A dear friend of mine used to work on the bar. I’ll call him Fernando, to protect the not-exactly-innocent.

One night, he was at the Club, having a little drink with one of the skittlers. He wasn’t working, but what happened that night created a new policy for the bar staff.

When I hadn’t long been at the Club, we hosted a Christmas Carol Concert for a local charity.

I had the option of running the main bar, or making the mulled wine. I’ve never had a mouth for red wine, so I really wouldn’t know if it was cooked properly or not. Also, having never used the kitchen (which was really a glorified cupboard with a hob in it), I didn’t feel entirely capable. To this day, I know that some sort of spice is added to mulled wine to make it mull, but I don’t know what. If I had to guess: cinnamon and cloves? There must be other things though, and things I wouldn’t know where to find in our kitchen. As such, I took on the bar.

We must have had eight cases of mulled wine in the kitchen that night. I had thought that Fernando would be pouring the wine into a saucepan and adding a little of this, a little of that, a stirring it until it reached the right temperature. Hence, my own reluctance to take on mulled wine duty. As it happened, Fernando poured a bottle of mulled wine into a plastic bowl, and whacked it into the microwave to die. No spices, no temperature reading, nothing.

However, every fifteen seconds or so, Fernando opened the microwave, removed the bowl, and lowerdd a shot glass into the mulled wine. He knocked it back, made a face, and put it back in the microwave to cook for a little longer.

By the end of the evening, Fernando had drunk not a sip less than a bottle and a half of mulled wine, two glasses of red wine and a double scotch, and was regaling us with stories.

There had been a vicar some years before, he told us, who’d gone on visits around the area to the elderly and infirm. In this particular story,  the vicar was making his rounds on Christmas Eve, and at every single house he was offered a small sherry. When he arrived at the Club, he’d parked his car in the middle of the road, and staggered his way up the path, goosed one of the lady members at the fruit machine, bought everyone a drink and then realised he had to get down the road to the church for midnight mass. Everyone who was there that night said it was the best sermon they had ever heard. They still speak of it now.

Back to the night with the skittler, Fernando was having a whisky and talking about his day. Whatever had occurred had put him in a good humour, and he was telling jokes to the skittles-player and the barman. They laughed a lot, which naturally, made them all want to stay a little longer. It was still early in the evening, so there was no harm in that.

After telling the story of his day, Fernando left his drink at the bar and went to the Gents. The skittles-player took the near-empty glass and proffered it to the barman, who filled it with a double. Fernando returned from the toilets and, somewhat bemused by the fullness of his glass, knocked the drink back, and offered to buy one for the other chaps.

Several drinks, and visits to the Gents later, Fernando was slurring, and laughing a little too long at jokes that never made it outside the confines of his own head. Stumbling, he put his empty glass on the bar, told the barman he was finished for the evening, and slipped out into the corridor. The remaining chaps in the bar heard him return to the toilets, and went back to talking. The rest of the evening passed as normal. The skittler went home, and the barman closed the bar, set the alarm and locked up.

Around two in the morning, Fernando came to on the floor of the Gents. Everything was in darkness. He wasn’t certain where he was. On opening the door to the corridor, he set off a motion sensor, and the alarm started to ping. He hadn’t been working, so he didn’t have keys to the building that night, ergo he couldn’t get into the alarm control room. Nor could he get into the bar to the phone to call anyone. Knowing that the alarm would stop pinging and start wailing at any moment, Fernando, resigned, casual and still rather drunk, pushed open the emergency exit and wandered out into the car park. The alarm was sounding loudly enough to split a personality.

He blundered down the dark street, falling into roadside gullies and almost walking into unlit streetlights all the way. Hedges pushed him back to vertical for at least part of his journey. As he was passing the graveyard, still facing forward, his upper body still aiming down the road, his feet led him to the left.

He awoke the next morning, damp with dew, brain banging, draped over a headstone.

These days, all bar staff check the ladies and gents before leaving. 

He hasn’t got into that condition since. Though, apparently, he did find his slippers in the fridge one morning.

He’d buttered them.