Whilst having a chat about vodka on twitter the other night I remembered a great story, well to be honest its about a period of time a certain Caribbean island and a certain product and of course our beloved football team. As I say at the start of every blog, I had it bad as a kid, we didn’t do picnics or anything, dining out in Glasgow in the 70s/80s was hard with few pubs having the required documentation for kids to get into pubs. One of my happiest memories was going into the Glasgow Pub Sylvesters which let kids in I would have a burger and a glass of milk and revel at sitting in a pub. My folks loved a good bevvy as most good working class folk do the main thing was they had a love of the good stuff, never any cash and carry liquor in the house always the good stuff.
Lets fast forward til a Gordon Strachans 3rd year in charge of the club, the ship I was on was mostly made of up of English boys and a few Scottish ones, alas I was one of about 5 Celtic fans onboard which was better odds than usual. The ship pulled into the island of Curacao, home of the funky blue liquor drink that people get in cocktails the best way to describe the island is it has a wee Amsterdam style feel about it, as well as having a central america twist. In the last few years the American cruise companies have started dominating the region, and put their commercial settlements in, including Tiffanys shops, DKNY and other franchises. Most importantly it has also had a few bars put in, so it was 17th of March, I got a green shirt on and proceeded ashore, with me I took my 2 pals, Mark a big Bradford fan, and wee Mikey an Evertonian the wee man had just been dumped by email and was a bit down. I went on a recruitment drive, saying how its the carib its Paddys day lets go drinking!!!! alas most of the English seen it as a normal day, and were baffled why I as a scots man would want to celebrate such an occasion? I’m guessing my 2nd name didn’t give it away after all. So we sat at our usual wee bar, slamming cold bottles of beer and enjoying vodka and lemon and sugar shoots. The only thing nipping worse than my head after 4 hours of this was the mossie bites on my leg.
It got til 7pm and we decided to go across the pontoon bridge to the other side of the main town where the American style bars were, the area was called the Rift fort, we grabbed a table outside the very busy Sopranos bar, which was always a good laugh. Wee Mikey was gutted about being dumped and just sat slurping his beer. The bar had recruited a piano player in who was doing various US classic songs. A group of about 12 US students draped over the bar, giving it loads singing and doing what college kids do best, whilst sitting there I assessed the situation Mark was enjoying the bevvy, Mikey just gazed into the sea as broken hearted lovers do, I sat with a bottle of central american beer was this all Paddys day had to offer? The Piano player took a break, a wee bit of background music kicked in and the students just sat rowdy and gassing over a beer. This is when the vodkas kicked in, I just started singing at the top of my voice “And the Rangers are shiiite!!!!!” Now the joy of being a Glaswegian is no one can understand you at the best of times, let alone drunk so I felt as if I had poetic license. Big Mark and even wee Mikey started smiling and we all went into full flow belting out those magical 5 words. So what do you think happened next? not what your expecting a waiter came up and said Celtic? I said of course!!! he was a PSV fan and informed me of normal bottled Guinness being 2 dollars a go. I said bring a bucket worth! so the table was full of black gold, alas mostly at room temp but it was ok if you drank it quick!!!
So we had Guinness on the go, on top of tables singing at this stage, the US students slid into the night and we were running the show. This was more like a St Patricks day at this stage a good looking lady came up and looked at me and said one word “Glasgow?”. I said of course she squealed, great she was a Bolton fan but her ex was a Celtic fan and she had studied in Aberdeen Uni and loved anyone who hated the South Glasgow swindlers. Then don’t ask me why or how a blonde US girl came up and asked did we want to join her and her pals for a drink? She gestured over to a table of what ended up being a group of 90 percent female schoolteachers over on a course. I told them we didn’t go to them and demanded they come and join us!!!! For some reason they did! So what started off as a wake like evening ended up a total bananas one with a great group. Tons of singing and chanting a magical wee night, Me and big Mark made sure wee Mikey was chatting with the Bolton girl who was a Marine Biologist she made an offer for us to visit her private beach with work. we asked her do you have a bar? She said no we said no chance then!. Her and wee Mikey walked away hand in hand at 2.30am into the carib evening and me and Mark sat with a table of blonde teachers. We staggered into a taxi grabbed some goat curry and made it back to our ship at 5am, only problem being work, we started at 8am I wont say anything of how we performed at our jobs that day…….
