with a couple of warped LPs under their arm to ‘sell’, ha ha. The girls on the other hand will get their bloke safely into Coopers and say with an airy wave, ‘Just gonna scoot up the ‘record shop’ for a bit, OK, love.’ She’ll do a runner, leaving him forlorn and palely loitering with the runner bean seeds, buggy, baby and toddler. ‘Record shop’, you see, is synonymous with ‘Break From Your Life.’

Records and old framed posters of bands who have played at the Half Moon bestrew the walls. The round tables are painted a glossy black, with one of those teensy records stuck in the middle…what did we used to call them? Singles? 45s? This is just it, the shop is so delightfully retro you can feel your brain shunting back into a seventies, eighties mode. You need your flares and Grateful Dead t-shirt on really or at the very least a perm.

Oh my God, it’s only gone and triggered a flashback to my very first single! It was by Soul Asylum and was my brother Pete’s, but I nicked it. It was called ‘Put The Bone In‘. Yeah, sounds rude! And probably was rude, thinking about it… It went ‘Put the bone in/ She begged him/ Once more/ My doggie’s been hit by/ A car/ And I do want to bring,/ Him home something/ Put the bone in/ She yelled out once more.’ Honestly in those days, people made songs out of the weirdest scenarios. And Lord only knows what was on the B side! Or maybe ‘Put The Bone In’ was the B side. Now that would make sense. In which case, I wonder what the hell was on the A side?

Can you remember sliding the record out of its sleeve, lowering the needle, watching a speck of dust go round and round? Can you still hear the crackle before the song started? Staring at the rhythmically undulating surface (if yours were warped like mine), you really got the word Groove.

We turned up for the grand opening and to find good records for Mad Lucy’s upcoming vinyl night. A DJ was strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage. Not really: he was chilled. The doors were open to the garden. Warm winds blew through the crowds flipping through records. The bar at the back of the room had become a counter. Still with handles for pulling beers though. Ooh, look! Merchandise! Badges, T-shirts, picks.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Remember that gorjuss Popstar who was behind the bar in the Star? Well, *whisper* he runs the ‘record shop’. He can’t leave if you arrive. He’s got to stay there, lol, it’s his job and he’s a sitting duck. Feel free. Gaze in awe as much as you like. Just don’t say any of the things in this video I came across on facebook: ‘shit people say in record stores.’

Top Tip: don’t turn up before midday. This shop only opens at midday. People who run record shops are obviously way too cool to be awake at any point during the morning due to the fact they are up all night listening to records or gigging in far-flung raves.

Another Top Tip: make sure you know what your favourite record is and make sure it’s a cool choice, otherwise you will never ever get a job there. My favourite record is not Put the Bone In, surprisingly enough, but is Captain Beefheart’s Blue Jeans and Moonbeams, with the track Party of Special Things to Do. In 1990, as Mill Road housemates, Fred and I, our friend Wozzie and the improbably named Abigail Rainbird Tripp held our very own Party of Special Things to Do. I can highly recommend it. It’s always good to provide things for your guests to do, keep em busy. There was table football in the bathroom, hacky sac, jamming, tree climbing, cocktail-shaking, throat-singing (this involved a bong and ended badly, I remember), backgammon, chess and probably some less benign things wot I have forgotten due to the nature of the event…but I DO remember learning that hallucinogens and big brown slug invasion do not go at all well together.  We live and learn.  This is a good thing.

After rummaging the Janis Joplin we sat out in the pub stable yard with our pints of Hobgoblin. Top Tip: don’t sit in the shorter squarish wicker seats. They are vicious and dig into your back. Go for the high-backed chairs and from there admire the rampant sunflowers, old stable doors, higgledy-piggledy mossy rooftops and chimney pots. Old England at its best.

Anyway, so! Fabulous hangout to meet up with friends, the ‘record shop.’ I told my Chloe about it, using ‘the fingers’. She got the wrong end of the stick entirely, gasped and exclaimed, ‘Oh wow! Is it a brothel?’

Ha ha, no, we don’t think so. One thing we are sure of: it’s a great excuse for a pint.

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People have been messaging me and stopping me in the street to tell me all about the Grey Lady of the Tunnels. I’m sure the Tunnel starts up at St Mary’s school‘ said one mysterious Tunnel Authority, who also ‘works’ at the ‘record shop’…’from the days when it was a convent and the nuns had to hide from all the randy priests (or something like that). The old caretaker at the school told us that the Grey Lady was a nun who committed suicide by throwing herself from the top window.’


Bit harsh, I say: couldn’t she just have hoiked up her habit and kicked the randy priest in the bollocks? Or, *gasp*, what if she didn’t jump: what if she was pushed? From all her spying out of cubbyholes had she maybe witnessed something untoward?


