High on a city hill they named it ‘The Prospect’. It was for the view I suppose, from its back door. It had to be the view.
The Prospect of Leeds was part of an imposing terrace of houses painted white, set against the city skyline. That dark and dirty city skyline. An Inn of some repute, a rough and ready tavern. A haven for kids in search of fun and under age booze. One of the many Tetley Pubs in Leeds, one on every street corner. Drinking came easy, no one stopped or you warned you. Pubs welcomed you, we were all locals at them by our sixteenth birthday.
That first taste of beer in Whitelocks yard with my parents as a child of six. The bus on a Sunday into Leeds. Then our small family would while away the hours sitting in this ancient alley relaxing. They were never big drinkers mind. Mum would have a Brandy at Christmas, Dad the occasional jug of beer carried home with a cloth covering it from the off license.
Moderation seemed alive and well in our house. Whitelocks it was that began the journey, a simple sip of bitter. Two small child’s hands gripping that large glass tankard. Brown stinky liquid with off white froth on top. It tasted foul and smelt foul. It wouldn’t always.
Alcohol is clever, the day was coming when taste and smell no longer mattered. As a child, slowly and surely booze began to snare me. Christmas was a wonderful time friends, family, presents, great home cooking and of course booze. Snowballs were so nice long before alcopops. Advocat, has anyone ever drunk it outside the Christmas period? Add lemonade and lime juice, pop a cherry on a stick and Bob’s your Uncle.
Christmas was wonderful, Sherry got surreptitiously slurped. T
Then of course there was Shandy. That foul-smelling beer drink was well drinkable with lemonade. By the age of elven I was getting quite a liking for the stuff. I suppose it was just a natural progression. It wasn’t long before I had my first experience of being very drunk, hammered whatever you want to call. Unable to walk and throwing up on wine and strong lager. It was my first holiday abroad, a binge drinking Brit I suppose long before it was fashionable.
I was on a coach trip to Austria with my parents. It was a strange holiday in a way to take a young lad on. It was a good trip, it was just that it was full of middle-aged people. They were all very nice and often would let me have a sip of their beer or wine as we made our way through Germany and Austria.
One unfortunate night in Vienna we visited a wine garden. One of my tipples of choice in later life seemed to be settled. I have no idea how much I drank, it didn’t end well. I remember laughing and prancing around a lot, which everyone seemed to find amusing. Then on the coach back to the hotel I vomited all over the back seat of the coach. I had to be helped off as I was having a little difficulty walking by this stage. My journey with alcohol had begun and it would be an unrelenting, self-destructive path for many years.
As a group of friends, we had only been to The Prospect a handful of times. The Richmond as it had become was now discotheque and themed Wild West Bar. Crooks, alcoholics and school kids frequented it every Friday eight till late. What a dive, we went filled with trepidation which was soon replaced with Skol. One night turned out to be our last visit. I knew it was rough, we all did but not that rough.
At around 10.30pm a fight broke out in the smoky, dark bar. Noise, shouting, fist on flesh. The kids all scattered out of the front, the bouncers were coming in the side door. A right pair of pigs. Small head, no neck, black dirty suit, white shirt, black tie. The kid didn’t stand a chance. Punched and kicked him out of the door and down the steps. Into the car park laying lifeless where he fell, the glamour of Friday nights in Richmond Hill left me that night.
Friday nights didn’t stop we just needed a safer venue. We were only kids and didn’t really know what to do. We moved towards the two ugly, violent men as the young lad struggled to his feet and staggered from the car park. The ugliest one of the pair looked across at us.
“What you are looking at you miserable little fuckers, fuck off or you’ll be next.”