SOMETIMES you hear a story that leaves you absolutely speechless. It might be about the Indiana woman who managed to give birth to Octuplets or the fact that a man kept his daughter locked up in the cellar for 20 years without anyone catching on.
In my case it came about in Wapping's finest hostelry the Wilted Rose on Thursday when our resident chief sports sub Jonesy, hardly in his formative years, suddenly revealed he had never, ever tasted a curry.
Now this was enough for the gathered hacks to spit their Carling Cold out in unison and stare at him as if he had announced he had just robbed the nearby service station. For my part this needed investigating further. "Never? But you realise this is the British national dish?" I informed him. "Surely you have been tempted to at least try it."
"No," said the unflappable Jonesy, suddenly realising that he had caused a major lunchtime incident. "It never really occurred to me. I've nibbled on a popadom once, but the attraction seems to have passed me by."
He did, however, concede he would be prepared to join us in the curry house one night to lose his curry viginity. But he admits the prospect is a bit scary. "I have no idea of the difference between these curries and I have no doubt I will be stitched up royally by you lot," he said. I suspect he may be right.
It all reminded me of my first experiences of curry with Millsy and the Winterbourne gang on Friday nights after a heavy session and a visit to one of the city's nightclubs, Romeo and Juliets or the Locarno Ballroom were two, I recall.
Our delegated driver was always Nello, on the basis that he was tee-total, and after much cajoling he found himself regularly parked outside an Indian in Gloucester Road at gone 2 in the morning. Then it was a case of bravado. We would charge in, worse for wear, and demand the hotest Vindaloo known to man.
This, of course, was red rag to a bull for the owner of said takeaway. No doubt he went into the kitchen area and told one of his willing helpers: "It's that lot back again, trying to pretend they're hard. Just chuck every chilli, hot curry powder and such available to you into the pan. We'll make them suffer."
And, true to his word, he did. It normally took about three mouthfuls before the extra heat kicked in and pretty soon the rest of a rather expensive meal was burning a hole through Millsy's mum's kitchen bin. Those were the days.