Beer And Religion
I’m not talking about Heineken or Carlsberg or Bud or VB or Swan or Millers or any other kind of boys’ beer. I’m talking about how the world looks after a few pints of Ruddles County or Old Peculiar or Old Roger or Young’s ESB. If you’re man enough to have tangled with any of these concoctions, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In Bangkok you can get a sanitized version of Old Speckled Hen these days but it doesn’t have the same vindictiveness of the original.
The last thing I remember with any clarity was Noi fixing me with that wide, sexy smile of hers and reading from the menu card, “Bishop’s Finger? Can we try that?”
Let’s just back up a bit here. Beer, of course is a very serious business the world over. Few countries take their beer more seriously than the UK. Although I expect the Germans would give me an argument about that. No, I’m talking about the dark brown stuff that’s served warm and flat. The stuff that’s hand drawn from a beer engine. Yuk, I hear the barbarians out there cry. But let me tell you that some of that old country real ale delivers a blow that has sent the stoutest of fellows staggering down many a country lane. As a friend of mine once said of such an experience, “When I woke up I was three fields from home….and two of ‘em were ploughed”.
Bishop’s Finger is one such beer that is brewed in Kent in South East England, I believe. Should you stumble across this innocuous looking brew, my recommendation is that you treat it with utmost respect at all times.
So there we were, me and Noi in an outside restaurant in Kuala Lumpur enjoying the afternoon.
Anyone familiar with Malaysia will know that Kuala Lumpur or K.L. as it’s known to us seasoned travel boys is the most boring city in Southeast Asia. Occasionally you hear some very odd stories about Malaysia’s Puritanical regime. Like the one where a young Malaysian couple were arrested for holding hands in a public place. That public place being just a few yards from where I was presently sitting with Noi. This kind of thing worried me slightly because Noi (rather unusually for a Thai) liked to hang off my arm and would frequently splatter me with friendly kisses no matter where we were. She also wore quite revealing clothes which I could see the straight-laced Malaysians did not all completely approve of. But hell, I’d never heard of foreigners ever being hassled over public displays of affection or being arrested for having a great pair of legs!! (Hers that is, not mine.) Still, this is a reserved Muslim country and being aware of your surroundings has always served me well no matter where I find myself.
So, back to the Bishop’s Finger. I warned Noi that this particular beer was not to be meddled with but she would insist on trying it. I ordered us one each.
Just drifting off on another tangent for a moment. My business travels take me around South and East Asia quite frequently. I am familiar with and quite at home in Singapore, Manila, Jakarta, Seoul and many other Asian cities. I usually travel alone but whenever I feel inclined, I know where to find the company of a woman in most of these cities. Whenever I visit K.L. for more than a day or so however, I bring along some female company from my adopted home of Bangkok. A sort of packed lunch so to speak. This is because in K.L. there are very few places where you can get some action. If you are desperate, you can call an agency who will invariably send you some worn out Thai or Philippina hooker but I’m not really into that.
Anyway, that’s why I was with Noi in K.L.
The ‘Bishop’s Finger” arrived in two squat, brown bottles. The waiter looked at me with that lop-sided grin which said “I hope you know what you’re doing”. Me and Noi tucked in. I sipped mine slowly. Noi quaffed hers with abandon. She claimed that she really liked it. I ordered a couple more.
Not that it’s happened to me very often but when you are stone cold sober and the company you are in is getting steadily blasted, certain things show up. Inhibitions are usually the first thing to go out of the window when Joe Grogg walks in. Next, people with an emotional streak start crying, people with a violent streak want to fight and people with a high sex drive want to shag every woman in the place and so on.
Drinking Bishop’s Finger has a way of developing all these characteristics in one person at the same time. The difference between me and Noi that afternoon was that I knew this and she didn’t.
Believe me, one bottle of this stuff seriously messes with your head. Noi had no idea and I should have known better. I have vague recollections of the two of us noisily making our way through KLCC, which is the shopping centre at the bottom of the Petronas Towers. I bought Noi some new clothes and she had treated me and the Malaysian shoppers present to an impromptu fashion show. We had also bought half the stock of CDs in HMV. Malaysians apparently don’t dance much at HMV. Back at the Shangri La, she disturbed the decorum of the five star lobby with her ribald behaviour. She drew looks of lust, disapproval and bemusement in equal measure from the staff and patrons as we walked through.
I am glad that we made straight for our room so further embarrassment was avoided. Once safely inside, Noi decided that she had an urgent requirement for wild and unbridled sex following which we both fell into a coma-like sleep.
I woke up a few hours later. It was probably about 7.00pm and I had that “what happened?” feeling. The room was dark and I had to force myself to remember exactly where I was. Noi was lying next to me still in a state of unconsciousness.
The bed was soft and warm and I was at peace with the world. I noticed the little arrow on the ceiling which shows the Muslims which direction to pray to Mecca. I, silently thanked my God for Bishop’s Finger.
Imagine how much crazier Bangkok would be if such concoctions were readily available here!