Things not to do #24 – Newcastle Brown Ale

Of all the nuggets of wisdom that I have garnered these past 55 years, and lets be frank here, I have garnered these nuggets the hard way principally by not listening to any advice at all, even the freely given advice, in favour of doing the stupid things in life for and to myself, it being the only way that I learn these nuggets of wisdom.

So the scar tissue still on the bridge of my nose – an incident with a bottle of sulphuric acid after school at 11 years of age, came within 5mm of losing an eye to that one, this intolerance to alcohol exhibited by means of a very queasy stomach and the onset of migraine when more than a few units are consumed – drinking Brasso for fun and relaxation that one was, nearly lost most of my stomach to that one and threw up half the blood in my body that night, and the scar across the bottom of my chin, well that was our Neds fault actually but it was me who suffered in order to confirm to him that you can’t fasten a bicycle lamp to an oval sectioned front fork when its supposed to clamp to a round sectioned tube, not without it going through your front wheel anyway.

Yup, I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.

So I offer you a singular piece of advice today, your cut-out-and-keep guide to not repeating my mistakes, your better enjoyment of life being the intention and in todays case in point, the salvation of your digestive system.

Newcastle Brown Ale – don’t be tempted to see how drunk you can get on it.

I’d only been living in Newcastle for six months or so, living in a boarding house in Jesmond, a quite pleasant leafy student suburb of the city it was in 1977, its different now of course but back then it was studentsville, row upon row of not so unpleasant brick terraced houses, and a pub on almost every street corner – and when I say “pub” I mean a pub, the sort of street end pub that The Rovers Return is and not at all what you find in Jesmond these days.

So I finished work at 5pm every night, was back at the boarding house twenty minutes later, washed, changed, downstairs for the evening meal, and into the residents lounge for first dibs at the TV set, whoever got in there first got to choose what the rest of us watched for the rest of the evening and on the evening in question I was beaten to it by two lads of approximately my age, that would be 19-ish then.

We nodded to each other, they introduced themselves, two lads from Belfast on a contract to change the destination boards on every bus in Newcastle during the night when the buses were off the road, well someone has to do it and for some reason it was a company in Northern Ireland who had the contract to do the whole of the UK.

So they’d only just woken up, were sitting around in the boarding house until 10pm came along and they were due at the bus depot.

“Any decent pubs around here ?” they both asked.
“I’ll go get me shoes on” I replied not waiting for the invite.

So there we were in a street-end pub at 6.30pm, two Irish lads and me, all three of us foreigners in this city, the locals not understanding a word  any of us spoke, we not really understanding each other either, they asked what this Newcastle Brown stuff was like that they’d heard so much about, we ordered three bottles and went and sat down.

I’ll say this about alcohol, the one thing that it has going for it still, its the universal translator, drink enough alcohol and by the end of the night I reckon you could easily be fluent in Chinese or Russian or any language that is far enough detached from your own to be indecipherable to you when sober.

Just one hour later we’d made our way through four or five bottles of Newcastle Brown and I was speaking fluent Belfast-ese and they were starting to sound as broad Yorkshire as the vit-ner-ey Mr ‘erriot hisself.

By 8pm I was as good as blind and had lost both of my legs, they being replaced by Bambi’s legs instead, Bambi trying to stand on ice.

By 9pm one of the Belfast lads looked at his watch and said something about having to go to work in an hours time which all three of us found hilarious, the thought of them having to put a ten hour shift in working with welding equipment and scaffolding while simultaneously being drunk enough to not be speaking in the same language with which you’d entered the pub.

I do recall crawling up the stairs to my bedroom on all fours, I recall checking my watch and finding to my amazement that it was only 9.30pm and not the early hours of the morning, and I recall several more hours right through the night which seemed to be punctuated by puking noises and the smell of part digested brown ale, and then towards dawn I seem to recall the most horrendous headache setting in.

About ten minutes sleep I got that night, I may as well have gone and done the night shift with them, apart from the fact that I couldn’t stop puking up into the small sink in my bedroom and apparently neither could they but using the large sink in the canteen of the bus depot, fortunately for them a deserted night shift bus depot.

Let me pass on this nugget of advice, this gem of hard-earned experience – a hangover on Newcastle Brown Ale is not very nice, and it outlives the strongest of pain killers, there isn’t a pharmacy cure on the shelves that will ease the suffering of a Newcastle Brown Ale hangover, nor is there a substance know to man that smells like the regurgitated fluid and recycled gas that a gallon or so of Newcastle Brown Ale passing through will leave you with.

Don’t do it, Newcastle Brown Ale, strike it off the list of 100 things to do before you succumb to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (as we all apparently will), just tell everyone that you’ve already done that one by proxy and if they ask me I’ll nod wisely like a sage and confirm that indeed, I was your proxy that day.


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