Monday, June 07, 2004

The Great Man

It's not by chance that I give the impression of drinking more than I did in my youth.

I did a little drinking in my teens, but once I discovered dope I gave it up. It seemed like the stupid drug of the older generation. I remember tripping in a pub in the North of England and getting Hunter's Fear and Loathing.

I did drink a little wine in Paris, of course...and a little tequila in Mexico...but once I became a juggler I virtually gave it up. Not just for the co-ordination, but the economics - I got more fun out of training, and preferred to use my money to pay for classes in everything I could think of. Funnily enough, I was just thinking of my wonderful acrobatics teacher Ronji Cruz the other day, but can't find news of her through Google. She it was who one day invited me out for a "quick half" and stopped me being so puritanical about it - over that half pint she invited me to teach her class the following week, which started me off on the teaching part of my life. Thanks Ronji!

Still didn't drink much. Saw too many stupid drunks at the medaeval banquets (being a Court Jester was a small but steady income - staying sober and acting tipsy was the best way to work). It wasn't really until I ended up in Barcelona that I started 'proper' drinking. Alone and despondent, there wasn't much to do but busk up some cash and then sit around in bars. And the Spanish didn't have any health issues with smoking and drinking (I still believe that it is worry that is a major contributor to illness - failing to do things joyously is fatal - that sub-text of "naughty but nice", "I really ought to give this up", etc). Either do it and enjoy it, or don't do it.

When living with people who don't drink it is a lot easier not to drink. And the reverse is true. When I went to Bristol and ended up with Marmora as a landlady (Hi Marmora!) I drank a great deal, which was partly from feeling 'over the hill' in terms of teaching (a self-fulfilling prophecy). Fortunately I ran away to join the circus, where a stout constitution was an asset (we worked hard and played hard - NoFit State parties were the best I have ever been to).

And now I live in Cardiff. The Welsh drink quite a lot, and pub culture is a way of life, so I get drawn in. I also like a bottle of red wine at home.

Listen, at the beginning of the Twentieth Centurythe last Ale-Taster in Cardiff was nicknamed "Toby Philpot" after the Toby Jug character, who, like Robin Hood and John Bull, is a classic British archetype, described in an 18th Century song (tune here - lyrics here). My dad may have been a teetotaler, but he named me after the most famous drinker in the land. Not a lot I can do about that. I researched the name when working on publicity angles (Toby Juggler, etc). This other Toby has published most of the same stuff, so I won't bother.

And, of course, when I took up juggling my hero was W.C.Fields (The Great Man), not one of those 'clean-living, drug-free (sure) Olympic athletes in the circus.

Hero with feet of clay...or something...

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