An Idiots Guide to Drinking With Shakespeare

The pitfalls of underage drinking

“Go on, ‘urry up will ya!” said, Shakespeare.

This nickname was not derived from any similarity to the greatest ever writer in the English language, but from our claims that he looked like the less attractive one from the 90s pop group ‘Shakespears Sister’.

Before Brexit there was Britpop. It was 90s London. My mates and I saw ourselves as smart, shrewd, knowledgeable young adults, bastions of the bodacious, boisterous, Britpop culture.

Actually, we were just idiots. Proper full-time idiots.

Shakespeare looked at me discerningly. He nodded his head towards the man.

This could be the most defining moment of my life, I thought to myself. All I had to do was follow Shakespeare’s advice. And yet I had fleeting, conflicting thoughts. Thoughts as random as a 90s one-hit-wonder.

I walked towards the man.

“What d’ya want?” He was middle-aged. He had the demeanour of a man that had turned up to a rave and forgotten his drugs. He looked like he’d lost the will to live.

“Can I have four pints of lager and a packet of crisps please?” I asked, pathetically.

The shattered-looking barman looked me up and down. As he did I was attempting some complex mental maths.

“So if I am supposed to be 18, what year was I born? Cos he’s gonna ask me.”

I’m no Stephen Hawkins, but it shouldn’t have been difficult to subtract 1 from 74, but as quickly as Tony Blair jumped on the Britpop bandwagon, another useless thought flew into my head, “I haven’t shaved for a week in a futile attempt to look old enough to get served, but all I’ve got is a bit of brown fluff on my chin!”

It felt like time was standing still. My future life would be determined by this man’s very next words.

“What lager d’ya want?”

“Urmm! That one!” I said, feebly pointing at the nearest beer tap.

I watched him pour those four pints of lager as if my life depended on it. Any minute now he was going to change his mind and chuck me out of the pub for being underage.

He pulled the tap on the last pint and turned and spoke to me. Shit! Goodbye cruel world.

“What crisps?”


“What flavour crisps?” He asked, with as much warmth and understanding as John Major.

“Ready salted, please.” My nerves were worsening by the second.

I paid the man and carried my tray full of riches over to my mates. A feeling of euphoria enveloped me.

My mates were laughing hysterically as I placed the drinks on our table. They were talking about last weekends shenanigans. Baker’s parents were away on holiday. They had entrusted him with the security of the family home. They had instructed him to keep it clean and tidy. And to not have any friends around. They had told their son it was time he took on some responsibility.

We all slept over at Baker’s house. A couple of hours in we had cleared out his dad’s drinks cabinet. Someone had vomited from an upstairs window into the neighbours front garden. We were waiting for confirmation from a reliable source that it looked like a proper pavement pizza. According to the same source, the man next door had to pressure wash his patio to get all the bits of sweetcorn out.

I was so buzzing from being served at the bar that I took the drinks tray back to the bar. I was as blissfully happy as a Labour MP during a Tory sex scandal.

The life lesson here is that we are all idiots at some point. Some of us are full-time idiots. Some of us are part-time. And some of us are just temping. I have learnt from being an idiot when I was younger. I readily admit I was a full-time idiot. I now wear it is a badge of honour. The tricky bit is when and how to progress from full-time idiocy to part-time. And then hopefully just a bit of temping here and there.

As Shakespears Sister once sang, “only time will tell if you can break the spell.”

Originally published in Medium publication ‘The Haven‘ 20/08/19.

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