150. Proof of the pudding



The first pint hardly touched the sides. A dark ale, of the stout family. We were in one of those old London pubs with a high ceiling.

Overwhelmed with relief, I was celebrating a 100% pass in my settling exams, after more than two months’ training with Ladbrokes, in the shop below. Leytonstone High Street, East End.


Of the 700 or so bets I totted up that Saturday afternoon in April 1983, the winning slips were all correct to the penny and the losing slips all binned. As a result, I now had a job as a betting shop manager, starting soon.

Pint number two was needed to dull the awkwardness I felt. Maureen had turned up with our mates Paul and Katie, a pair of post-punk, liberal-minded Guardian readers. Sat opposite them was my Ladbrokes mentor, John Schaper, a ducker and diver from East Ham, who had showed me everything about how betting shops worked, the official and unofficial versions.  Great bloke, and top teacher, but nothing in common with our friends.

I’ve always been able to operate at both ends of the social scale, but a chalk and cheese situation was going on. They weren’t mixing. So that second pint disappeared swiftly down my neck.

Pint number three finally pulled me into a relaxation zone. Maureen and I had started living together in a sub-divided house in Ilford earlier in the year. A bit like this.

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It was great, still so good even after the initial novelty disappeared, but much depended on me securing a regular job. She was working over at Elm Park, near Dagenham, as a nursery nurse. But we needed two incomes to make a proper fist of it. That box was now ticked. Job done, after some mega-stressful weeks when mistakes had generated big doubts over my future.

The fourth pint had no defining motive, except to accelerate the inebriation. Most people know that dreamy, happy descent into alcoholic oblivion. John went home. At some stage, it was decided to go for a curry.

Who knows how much I drank altogether. It seems that at some stage I left the Indian restaurant, and was found outside, in a compromising, illegal position. By a lamppost. Several pounds lighter. Echoing the Majorca story of Blog 71.

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Torn between laughter and panic, Maureen, Katie and Paul called a taxi, and tried to reassemble me. I remember nothing. The taxi driver was unhappy about the stink, threatening to chuck me out of his cab.

At home, my loving partner washed me intimately, put me to bed, and somehow removed my hard contact lenses. She filled in the details next day, while I struggled to hold down any food.

I knew she loved me, but her care that night sealed the deal.

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