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Days of Beer and Dirt On:2013-09-01 11:20:00

Britons, especially the English, and even especially-er English men, love their tea and their beer. It's the closest they come to having a religion.

But in America on the other hand we have traditionally, since our very beginning, nay even before our very beginning, had a totally different THING about tea, so that now-a-days all hot tea (or, more accurately, vaguely warmish tea) served in America tastes to this ex-Englishman exactly as though it came straight out of Boston Harbour.
Iced tea here is a bit better, just about drinkable, or rather it would be if they didn't flavour it with raspberries or fish giblets or whatever they do.

So that finally I am pushed, protesting, towards American beer, the only thing is that most American beer tastes as... as if it were pre-owned, probably by a little old lady who just used it for shopping.
Of course in some things the British are just as bad as you, but in their own way: English Cream Tea for example: tea, and scones and jam and thick, thick clotted cream and arteries to match—sort of cardiac arrest on a bun. And, sadly, the Pub, home to countless generations of English men, seems of late to be dwindling, with a terrifying percentage of them closing each year, in the face of unEnglishmanly reality shows on the telly and cheap booze in the supermarket. But even in these days of the apparent death throes of the pub, that's where the Briton shines and where we leave you guys in the dust, and talking of dust...

...not to mention pure filth, one of the wonders of the English Pub has, for many a dusty year, been Dirty Dick’s near Liverpool St station on Bishopsgate in London, and it doesn’t just have an aura which is, well quite … quite … unique, but , for example, an estimated 2000 dead (and stuffed) cats on its walls! And thereby hangs a tale, probably one of those cat's tails.

You see somewhere, around a couple of hundred years ago a certain Nathaniel Bently, an ironmonger from Leadenhall in the City of London was pursuing a career as a beau, you know like Beau Brummell and that lot, in fact he was actually called the Beau of Leadenhall, when, suddenly, his beau-ing career was rudely cut short, and he was rudely and shortly jilted at the very altar, and became a sort of male Miss Haversham, and like Dickens’s weird old biddy, in reaction to his disappointment he cut back on some of the frills of life, like washing and cleaning. His ironmongery became dirtier and dirtier, and mangier and mangier until, when he died in 1809, a local inn-keeper bought the whole load of filth as a gimmick, and so Dirty Dick’s was born. And it stands to this day, as a disgusting memorial to a dirty, if unfortunate, old man. Today, apart from the ordinary dead cats, the cobwebs, the sawdust and leprous things seeping down from the ceiling, the main attraction of the place is of course the 'lucky' dead cat. A tradition among the young men of London for generations has been to take an innocent, trusting girlfriend to Dirty Dick’s and to tell her all about the ‘lucky cat’, well mostly all about it, and to direct her to the barman. He in turn will, with many a skilful and circumstantial touch, induce her to stroke the back of the ‘lucky cat’ which is, some say Dirty Dick’s own cat and sole companion of his sorrowful decline. She is to stroke the cat once, twice, thrice and at the third stroke will make a wish, certain to be granted, in the time-honoured manner. Of course she never gets to actually make the wish, for in the equally time-honoured manner during the third stroke the barman jerks a hidden string attached to the cat, it leaps violently, the young lady goes “Bleaaaark!!” and never speaks to the young man again1. Singularly pointless if you ask me but, even more so than in America, in England tradition is tradition.

Though it's NOT!! I just checked on-line, in the time-honoured manner, and to my horror discovered that Dirty Dick 's is now incredibly clean Dick's! Polished Dick's! Dick's whose only dirt is the dirt done to its name! Dick's with all the grot and slime and filth hygienically crammed into an apparently hermetically sealed display case.
A glass case that looks like it gets sterilised every second Tuesday of the month.
Oh! England! My used-to-be England!

Now, where's my American beer and a nice glass of giblet flavoured iced tea? I need their comfort so...

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


1To my shame I have done this dastardly deed myself. The young lady, being of sterner stuff than most, didn't react (after the initial scream) by  immediately cutting me out of her life forever, but waited till she had a chance to get her own back. Let me tell you all about it... some other time.

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