There are certain things that we learn in childhood that stay with us for the rest of our lives and we refer back to them on a regular basis. There are also some things that although we experience and are subject to them, we never learn. Just like my Mam’s recipe for rissoles!
How she managed to make half a pound of mince from Forster’s taste so delicious – delicate little patties resting under hot, smooth, thick gravy made with Compton’s, which melted over creamy mashed potato – was beyond me.
Still, I did pick up one of my family’s traits – that whiskey was the most powerful thing in the medicine cabinet and could be used to cure all ills.
I guess, coming from Irish descent, traditions were held strongly and everyone I knew followed the same guidelines. We were told whiskey was called ‘aqua vitae’ by the Romans and was translated into Old Irish as ‘uisce beatha’ both meaning ‘water of life’. It was rubbed on baby’s gums to help with teething, given out liberally mixed with hot water, lemon and honey to cure colds and chills, administered to ease tummy aches and indigestion. Furthermore, it was enjoyed in our household in the early evening, mixed with ginger ale which we bought locally.
So having being brought up to believe whiskey was a good and congenial friend I was astonished to be taken by surprise one evening by one of it’s cousins. It was my eighteenth birthday and a big night out was planned starting at ‘The ‘Brit’ in Victoria Road. The Juke Box was so good we wanted to begin the night on a brilliant footing. ‘The Golden Age of Rock and Roll’ by Mott The Hoople hadn’t been out long as well as Queen’s Seven Seas of Rhye, which I put on twice so we could practice our air guitar playing.
With this in mind one of my bright spark mates hearing the word ‘rye’ decided to buy me a ‘Jim Beam’ for my birthday drink, but unfortunately, her request was lost in translation at the busy bar so she came back with ‘something’ and lemonade! I wasn’t enamoured with the taste but believing I was drinking whiskey and not wanting to feel ungrateful I accepted one, then another of these concoctions from my friends. As the night drew on and we had exhausted our selections on the Juke Box, we decided to head for The Turf before Botto’s which promised to be the highlight of my birthday celebration. I’m not sure if it was the fresh air or the declaration that the ‘something’ I’d been drinking like pop all night was not the whiskey I knew and loved but a 100% proof whiskey based liqueur called Southern Comfort!
After a good half an hour in the tiny cupboard sized toilet in the Turf I emerged ashen faced complaining of tummy ache and nausea. Relinquishing the rest of my party in my favourite night club, I watched as everyone joined the long queue while I turned the corner unsteadily and headed for home.
My Auntie Rose was still up watching ‘That’s Life’ with Esther Rantzen.
Telling her I’d come home early with a bad stomach and a headache she reached up to her little glass of Jameson’s and ginger on the mantelpiece and said.
‘Have one of these Lorraine, it will do you the world of good.’
And it did!
What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.