Tag Archives: alcohol

The joy of Mountjoy – Christmas lunch with the Irish convicts

Many years ago I made the mistake of booking a trip to Dublin for Christmas. I love Ireland and I love visiting Ireland – though I haven’t been back for a few years now – however it’s not really a good place to be on Christmas Day because everyone is with their family.

Literally everyone. There isn’t a bar or restaurant open on December the 25th so it’s difficult for a visitor trying to experience the city. Now this may all have changed in recent years, but 20 years ago Dublin was like a ghost town on Christmas Day. The only place to eat and get a drink was in the hotel you were staying in.

I went out there for Christmas with my girlfriend. We tried going out for Christmas lunch at a few nice hotels on Christmas day, but found that they were all just accepting residents for lunch – we would only be able to eat in our hotel.

So we went back and started on lunch. It wasn’t bad and there was a group of Australians in the restaurant all determined to have a party so the drink and conversation was flowing.

Then I noticed a couple of old homeless looking guys walking into the reception and quickly getting escorted out again by the security staff. I called over to the hotel staff and said ‘don’t worry about them; let them in for Christmas lunch and I’ll pay for whatever they order…’ I’d probably been enjoying the Christmas spirit quite a bit by then to make such a rash offer.

The two old guys were delighted. They came and joined our group and regaled us with some outlandish tales of their petty crime in and around Dublin. They claimed to be on Christmas day leave from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, which we all doubted for a long time, but eventually one of them produced a document stating exactly that – they were prisoners who had been let out to enjoy Christmas day! They had to report back to jail the next day…

We let them continue enjoying the afternoon anyway and had a lot of fun talking to the two of them, however they both eventually passed out – probably from not having a drink on the inside then suddenly finding a free bar. The hotel staff carried them out and called a taxi to take them back to the jail that evening.

It was a crazy experience, but a very memorable Christmas day in Dublin.


Photo by William Murphy licensed under Creative Commons

Pastors in the pub

I was out in Reading last night with a mate of mine I hadn’t seen for a while, so we were not doing much other than chatting and trying out a few different pubs. We couldn’t make up our minds about whether to go to Wokingham – where he lives – or to stay in Reading – because it would be easier for me to get home. So in the end we just stayed there checking a few places.

Reading on a Friday night is similar to many other small to medium sized cities, packed full of people getting drunk. And it makes me feel old and sensible to know that even though I was also out drinking, I was perfectly capable of chatting to my friend, and going to get a train home afterwards, though admittedly I adjusted my iPod to Elvis Presley so I could hum along to ‘the king’ on the train.

The level of alcohol abuse openly visible in the street is quite shocking though. People staggering around drunk, people looking quite threatening, and of course young girls in short skirts out of their mind on booze.

I got chatting to a pub pastor in one place we were in. I have never seen a pub pastor before, but there was a team of them and they have woolly hats with ‘PASTOR’ written across it in big letters. She explained that they were not going around the pubs to try to prevent people drinking. They might be from the local church and presumably are God-fearing and pretty well-behaved, but their main mission is not one of temperance. They are focused on the girls who make themselves vulnerable by going out and getting so drunk they will behave differently with the guys in the pub – or won’t be able to take any care about how they will get home if they cannot even stand up.

As we were talking about the problem, a girl in a mini-skirt and heels fell over nearby, emphasising the point the pastor was making.

I’m sure this problem has always existed, but if it is getting worse then who should be doing something about it? The government is forever proposing new measures to police binge drinking in pubs, but take a look at the bars in Reading, or Nottingham, or York. It certainly doesn’t seem to be working. The churches can supply volunteers, as they are doing in Reading, but they are not going to convert drunk kids into model citizens a la St Paul on the road to Damascus.

The clunking fist approach would be to tax alcohol so high, young people can’t afford it, but surely that approach would only lead to moonshine and a resurgence of the acid scene of the late 1980s, where teenagers did not use licensed premises to socialise. And it hurts those who want to socialise in pubs without feeling the pips squeak.

Who can really help the pastors in the pub to achieve their own redundancy?

84-year-old hoodies

Sometimes I wonder if there are people out there who were born without any common sense at all. Take a look at this story about a shopping centre in Cambridge. The shopping centre has a ‘no hoodie’ policy. So a security guard instructed an 84-year-old woman that her hood had to be lowered. She was shopping with her husband, also 84. Did they appear to be a threat to other shoppers?

I remember facing the same problem myself last year in Manchester. I was with a friend and we had been out to see Ricky Hatton’s comeback fight at the Manchester City ground. The fight was over by around 10pm, so we went into the city to get a drink and have a chat. I had a hoodie on, but I don’t think I’m all that threatening… and I’m closer to 40 than 20. But we found it so hard to get into the pubs with their ‘no hoodie’ policies that I just had to take it off and walk around in a T-shirt.

Everyone seems to be covering their back with the blanket enforcement of ridiculous rules. The age checks for alcohol sales are another example. I can understand stores having a policy of checking people who look under 25. That’s sensible and protects their staff, but why do some places have a blanket enforcement policy – no alcohol sale without ID? Take a look at this BBC video. There are stores out there with blanket bans on serving people without ID, even if they are clearly in their 70s!

When did people in the UK lose all common sense whatsoever?

LSBU all weekend

I spent most of Sunday at the Latimer house conference centre in Buckinghamshire at a residential offsite for the London South Bank University MBA.

I was talking about outsourcing. I had an hour to speak and I did not have much guidance from the university this time. Usually I spend a lot of time planning the sessions, and last year I spent all weekend at Latimer. This year, there were a whole range of reasons, but it boiled down to the fact that I could not get together with the LSBU staff.

