Adventures in the UK, Pubcrawling
Our first adventures in the United Kingdom began at age thirteen, violating customs... but that will be a different story...
This is our story of how, at age 14, we learned the fine art of pubcrawling from a master of the art, an Irish barman named Dermit.
Dermit was the boyfriend of a young woman we were desperately in love with, or at least caught with in the passions of a terrible crush.
Kathy was then 21 to our 14, this did present a dilemma.
Nonetheless Kathy was a wonderful sport and took us on many lovely dates with Dermit, a kindness that extended to dates alone with ourselves as well, dates respecting our age differences and not exploring any real physical intimacies, but dates where we could still enjoy each other's company and enjoy exploring all the world had to offer two companions.
Dermit, as we have mentioned was then an Irish barman, a thoroughly charming fellow whom we took too with a love that sometimes hurt. He might have been a fine brother, he was certainly a good friend.
We travelled wtih Dermit and Kathy to Stratford-on-Avon a delightful place we would soon become very familiar with and which would put a crimp in our pubcrawling experiences for nearly a month.
Our month-long B&B in Stratford-on-Avon came with a lovely elderly couple who were too straight laced to want to challenge.
Dermit taught us his art from the customer's end, teaching us the best skills for a good pubcrawl.
It did not seem to matter how young we were.
Everywhere Dermit took us we were accepted into the throngs and welcomed with hearty greetings, good food, and plenty of our favorite ale, Watney's Red Extra Bitters...
We still drink from a British glass pint mug today, only water and juice, rarely ale.
As our confidence grew we flew out from under Dermit's wing and learned to crawl on our own, out of sight of Kathy and Dermit's chaperonage...
We had come to know Kathy because we were each staying alone in the same hostel.
Our hostel is called Shield House; it was used by Beaver College & Franklin and Marshall Colleges Programs for Study Abroad.
Our mother was the chief administrator of this program under her mentor, life-long friend, and boss, then vice president of Beaver College and program director.
We had worked for our mother's offices in Beaver College, in the mail room, to offset the cost of our summer in the UK.
Kathy learned of the opportunity to live in Shield House over the summer through a mutual friend, a psychologist.
Our psychologist was a dear family friend and had suggested Kathy get in touch with our Mom to help her get a little more bang for her buck in London.
Our psychologist was staying in a flat also managed by our Mother's program at the time, just around the corner from Shield House.
Our psychologist introduced us to Kathy at a large 'family' dinner; we met Kathy and fell instantly in love...
This was a sort of sweet/bitter-sweet love, too much would never be possible to say or to experience, but what there was truly was awesome and helped us to grow.
When we lit out on our own to pubcrawl we quickly developed a habit of going several hours out, and then several hours back, trying to time our arrival at our local, The Bunch of Grapes, just before closing for a final pint.
However, sometimes we would arrive home to Shield House very late.
By the time our mother arrived in London, some two months into our summer, we had established an impressive pubcrawling habit. We frequently covered nearly 20 miles and 20 pints a night. That was roughly 2 gallons as pints in the UK are somewhat larger than in the USA.
We would sometimes be stopped by bobbies on our solitary walks, sometimes we would be suspected of having drugs and they would search us, very politely and then let us go on our way.
Sometimes they might follow in a car, to see we got home safely, however we were never upbraided for our drinking or in any way threatened or intimidated.
When at last our mother came calling from home we were well established in our delightful routines, plying our charms on gracious hosts and hostesses who favored us with good company, free meals, and free drinks wherever we might go.
We were in heaven, or as much heaven as anyone with a terribly sore heart can manage to abide in...
Our mother arrived in fine spirits, quite literally, Johnny Walker Black Label perhaps...
Our mother refused nearly all alcohol at home, particularly hard liquor, we had never seen her drinking like this before.
Our mother was always found in the Shield House drawing room in the company of her scholarly friend, a professor of English from one of the local universities, whenever we returned from our pubcrawls before midnight or one am or so.
We would sit up with them drinking scotch on rocks that drained many glasses dry again and again, playing chess with our mother's friend.
Our mother's friend was most perturbed, he played academically, like a long-time student of chess, we played like a student of chaos, we beat him every time.
He was most careful, and sincerely frustrated.
Plying us with liquor was a strategy that worked more to our own advantage than to his.
Our wild talent operated more liberally under the influence; we could pour our way through fine firey liquor and then be sober in less than an hour or two.
When one host asked us how we could put so much drink away we replied we had a very strong consitution which was quite true.
Our host replied that the USA also had a very strong consitution but even that great constitution gets sick sometimes.
We laughed our agreement long and heartily.
Eventually we got a clue as to the natue of our good fortune and easy acceptance as we pubcrawled through what seemed like half the districts of London that summer.
We had long shining golden blond hair that would glow like the sun in any light, long luxurious curling hair full of body that many women were jealous of.
Several years later, in 1975 or so, we would be offered $400 for our hair to make a wig...
Our grammie had made us a wonderful brown flannel poncho that was very warm while allowing great freedpom of movement like a cloak, we loved our poncho and wore this everywhere.
Our light brown fuzzy poncho was trimmed with dangling threads of heavy medium dark green yarn, a hunter's green.
The diamond neck-hole was crocheted with the same yarn to close into a round turtleneck.
We were a bit beyond pudgy, but our weight has never really shown itself well in our face, the slight rounding of our emerging male features combined with our gorgeous hair and poncho were a very convinicng illusion of an older young woman.
We discovered we had been passing as a girl all of this time away from Dermit's company because we avoided ever using our name, our name did not feel as if it ever really described who we were.
With no name to guide our hosts and hostesses they saw what they would expect to see, a young lady of drinking age, what child would be so bold?
Dermit had trained us well, but we do not think he ever had this possibility in mind...
We only began to suspect what was going on one night when a young man asked to hold our hand.
We were shy but lonely, perhaps we would like our hand to be held?
We assented, asking him if he were gay.
He didn't seem to understand us, so we tried to make matters a little clearer.
We explained we were trolling for girls.
He asked if we were a lesbian.
We said no, we were a boy...
Shocked to learn we were a boy, he snatched his hand away.
But we both had a good laugh at his mistake and we parted company another pint fuller.
We didn't get it at the time.
It would take several years to figure this out...
Were we gay then?
No, we were not, we were already a confirmed bi-sexual.
However the matters of how we lost our virginity to both genders before age fifteen must be some other story...
We continued to pub-crawl our way through London every night, growing more and more adept, steadily closer to drinking 20 pints every night.
With short layovers, we could easily cover three miles an hour stopping frequently for pints and halfs along the way...
We began around 1 to 2 pm, on the tail of a jovial late lunch crowd a good bit before tea.
We had nine or ten hours of time to crawl before closing each night.
So we crawled to our hearts' delight, enjoying everyone we met.
This was good exercise at roughly a pint per mile.
How we coped and continued to drink when we returned home may be still other stories...