Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Three Stooges

Long ago, in the far-off days of his slightly misspent youth, Seggars B. was not averse to imbibing the odd alcoholic beverage despite, perhaps, the sum total of his years falling slightly short of 18 - the age at which it is legal to purchase and consume alcohol in the UK.

My young and ill-advised former self found that, upon entering a suitable establishment, a confident stride to the bar followed by eye contact with the publican and enunciation of the mantra, "Pint of bitter, please," was most effective in obtaining his ill-gotten gains. On no account was it advisable to shuffle around looking suspicious, or apprehensive.

Acting as though he had every right to be where he was, doing what he was doing, was the key, and was known to be the key amongst all of his similarly juvenile colleagues. Should any sharp-witted barkeeper utter the dreaded challenge, "Are you over 18?" the appropriate response was a clear, confident, "Yes."

This never, ever, failed, and, indeed, the only time Seggars junior was refused a pint in any watering hole was, gallingly, AFTER he was over 18.

Now fast forward some 20 years to a scene witnessed by the current Seggars this very evening. Returning to Seggars HQ after a trying expedition, I spied an off licence and determined to pop in for some soothing refreshments. Entering the premises immediately ahead of me was a peculiar trio of individuals, consisting of one older guy, perhaps in his late 40s or early 50s, and two youths - one male, his spotty visage regrettably visible beneath his slightly pushed back hoody, and the other a tall, thin blond female dressed to kill.

The young male seemed quiet and withdrawn as he fiddled with the toggles on his hoody, while the female was more of a clothes horse than a person. She seemed fascinated by her reflection in the shop's plate glass security screens, and lurched from one pseudo-model pose to another without seeming to pass through any intermediate positions.

Gradually, I became aware that their older colleague was attempting to purchase alcoholic refreshments, both for himself and the youngsters, and was having some difficulty in doing so. It seems that the young ladies behind the counter were not convinced that his associates were of legal age, and, after a moment's thought, I privately agreed with them. "16," I thought to myself, "at most."

Frustrated, but doing a good impression of aggrieved disbelief, the elder statesman swung around like a barrister in court and pointed to his young friends: "Is any of yous under 18?" Managing to focus their attention slightly, the two youths looked blankly at each other, then at him, and nodded - "Yeah," they said proudly.

Thwarted, their buddy put his head in his hands, and soon thereafter departed the premises laden down with his own beer and two bottles of coke. What is the world coming to? I don't know which is worse - someone who should know better trying to buy bucket loads of alcohol for under age drinkers, or the said drinkers being too stupid to help him out with the right answers.

The older guy is getting on a bit, and in a few years will be too incapable to do any significant harm. But the youths, the hoody and the bimbo and millions more just like them, are this country's future - soon they will be legally entitled to vote, sit on juries and generally get on with the business of living. I, for one, find this a terrifying prospect.

Billy Seggars.

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