With so much hogwash being fed on TV and social media these days, I feel as if I’m sitting in the engine room of a ship with diabetes, waiting for the coronavirus to sneak through the voice pipe and turn me into a statistic. And worse, a few days ago, in my eagerness to help my wife with the washing, I soaked all my shirts in very hot water, which resulted in the belly button not fitting anymore.
So to cheer me up my wife made me a rum punch for lunch, which took me back 45 years ago to the last days of my 6th term at NDA.
I don’t know what prompted him, but our Squadron Commander invited all the 6th termers of Foxtrot squadron to his house for rum punch and dinner. I had never had liquor before and had no idea what the rum punch could do to me, but I heartily looked forward to the evening.
Rum of a time
The Squady had prepared two buckets full of rum punch, with Old Monk rum, bits of fruit, mint and laced it with pineapple and orange juice, plus a touch of lime to cut through the tropical sweetness and plenty of ice cubes. Behind the tub of rum punch, was a bottle of rum, fruit juices and angostura bitters.
The first drink went down quite smoothly since my liver quickly converted it into essential sugars. Seeing everyone settled down for the evening, the Squady announced that we could help ourselves to one last round, without being served.
So I had seconds and maybe thirds and by 8:30 pm I began to realise that if I did away with the orange juice, I could get more rum in my glass. By this time dinner had been served in the lawns and I began looking around for my glass. Though, when I say “glass” I mean “tumbler,” which, of course, is another way of saying “bucket”! Then, when the rum ran out, I switched to Angostura bitters, by which time I felt like puking. In the meantime, one of my course mates, who was seated next to me shouted loudly, for no apparent reason, “Up, Up Foxtrot squadron” and fell off his bar stool.
Then, when the rum ran out, I switched to Angostura bitters, by which time I felt like puking. In the meantime, one of my course mates, who was seated next to me shouted loudly, for no apparent reason, “Up, Up Foxtrot squadron” and fell off his bar stool.
A little later I heard the slow, heavy footsteps of the Squady, as I emerged from one of my controlled naps, approaching unhurriedly, looking around for me with an empty plate in his hand and very sweetly encouraging me to start with dinner. It was nice of him to do so, but it’s not something I wanted because when someone is defusing a bomb and is looking around urgently for a pair of wire cutters, he’s going to be mightily upset if you pass him an empty plate. I nodded politely and began to say “yes” but at that moment I sounded like I was buffering.
Of punchy tumblers and tumblings
By then, my stomach hurt. My buttocks were broken from the morning POP drill practice and because I had had an argument with the steward, who turned out to be the tall speaker of the music system, I also became stone deaf.
Dinner was almost over. But there were still a few lentil sprouts and a lot of bread with butter on it. I had seconds, and then maybe some thirds. By which time some freshly cooked chicken chilly jalfrezi arrived. So I thought I’d finish off the chicken and maybe have some kebabs to keep things meaty and proper. By which time I was really full. Hurtfully full.
But not so full that I could decline the Tipsy pudding with the double cream. And by the time I’d had seconds of that, I was starting to feel like a big fat man I was destined to meet in the Navy many years from then. At this time my tongue had lost its ability to form any words.
It’s actually true that the ancient Romans used vomitoriums to create space for more food at feasts. But as I eyed up the box of wafer-thin mints that were brought out before we said our goodbyes, I have to say that the dinner that night was the best I had had in NDA for all my three years of blood, sweat and toil. I walked back to the squadron with my cycle so slowly that one would’ve needed a theodolite and some satellites to work out that I was moving at all. This was because night does not necessarily follow day in NDA. I was hog whimperingly drunk, but I was pleased as punch.
I have to say that the dinner that night was the best I had had in NDA for all my three years of blood, sweat and toil.
Years later, the same Squadron Commander invited me to his home and I apologised for the complete ass I had made of myself. And when I asked him what must’ve been going on in his mind, he admonished me for even thinking like that and simply said that he looked back at that evening with great satisfaction and wondered whether the kid enjoying his first taste of rum would really command a battleship in war, or whether he would become a burglar in uniform.