So, I had an hour to talk on outsourcing. I tried to just make it an interactive conversation with the students and to focus on the pros and cons – so it might be something useful for their research, as they still need to decide what area to write about for their dissertation.

It was nice to find that after I had spoken, many of the staff and students said it was not long enough and we should have scheduled the talk much earlier in the weekend – rather than Sunday morning when everyone was hungover. That’s a nice reaction because it’s not a subject many people would enjoy on a Sunday morning.

I had been planning to try doing some very interactive work using Twitter, but that might have to wait for next year… and given that I’m about to start a new blog focused on social media I might speak on several subjects!

I noticed some of the students had uploaded photos from the weekend to Facebook, marked with the title Much Better with Alcohol – as their MBA weekend…

Morocco. Never again…

It was my birthday at the end of September and to celebrate, I went with my gf to Marrakech in Morocco for a few days away from London.

I’ve been to north Africa before – Tunisia and Egypt – but never Morocco, so I was looking forward to the experience, but at the end of the trip I was really looking forward to coming home. I’ve been all over the world, and I’m sensitive to other cultures – in fact, I really enjoy exploring other cultures even when I am on a business trip that could be just airport-taxi-hotel-taxi-airport. I’ll always get out, jump in a rickshaw, and try to take a look around and meet people.

And so it was the same in Morocco. We chose to stay in Riads inside the old city, rather than the modern hotels out of town in the new city. We wanted to really be within walking distance of the city centre and the souk. But trying to get closer to Moroccan culture seems to have been a big mistake. I could write a long detailed list of what made me dissatisfied with my visit to Morocco, but it would be boring to read and might end up reading like the expectations of a European visiting Africa, so here’s a few bullets to give you a flavour:

. When I get lost in an unusual city and I don’t have a map, or my map is not helpful, then I’ll ask someone the way to a landmark I know. This doesn’t work in Marrakech because the people expect money for their help, just because I happen to be a foreigner visiting their city – it’s normal for a taxi driver to overcharge I know, but just asking the way? Then, on several occasions when I refused to pay for help, I was followed… I’ve helped countless visitors find their way around London, even using my phone GPS to show stranded tourists the way to where they want to visit. I have never visited anywhere on any continent where the locals are so unwelcoming to foreigners.

. Mindful of local culture, my gf covered up. Even though it was hot and in the 30s, she even wore a scarf to keep her skin under wraps. Clearly it was not good enough as foreign women are easy targets for leering men to call out to – even when walking down the street with a male partner and covered. We were walking around and every few minutes hearing a comment – often in English – such as “nice tits…” or “hey baby”… it was infuriating. Even when we challenged these people, they never acknowledged that there is anything offensive about what they were doing. The only way to stop going mad for the entire holiday was to start ignoring the comments and to let them just wash over us without comment – sad, but true. These people suffer some kind of severe sexual repression and feel the need to demonstrate their own personal misogynistic tendencies on visitors – how strange is that?

. I know Morocco is predominantly a Muslim country. I know that alcohol is forbidden in most places. But I also know that it’s sold in many bars and restaurants (especially in the new part of the city) because the local traders want to capture tourist spending. However, it is so expensive to have a beer, it feels as if the restaurant owners are penalising you for drinking alcohol. All of which does not make it a very fun place to be if you fancy a couple of drinks on your birthday.

I did stay in the desert near Marrakech one night in a place called La Pause. That was amazing. I absolutely recommend it, even for one night, but I could do without the hassle of the city again… Personally I’m going to stay about as far away as I can from Morocco in future. Not because I’m not interested in the culture of the region, but because the people were so offensive I really wouldn’t want to spend another penny there.

How on earth do they treat the tourists who don’t cover up and are not bothered about their culture?

Why do I like cricket?

When I was a kid, I was pretty good at football, but I never really enjoyed watching ‘Match of the Day’ and I never developed any sense of loyalty to a team. Even now I don’t have any particular football team that I support, which can cause problems when I’m travelling in Premier-League-crazy Asia and the concept of an English guy not even bothering to watch football is not at all understood.

I was never very good at cricket. I mean real cricket. Street cricket with a tennis ball was always good fun, and this is back in the days before parents worrying about paedophiles on every street corner so we were often out from breakfast to sunset playing cricket in the street. But, when it came to real cricket the ball was too hard and moved too fast for me to be effective.

Yet, now I am an adult, the only sport I really like going to watch live is cricket. Every summer as the international games play out at the Oval, Lord’s, Edgbaston, I’m either blagging a ticket to a corporate event or hunting around on eBay to ensure I can get in to watch the games.

I was at the one-day international between England and Australia at Lord’s on Sunday and Angie asked me ‘why do you like cricket?’ I think it was when England were grinding along on a very slow run-rate and she was contrasting this spectacle with the constant action of a football match.

People have written books about why they like cricket, but I think that for me it boils down to two key points:

1. The game is slower, but that encourages an immense need for strategy and thought. 5-day test match cricket is like a chess match. Even the one-day game has to be played with considerable thought. Twenty/20 games are good fun to watch, but have far less depth. When the game can play out in so many directions, it’s fascinating to watch and see what happens.

2. The live experience at cricket is always fun. Fans are mixed together from opposing sides. Alcohol is free-flowing. Trouble and violence is extremely rare, yet alcohol and opposing fans are never ingredients at football matches. I listen to cricket on the radio too, but the live experience is best. The fans usually interact with each other and friends are created as the banter is exchanged.

Now, it’s all over for this summer as I’m not going to any more ODI games – so roll on the 2010 games..!