As kids, it was open to debate
which was the higher form
of human endeavour: astronaut,
racing driver, or centre forward
for Nottingham Forest (this
was during the Cloughie years;
no son of mine would say that now).
But one thing was sure:
when you were back from the moon
or Silverstone or the pitch,
you’d sink a pint
in the Robin Hood Tavern
or the Tap ‘n’ Tumbler.
That was a term we learned
from our dads — ‘sink a pint’,
like summat out of Battleships,
only you got bladdered
instead of deep-sixing
someone’s aircraft carrier.
‘Bladdered’ — another linguistic classic
picked up from dad, uncle
or older brother. ‘Pissed’ earned you kudos
in schoolyard or backstreet
and a clip round the ear
if your mam heard you use it.
We were snot-nosed little boggers,
just over halfway to our teens
and talking like we knew it all
and didn’t rate it. We’d have despaired
if we knew how far in the future
they were, the twin promises
of sex and booze. They seemed
just round the corner. There was
always a cousin or someone a mate knew
who’d got served, got bladdered,
puked his guts up on the hall carpet
and caught hell off his folks
the following morning, but somehow
found time to chat this girl up,
get her number
on the back of a fag packet
and boast to anyone who’d listen
how he was on a promise.
Over a cribbed cigarette
or an incomplete deck of cards
that we spent more time shuffling
than dealing, we’d disparage this cousin,
this someone a mate knew, scoff
at his boasting, but secretly hope
he’d made it happen. It was his bullshit
we put our trust in.

Neil Fulwood (UK)

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