Sunday 2 August 2015

Drinking with Keith Floyd

It's exactly 5 months since I last drank alcohol.

By way of celebration, and inspired by my post on ancestry and the Celts the other day (see Alcoholism and Ancestry) I thought I'd take a little trip down memory lane.

More than twenty years ago, when I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed graduate just starting out in advertising, I was working on the Irish Tourist Board account.

I was in heaven. I loved Ireland. My clients were crazy, but great fun. If I asked them to meet me at any time after 5pm to look at some creative work they would insist on going to 'Meeting Room P' or, in other words, the Coach and Horses Pub. Once there they would merrily dissect and destroy whatever lovingly crafted work I presented over several pints of Guinness.

Once a year the Irish Tourist Board did the Grand Tour. They'd pick a region of Ireland and we'd spend a week visiting all the attractions and staying in the best hotels on offer. We'd 'work' all day, and all evening we were wined and dined like kings.

The evening would invariably end with a lock in, a sing song and lots of impromptu dancing. No-one went to bed before about 4am. Ever. Their stamina was extraordinary. I'd just spent three years as hard living student, yet there was no way I could keep up with this crew.

And their Christmas party.... I don't know where to begin. The truth is that I can remember very little detail, and neither - I suspect - can any of them.

The first big campaign I worked on with the Irish Tourist Board starred the famous, drunken, TV chef Keith Floyd eating (and boozing) his way around Ireland.

The first time I met Keith was when he came to London (from Devon) to shoot a press advertisement. My job (as the lowly junior) was to meet him at the station at around 10am and escort him to the studio.

I turned up early. I'd checked and double checked everything. I saw the train come in and waited by the gate for Keith to come through. I waited and waited. No Keith. I called his agent (from a payphone. We didn't carry mobiles in those days - imagine!) who told me that he'd put Keith on the train himself. I got the station to put an announcement over the tannoy. Still no Keith.

Eventually, palms sweating and heart racing, I called the hotel Keith was booked into that evening. "Mr Floyd has been in the bar for the last hour," they told me.

I collected him. He was contrite. He confessed to giving me the slip because they'd refused to open the bar on the train on account of it being breakfast time.

Despite (or perhaps because of) being drunk, Keith performed brilliantly. The photographer and crew forgave him for keeping them waiting for nearly two hours.

After the shoot he took me to a famous oyster bar on Piccadilly where, predictably, we got seriously merry, and he bought me my first oysters. "Isn't it like when the moonlight kisses the ocean?" he asked me. I thought it was like swallowing snot, but nodded (ever the people pleaser).

Keith died a few years ago at the relatively young age of 65. He had a heart attack. The last decade of his life was plagued by illness - including a stroke and bowel cancer. I'm sure that if he'd quit drinking he would have lived longer.

I wonder if Keith Floyd regretted any of it. Because, you know, I now accept - with a degree of serenity - that my drinking career is over. I'm happy to move into Phase Two. But I'm not sure that I regret much of it. For a while back there it was a bloody good laugh.....

....until it stopped being so.

Love SM x


  1. I love this post. Although never on a celebrity level, I had several merry moments with my old pal, booze, that I refuse to regret.
    Unfortunately, for me, I abused that relationship, called on booze way too often, refused to let it call it a night when it should...came to depend on it both physically and mentally.
    Thank God, I found the strength to give it the boot out the door, but the memories, both good and bad, linger.

  2. That's a great post - imagine if it hadn't been Keith Floyd, but Keith Richards! Totally agree with you about oysters btw xx

  3. Yeah. I regret little, until perhaps the last few years when I KNEW my drinking was hurting th people around me, mainly because it was hurting me and I was so low.
    But that's what life is for. Doing better when you know better.
    No hair shirts or self flagellation for me!

    Yesterday was 20 months for me. And every day is a beautiful gift.


  4. Ah the good old days.... I too have no regrets about the fun and good (and crazy)times I had and am happy now to leave it there. It's time to grow up and move on. At 46 years old!! Well done on 5 months. Am coming up for 4 months and the benefits are still outweighing the hard times. I still miss it at a times but more the idea of it than the reality. I was able to stay up late on holiday and play outside with the kids and watch box sets with my husband and get up in the morning to go get breakfast and lose weight and have my birthday and so much more. Unimaginable a year ago. Thanks for keeping blogging xx

  5. This ever-so-late-to-the-party comment may just get lost in the inter-netherworld, but certainly my relationship with booze was helped along by literally 'growing up' in a newspaper cityroom (fell down that rabbit hole when I was 17). The three-martini lunch, the irascible-hysterically funny, hard-drinking (nearly all male) staff were a recipe for fun and memories I wouldnt want to give up. Not to give up my own personal responsibility in becoming someone who really enjoyed drinking, but it certainly set a few stones in the path (not to be tripped over til much, much later...)

    (Oh..and in the States, we had our own tippling chef, Graham Kerr - Australian, if I recall??)