Needless to say our exploits went through the ship and people were asking and wondering when the next day out was gonna be, Now onboard we had a group of good Scousers and lads from the North East, as well as a few fans of the bad side, from Airdrie and Broxburn. To be fair the banter was always good with them, and I’ve met up with them in Glasgow for a refreshment when we have all been home at the same time. A plan was hatched that we would all go for a super Saturday all day session, the only problem being it was the day of a Glasgow Derby game. The day was planned the game would be finished by 10am our time and we would be free to go out, alas the date was the 29th of March 2008 and we got beat 1-0. Now I can tell you the only place to be when we got beat when we played our deceased neighbours was the carib, unless of course you have a few red hot ones going on the day out with you! So if was into their cabins filled with awful posters and bunting before the bus took us to town, it was at this point I decided to launch an evil plan. It goes back to vodka of course. Now some people as kids get an education on flowers, dinosaurs growing up. Not me I’m afraid it was all about vodka, I never drink til i was 17 and at sea, but I had studied and took notes on what was good etc. To give you an example when my mother died and we went on a bender during the wake, I left 3 elderly aunts in the house to sit and have a wee drink and look at pics of my deceased parents. I of course told them help themselves to drinks as you do. Now with working away I had everything in the drinks cabinet, Barcardi Gold, whiskeys and blue label Smirnoff, it was 1996 otherwise it would have been full of grey goose. On returning to the house I discovered most of the vodka was gone apart from a few bottles, I asked my aunts why hadn’t they touched the red label regular Smirnoff? they informed me that they had left it for the Protestants!!! it wasn’t up to standard, and may I add that the lady who said that comment was the one Protestant Aunt I have, who blagged her way into the Polish club in Glasgow for years, because she loved the Polish pink vodka, and made the wee polish priest fairy cakes. She is still going strong at time of writing this btw.
So I had my plan ready vodka would save me, the only other thing that baffled the English was the great invention the kitty. I decided to inform folk that we would all start the day putting 40 us dollars in and that would mean we could all relax and let the drinks be ordered and not worrying about people dodging rounds etc. In true tradition of their club, the lads who liked our departed neighbours had on their tops and shorts whilst heading out, so we got to the first bar, I insisted vodka cocktails time, the lads said no its only midday!!!! I said come on your team has won, have a cocktail. I know I know I’m a bad person but needless to say we sat and power drank our way thru a vodka enforced cocktail menu. I sat orchestrating it picking the deadly ones and smiling at the blonde dutch barmaids as they delivered the goodies. Everyone is having a good time the english lads love the kitty concept, and the Rangers fans? well bless them they weren’t vodka drinkers and usually just stuck to beers, so add a few before midday, the hot carib sun and a vodka loving scamp feeding them large and regular cocktails it was never gonna end up good. So you can imagine a bar built into a Caribbean fort, the sea glistening under the sun and in the courtyard a guy in a rangers top slabbering on his hands and knees at 3pm, due to bevvy and the sunshine. The holiday-makers are 90 percent dutch so knew know what football team it is, I make sure I introduce myself and standing in a lovely white crisp Stone Island shirt inform them of course I’m a celtic fan and apologise for my workmates behaviour. His false teeth have come out and he is drooling over a very nervous six foot blonde dutch barmaid, his sidekick is doing a bit better but his eyes are rolling like the 80s puppet Nookie Bear, how could I make the situation better? Chips of course I order 2 huge platters of dutch fries with Mayo, ketchup and of course the dutch nut sauce. I paid it out of my own pocket making sure the two rangers fans have extra sauce on theirs, and sit bemused as they have a Bugsy Malone foodfest missing their mouths and soiling their awful top with only every 1 chip out of 10 making their target.
They had a lining on their stomach now with the few chips, they had guzzled I then went for the Coup Du Grace, by starting the shots up, I stood with the first round and toasted the winners of the Glasgow Derby, the english boys weren’t slow to catch on to this and everyone from the A-team to Princess Di got a toast and of course a shot was guzzled, by 9pm it was all over now baby blue. One of the bluenoses should have wore a nappy!! the other one was the breakfast chef the next morning I therefore decided on a long lie. The sight of the pair of them staggering into a taxi after walking up the main street in Curacao covered in sauce and soiled shorts makes me chuckle to this day. We were at sea for the next two Glasgow derbies which we won, and I made it home for the league championship being retained. More importantly I made it to outside Celtic Park for the funeral procession for the late great Tommy Burns.
The 2 boys who celebrated St Padraigs day with me are now both happily settled down, I met the two oldco fans a few months ago, only this time I was on coffee and we discussed what had been happening in the city. So I can recommend Curacao alas I will probably never visit it again and I will never see a Glasgow derby ever again. My parents and vodka are no longer in my life, but I think about my folks every day and always enjoying mentioning them in my wee blogs about Celtic and sharing how and why I ended up the way I am now. The link continues to this day, alas vodka was my old mans tipple closely followed by a malty mild coffee called Mellow Birds which I drink to this day.
Hail Hail the Parrot (twitter @machrie72)