The Tunnel Authority continued: ‘On another occasion the caretaker told us she hanged herself from the roof beams and showed us the marks in the wood. I’m trying to work out in which order she committed this double suicide. Maybe she survived the fall and ran back upstairs to try something else? I’m also intrigued as to why she’s the Grey Lady…surely all female ghosts are Grey Ladies….or do ghosts come in a variety of hues?’


I think most towns have a Grey Lady. Our poor lass probably just wants that rotter priest’s gravestone defiled, then she’ll rest in peace.


I bumped into landlord Pete et al outside the Whore’s Bed (yes, if you want a social life, just hang around on them front steps during the day) and he told me he had started excavating the tunnel. Because of our interest, he’s getting some real ghost-busters in, electronic equipment and all, from half-ten on a Sunday night in the near future, til three in the morning. Another chap, Mel, out on them steps assured me (‘if my Missus were around, she would tell you’) the tunnel does go down via the George and the Star all the way to the castle.


‘So they say,’ chipped in Pete, lighting up another ciggie. He really should give up.


‘So they say…’ agreed Mel….’so they say.’


He insisted though that he and the Missus had seen both the Grey Lady and some fellow who died four hundred years ago. Phyllis-next-door later told me that some visitors saw a chap quite clearly standing at the window in one of her upstairs bedrooms, looking out into the garden.


I found lots of detailed stories of spirits at the Star, the High Street, the Boar’s, Coopers, and many more Bishop’s Stortford locations on the Luton Paranormal website. At the quiz night I also found out about this Ghosts of Stortford lecture coming up at the Rhodes. The description of the evening mentions not only the Grey Lady but also the Duelling Cavalier – blimey, who’s he? It’s on the 30th of October, practically Hallowe’en. I’m going with Phyllis-next-door. I’ve been interested ever since about forty years ago when my Granny Peggy told me she was slapped on the back with a wet flannel whilst having a bath.


Fred says it’s more likely that the spooks are aliens having us on than spirits of dead people. Come on, ghosts! I hereby invoke you to float about a bit and give cynic Fred a fright one night!

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Mad Lucy turned up at the Whore’s Bed saying that Dubai Luke wanted to come to Gin. ‘How old is he?’ we asked. ‘About eighteen,’ she replied. Hmm, no, he can’t come. Oh, well, maybe once he can, just for lols.

Just Boring looked at my hair, held firmly down with a knitted band. ‘Take it off,’ she ordered. I took it off. The hair sprung to attention like a massive light-bulb. ‘You need a hairdresser who will RELAX your hair,’ she advised. Mad Lucy agreed. ‘Yes, you really need RELAXED hair,’ she said. Oh bloody hell! The pressure.

We had our usual: Guinness, vodka, gin. The barmaid, Naomi, looks just like Tank Girl. She also has the most fantastic collection of tattoos, some even on her neck and scalp. She’s not got much space left. She’s had nearly 100 hours done and recommends the local parlour on South Street.

We were sitting by the window, next to a wood-burner, at a long, warped table. The view is all battlements, turrets and flint of St Michael’s. This pub must do well out of weddings, funerals, christenings. A papier-mache boar’s head grins out of the window with an apple in its mouth.

We discussed the Radio 4 Ethical Debates. They are tricky, as both or multiple sides are compelling. Then we got onto Jimmy Savile. We were kids when ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ was on telly. I wanted a pony but so did everyone else so I knew there was no point asking Jim. Just Boring desperately wanted to escape from Alcatraz, as you do, but, having well-developed Perv Radar, found Jim too creepy to apply.

Oh, the karaoke started up. The landlord, Pete, who used to be the mayor of Stortford, did a rendition of ‘You Are Always On My Mind,’ quite well really, must be said. He then brought us a plate of spicy Caribbean chicken and introduced us to Adi, his new chef. ‘Ooh, this is so good,’ we told Adi. ‘How do you make it?’

‘I can’t tell you that,’ he smiled.

‘Please! Garlic?…chilli? Maybe paprika?’

‘The last person who got that secret out of me owns KFC,’ he said.

Fred turned up and we got talking about the tunnel we’ve always been told runs from our house via this pub to Waytemore Castle. We asked Naomi if she knew anything about it. ‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘Down in the cellar there’s an archway with a couple of steps heading up that way,’ she gestured up Windhill, ‘but it’s bricked up.’

‘Ooh,’ we breathed, feeling like we were in an Enid Blyton adventure. When we first moved into our house, we squeezed through a trap-door into a cavernous dusty expanse under the floor, and spent ages looking for the tunnel, but it’s murky down there.

That first year we held a halloween party. Fred hung severed hands and staring china dolls on nooses down in that spooky space and trailed a parade of spiders and a lost valley of dinosaurs, arranged according to their correct geological epochs, through the dust. He put the girls’ My-Size Dancing Barbie Doll, bleeding from her eyes, under a ghostly green light…you get the idea. He made a sign: ‘Fred’s Secret Passage,’ and, dressed in dark robes with a gory mask and scythe, stood by the trapdoor.

