Israel Stories

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath and other Hangovers

It was once claimed that there was one pub for every ten Englishmen. Obviously the source of this claim was in the pub at the time. There is actually 1 pub for every 820 UK residents who are legally able to drink.

Pub culture is England.

Every soap opera is focused around a pub. Every village and small town centers its life around the pub. Like the Eskimos have countless names for snow, the English have countless names for the pub depending on its menu and services; local, inn, ale house, boozer, tavern and hostelry. And like snow for Eskimos, pubs are an integral part of UK life, culture and where you live. The pub is forever England and England is forever in the pub as Hillaire Belloc said so succinctly "When you have lost your inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England!"

We are a nation of drinkers and not just beer, whisky but wine too, as W C Fields put it "what contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?"

On Friday I realised I had run out of wine so I decided on a expedition to the local wine shop. It’s actually a nice place and reminds me of my local 'offy' that is an Off Licence shop or a shop in England registered to sell alcohol to be consumed off the premises, 'Offy' for short. Wood panelled and reeking of wine, you get drunk just breathing in (by the way the English have more words for getting drunk than they do for pubs).

The shop assistant staggered over to me; glass in one hand, the other holding on to the shelves of wine.

"Yesh sir, my names Yitz, have you been here before, how can I help yoooo?"

"I'm sorry can you repeat that?" This guy was flammable. He had obviously been drinking since the shop opened.

"I would like 6 bottles of Golan merlot and six Golan semi dry white, please."

"Ha ha ha ha ha, thash really funnily, cos the lasht man alsho wanted that."

"Can I have it too?" This was going to be a very long shopping trip. He walked - actually staggered - back to his desk, took another swig of red wine and then walked to the back of the shop.

"What did you want again?" he called.

I walked to the back of the shop. "I would like 6 bottles of Golan merlot and six Golan semi dry white, please".

"OK, so I need to find the red wine and then the white wine, mmmm, now where is the wine?"

"Yitz, do you need help, I mean it might be quicker".

"No, no, I'm fine just wait here."

I found the wine I wanted while my drunk assistant started chatting up some savta, telling her that with surgery she would look fantastic. The other patrons of the shop shuffled nervously past him.

I managed to get all my bottles to the front of the shop and placed them on the counter.

"Yes sir, how can I help you?"

"I want to pay for these bottles please."

"What bottles?"

"The ones here on the counter, the six red and six white."

"Oh those ones, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, didn't notice them,” he chuckled and took a swig from a bottle of white fizzy stuff.

"You Israelis really cant take you drink can you," I challenged him, as he was struggling to find the keys on the cash register.

"We can, I have had two glasses already, and Yitz at the back has had a least one maybe two full glasses too."

He managed to swipe my card and finish the transaction.

"Can I have a box for the bottles?"

For fifteen minutes he struggled to construct a cardboard box for my wine. I wished I had a cam to film him; it was great entertainment, especially the car hooting in the background, until I remembered I had left the family in the car, which sobered me up.

Boxes made and wine safely stowed in the car, I ran back in to get another flat box just in case.

As I walked in a familiar smell overpowered me and Yitz came over, arms out for a big hug.

"Yesh sir, my name's Yitz, have you been here before, how can I help yoooo?"

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