Thursday, January 26, 2012

This week's drinking excuse

The 26th January is Australia Day.

For the last few years this has been a welcome pretext for special over-indulgence at my favourite bar, the Aussie-owned 12 Square Metres.

I don't know what kind of a turnout we'll get down there this year. It is a particularly welcome distraction for foreigners during the drab Chinese Spring Festival holiday; but this year, more than ever before, almost everyone seems to have quit the city. And the party has gone rather better in the years when it's fallen just ahead of Chunjie rather than smack in the middle of it.  Moreover, there used to be a bit of synergy with the other two Aussie bars in the neighbourhood - Ned's and MaoMaoChong together with 12SqM forming an Oz Triangle ideal for short-distance bar crawling. Ned's, alas, is now gone; and MMC has been keeping very irregular hours while owners Steve and Stef are on their long winter holiday this year. So, 12SqM will be flying the flag alone this time. Maybe having a monopoly on the Aussie custom will be a good thing; or maybe the event just won't gain a lot of momentum this year. Swings and roundabouts. We shall see.

The Coopers Ales are going to be a very tempting 20rmb each, and new laoban MB has managed to source some Australian beef pies for the day - for the first time in six months. And we should be tuning in via the Internet to favourite Aussie radio station Triple J's traditional holiday countdown of the 'Hottest 100' songs in Australia this past year, as selected by a listeners' poll (the only way I keep up with what the rest of world is listening to these days!).

Australians have their rough edges, but you have to admire their robust appetite for life, and particularly for drink. The nation's prodigious drinking abilities are epitomised in former Prime Minister Bob Hawke - an Oxford lao tongxue of mine, who was celebrated as holding the world speed record for downing a yard-of-ale (equivalent to around two-and-half pints, and very tricky to drink, because of the odd shape of the vessel) while he was a Rhodes Scholar there in the early 1950s. After all these years of happily believing the myth, I now find Wikipedia has pissed in my tankard by alleging that in fact he drank a comparable volume from a sconce pot (a large drinking bowl traditionally used for penalties and drinking challenges at formal college meals), and that his time of 11 seconds was equivalent to the then yard-of-ale record, but this mark has since been bettered. Oh, print the legend!  [The Turf Tavern, a famous real ale pub in Oxford (and a favourite hangout of Colin Dexter's fictional detective Inspector Morse) has recently started advertising - quite mendaciously, I think - that the feat occurred there. In my day, the stories had it that it was either in The Bear or The White Horse; but Wikipedia - apparently following Bob's own memoirs - is adamant that it happened in the dining hall at University College.]

Bob, now 82, is still capable of opening his gullet to guzzle down the amber nectar at mindboggling speeds: just a few weeks ago he was filmed obligingly chugging a pint in one at the Australia v India Test Match in Sydney.

I've never been able to do that!

To cap today's celebration of Australian-ness, here's Colin Hay - founder of the great but sadly short-lived '80s band Men At Work - doing a great version of his signature hit Down Under in LA a few years ago with the Ringo Starr All-Star Band. [Lyrics here; it's also worth checking out this solo acoustic version.]


KingTubby said...

FROOG tubbyland is in dact Oztralia. Not exactly enamoured by triple Js 100. 30 years ago give or take a decade, I successfully predicted about 60 musical suspects before the actual countdown.

Coopers. Not a bad drop part. the green lablel. Their stout is very good, but if you want to impress the denizens from downunder, insist on Cascade. You will have your own fan club in two shakes.

Myself: mostly reformed unfortunately, but one of why FQ interlocuters called me a ganga philospopher.


Froog said...

Popular polls rarely turn up much quality, do they?

Although what I've heard of the Triple J selections over the years (not that much) does seem to suggest that there's more folk and rock (albeit mostly at the softer and more commercial end of things, inevitably) than boy band pap and 'dance music'.

I believe Cardinal Richelieu (according to my high school history teacher, anyway) once said something along the lines of: "As long as there are more fools than wise men, the majority is unlikely to recognise what is in its best interests." Not a big fan of democracy, the Cardinal.

Froog said...

I tend to go for the Coopers Red myself. Cascade I found drinkable but bland, and it has recently been discontinued for lack of interest. The brand that seems to arouse the most positive emotion amongst our Aussie drinking companions is VB. I may have to down one or two of those to try to ingratiate myself.

KingTubby said...

VB Chemical soup.Don't even think about it. Fourex is right up there with Kingwell and Pearl River Larger as two of the worst in the world. Plus Hite and Macafee in Korea.

(I must admit to a major soju weakness during my time there. Lots of barbeque, gallons of soju followed by three hours in the sauna.....tremendous. Koreans really know how to enjoy themselves in the grub and booze department. Leaves China for dead.)

My first visit to England. Felt like a good Pommy ale before catching the train to a site of higher learning. The barfly heard my accent and recommended a tin of Fourex. I punched him out and fled the scene.

I must admit to enjoying a lot of Chinese beers, esp Fouzhou's Qui Han. Low on alcohol, so I managed a carton most nights while cooking dinner for the household.

Let's be honest, China has sufficient cheap rural labour: they should be breaking into the high end pot market. The bit I did smoke was pathetic, and it wouldnt have well-smoked a mouse.

Anyway FROOG. I hope you behave with decorum during this Oz beer bar crawl. I expect a glass by glass account including any and all attempts to chat up girls.

Trivia aside, it is NOW time for another musical post, okay.

Something not too Brit-centred, and no Johnny Halliday or Throbbing Gristle either.

I'm sulking on my site at the moment.

Froog said...

Nothing much to report, I'm afraid, Tubby.

It was a bit of a subdued affair this time around: decent enough crowd (especially for midweek, in the middle of a holiday), but not packed out as it had been when we had an actual Aussie running the place.

And I was feeling rather too tired/ill/poor to indulge very much anyway. Headed home with middle-aged 'good sense' at only 10.30, still quite sober.

There was a very pretty girl (American, I think) down at the far end of the bar; but she was far too young for me, and was accompanied; so, I contented myself with the occasional wistful sidelong glance.

That's about all I'm good for now; my flirting days are behind me.