Thirteen years later, people in the town are still talking about Fred’s Secret Passage. He still says ‘If I had a pound for every person who went down there….’

Mad Lucy’s Nigel arrived. He reminisced upon his youf, thoroughly misspent in the Boar’s, local lad that he is. Ahh Bleeess, we could just imagine him in 1980 at the age of 17. ‘I had my first snakebite in here,’ he said, all wistful.

‘What is a snakebite?’ I asked.

‘Something foul I think,’ whispered Mad Lucy.

‘It’s half cider, half lager, blackcurrant and pernod,’ said Nigel.

‘Ugh,’ we went.

‘No, a snakebite’s just scrumpy and lager,’ said Fred.

‘Maybe you’re right,’ said Nigel. ‘Mine was more a Black Adder, I think.’

‘Sounds disgusting, whichever way you had it,’ we said.

‘This was the only pub that would serve you,’ said Nigel. ‘Tchuh! Next to the Police Station as well!’

‘Ha ha, right!’ said Fred.

Mad Lucy said we should ask Naomi to yank a brick out of the blocked tunnel and shout ‘hallooooooo!’ down it, and some of us lot should go home and get down Fred’s Secret Passage to have a listen. ‘Go on!’ she urged. ‘I’m sure Naomi will get her trowel out.’ The landlord promised us he would go down there next week and unblock it.

Imagine the joint Halloween Party we and the Boar’s could hold down in the tunnel! Mmm, we’ll need lashings of ginger beer! Will report back on excavational progress: stay tuned.

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Jet-setting Jen, Just Boring and Tu-Jin-Su all live within a hundred yards or so of the Wheatsheaf so it’s their local. It means they can nip home to adjust the cooking while they are having gin.


Mad Lucy was at the round table in the red-curtained bay window looking onto the road. ‘Nice view,’ said Just Boring, pointing out at a dirty white van. She tipped the remains of last week’s kitty out of the kitty sock. We peered at the few manky quid coins suspiciously. God knows why we trust her with our crisp tenners, she’s probably out on the town with them every night.


We got the drinks in. Pint of Guinness for me, gin for Tu-Jin-Su, Just Boring and Jet-setting Jen, Vodka for Mad Lucy. The table is enormous. It would work well for Hearts, Forecast Whist, or Crib. Who needs cards though when you can talk about sex?


Four bespectacled blokes were embroiled in erudite argument at the bar. Four lads were strutting their stuff at the pool table. A couple were snogging up against the wall. I peeked out at the deck. Only half-five but three tables were already groaning with locals. The Wheatsheaf is a really popular pub. I guess all the Barrels Down Lane people just roll down the hill. It’s also the first port of call for Rye Street and Lindsey Road dwellers on a night out.


Just Boring told us the pub used to be dark and so packed you could hardly get in, but now it’s been done up: it smells of fresh paint and instead of sticky carpet there are gleaming boards. We got another round in and started talking about orgasms, (might as well start with orgasms as they are bound to feature at some point), Mumford and Sons and The Joy of Sex. These last two go together according to Jet-setting Jen; it’s to do with the beards.


Despite it being boiling hot, (or maybe because of that, who knows?) it started pouring down outside. A swirly brown river rushed down Northgate End. Thunder rumbled. Water ran in gurgling sheets down the windows. Hmm, even we knew that was a gutter problem. The landlord came to shut our window as we were getting splashed as well as smashed. He told us he’s doing three years and then he’s promised his other half he’ll give it up, have a normal life, do normal things. We told him he had a gutter problem.


The rain slammed even harder at the window. We got all excited: ooh, you never get bored of the weather in England, do you? Then we noticed it was raining, hard, inside, in the bar area! We found this so funny that we got even more rowdy than the boys and canoodly couple in the pool area.


We talked about Marina Coils and their occasional disturbing migration to other parts of the body, the exciting use of the parasitic worm Fasciola hepatica as a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, blow-jobs, (we always have to talk about blow-jobs), stirrups (? Yeah, you’d better ask Just Boring; apparently it’s nothing to do with horses), and a play called Hand Jobs that Tu-Jin-Su read out loud with her book group. ‘There were too many parts. We all had to double up,’ she said.


‘Fnarr, fnarr.’ We choked on our fourth gins. Evidently we have reached a new low.


We thought about having a cocktail. I said if I was going to create a cocktail I would call it a Vajazzle and serve it with a bejewelled furry umbrella and a clitorally suggestive olive at the fork of a two-pronged stirrer. Just Boring claimed to have had a Hanky Panky and a Flirtini but never a Vajazzle. She’s discovered a new cocktail called a Slippery Nipple. I imagine it adorned with a peeled lychee. She got so pissed on them that she asked her mother-in-law if she had shlippery nipples. LOLZ. Must get the recipe off her. Oh – she says it’s Bailey’s and Sambuca. No lychees. Someone’s missing a trick there.

