I'VE just found a benefit to the smoking ban, believe it or not. And the whole story dates back to St Patrick's Day on Monday which, purely by coincidence, Wales on Sunday chose as the day they would celebrate the Welsh rugby team's magnificent Grand Slam success.
It goes something like this...
After swimming a mile at the new pool, doing all my chores and having a bite to eat I felt I deserved a relaxing drink down the boozer. Having arranged to meet the Usual Suspects, including Keyser Withers, at O'Neill's on the Hayes the party was soon in full swing.
The Fugitive had turned up desperate and without a second thought announced that he had partaken of a Bushmills Irish whiskey to "blow the cobwebs off". Fatal mistake that, with the Prince of Darkness in earshot.
But we started off fairly predictably with Guinness all round, apart from the Prince who was already tucking into his regular brand of strong lager. Gathered around a table with the fiddly diddly Irish music playing and many decked out in green (I was wearing my red barmy army top and English cricket baseball cap in order of our win over New Zealand, just to be perverse) we were soon lapping up the atmosphere... and the booze.
Pretty soon the table was heaving with glasses, and I had switched to lager. Also in attendance were Smashy and Wathanovski, and we were soon to be joined by Nicey, party girl Lyds, Shutts, Withers' housemate Grace and her friend and... oh, by now I had lost count.
One thing was noticeable, though: the glint in the eye of the Prince of Darkness. Pretty soon, like the bon viveur he is in such company, he was doing his best impression of Withnail: "I want as much bushmills as you can muster... and I want it now."
A round of whiskeys followed with the order to down them in one. And so it continued...
By the time darkness crept in I had sunk three Guinness', quite a few lagers, a couple of bloody mary's and an entire vat of Bushmills.
Coincidentally it was about this time that my legs refused to work.
The scenario went like this: I was sitting outside the pub enjoying a quiet smoke. I put out the tab then got to my feet. But for some reason they wanted to go in the opposite direction to the one I was heading in.
By this time there was a bouncer on the door outside the pub. He took one look at me and courteously shook his head. "You're pissed... you're not coming back in."
Well, I could have raised an objection, but at that time I also found, wierdly, that my mouth was failing to work.
Instead I mumbled something about picking up my coat and was escorted into the boozer to pick up my belongings. Strange really, because normally in this situation I would have left my baseball hat behind.
Next morning I woke in a terrible state. In fact, it was 4am in the morning and I had fallen asleep on a bean bag with a full cup of tea beside me. Failing to work out the intricacies of how to turn the television on I had got half way and activated the screen, but had obviously fallen asleep before I could spark the digibox into action.
I then hauled myself off to bed and spent the next day blobbed out in front of the TV watching seven episodes of the West Wing on DVD. At one stage I felt horrendously ill and it was at that point I had my eureka moment. I've half a mind to go back and thank that bouncer for performing his duties so well. And well done the smoking ban, because my limb failure might not have been noticed if I hadn't popped outside.
Wednesday and Thursday were early starts on the Echo as part of our new caring/sharing regime. In fact, this was even earlier than I thought. Nicey, the masochist, insists on going into work at 5.45am and, as he was giving me a lift, I had to be up at 5. Aaargh! Can't see this catching on.
Nicey, by the way, is also in danger of being banned from any future pub shenanighans, like the final boozeday Tuesday, for instance. The guy has all the makings of a Papparazi. As soon as one of you is getting up to no good in the boozer there's a flash from behind you, and you turn to see Nicey with his box brownie. The next day the pictures are all over the office e-mail system.
Apparently there's a video, too, which I am not too keen to see. Apparently it features the Fugitive and yours truly dancing like a couple of dads at a wedding. How humiliating.