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We decided on The Bricklayers Arms as the perfect place for our Gin Club Pool Tournament.


Now, we are probably the worst pool-players in town. Make that definitely. But hey, being that dysfunctional makes it almost into an art form. Loser stays on, chaps! And we do just love playing with balls. It’s all about technique, the loose elbow, splayed fingers, secure grip.


I trundled down Bell’s Hill, all psyched. I snaffled Just Boring for my team as she can be relied upon to be snarly when it comes to the crunch. Yeah, you don’t need a drippy hippy partner for pool. Mad Lucy’s witchy black magic ain’t gonna get her far when it comes to a sticky situation over a pound note, methinks.


The barman helped us set up the balls in the triangle thingy. He was laughing at us already. He kindly suggested putting our gins onto a table a bit further away from the action.


Hav U chalked her cue, eyes narrowed and looking scarily like a pro. ‘You can be on our team,’ Just Boring said.


‘You will regret that,’ laughed Hav U. Yeah, we did: she couldn’t pot a ball to save her life.


Mad Lucy was investigating the cue rest. Dammit Janet thought it was a branding iron. Yeah, she’s from Colorado. The barman laughed again on his way past to the garden. ‘You can’t do that!’ he said.


‘Why not?’ asked Mad Lucy. ‘We need all the help we can get.’


I love the whole chalk thing: I chalked my cue and gave it a good blow. I also like to give the balls a good smack which doesn’t often result in any potting.


Dammit Janet did a bit of measuring up before her shot, ooh fancy.


Just Boring managed to hit a red but Mad Lucy was unfortunately getting the hang of the game: ‘That was a red wot you just made move but you’re not on my team,’ she complained.


Her next shot, Just Boring put the white down. Two shots for our opponents. ‘Not that that will help us any,’ said Tu-Gin-Su.


‘Just watch where you put it, alright?’ advised Mad Lucy as Dammit Janet leant over for a long shot with one leg hoiked up over the table edge.


I tried to remember Fred’s advice: go softly softly and try to leave the balls nearer the pockets than they were before. Problem: the drunker you get, the harder it is to hit the blinkin white ball, let alone get that one to hit another one.


‘Chalk! More chalk!’ Su urged Mad Lucy. She, however, was too busy complaining about her squeaky new implants. ‘My old mattress-quality PIP ones were much better than these,’ she claimed as she lined up her balls. ‘These ones go ‘eek eek eek’ when I’m going up the stairs.’


Concentrate!’ urged her team. She did a tremendous yet random three ball plant which furthered them none.


Hav U potted a ball. ‘And it was the right colour,’ she crowed. Then she potted one of each colour. ‘Yeah, I wanted it to be even. And I felt sorry for the other team.’


Tu-Gin-Su had a most unorthodox overarm cueing action going on. ‘We’re red aren’t we?’ she asked.


Onlookers were drawn in to our increasingly flustered attempts to get the bastard buggery balls in. You know it’s going badly when everyone around, including you, starts offering helpful advice. My nuggets were: ‘Smack it in! Smack it!’ and ‘Hit it at the bottom otherwise the white will….oh, too late!’


Mad Lucy tried one of those advanced shots where you jab downwards at the white. ‘I’ll be your backstop,’ offered Tu-Gin-Su. The white skittered off to the side, hitting no balls. ‘Well, that doesn’t work, clearly,’ said Mad Lucy.


Just Boring screamed. She had potted a yellow. Rejoicing and hugs happened. We live for these moments.


Tu-Gin-Su tried a longer cue. Long is good. We like em long. Nice smooth back and forth action. Luckily a cool breeze was blowing through from the open doors and windows. There is a flowery bowery deck out back. Sunny, with a whole load of beer in barrels, always a big bloke-magnet, if you happen to have any with you.


Jeez, I’d only looked away for a second, but Mad Lucy had managed to get herself tangled up in an assortment of cues and branding irons. Luckily it was all for show as none of them were near the white nor black. ‘Can I pay you to take my shot?’ she asked Dammit Janet.


We had to have another game and more drinks, as we couldn’t face leaving: from the Bricklayers it’s majorly uphill in almost all directions. That’s ‘Eek, eek, eek,’ all the way home, for some of us.


Top Tip 1: When the pubs in the centre of town are packed out and you can no longer hear yourself think, ramble over here for some relative peace and a table to yourselves.


Top Tip 2: If you accidentally lose control of your cue and poke your opponent’s buttock just as they are drawing their cue back, it wreaks havoc with their shot.





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