Thursday, April 09, 2009

Seasonal Booze Ups

It is testament to how far Fleet Street as fallen from its inglory days that I was until now only dimly aware of the old journalistic tradition of Wayzgoosing. In those days newspapers did not publish on Good Friday, allowing printers and, when they cottoned on to the idea, the hacks, to indulge in spectacular piss ups.

Roy Greenslade has a fine overview of the tradition, and also links to some splendid anecdotes from the Gentlemen Ranters (this one is worth a read, not least for the picture). His own stories aren't too shabby either.

I also recall a Sun/Daily Mirror subeditorial wayzgoose that did make it to France, with embarrassing consequences. The good burghers (of Dieppe, I think) had been wrongly informed that a group of important British journalists were due to arrive and duly turned out the mayor and the town band to greet them off the ferry.

Sadly, by the time the wayzgoosers arrived, they had been drinking non-stop for many hours since leaving London and were only able to walk by leaning against each other.

Pity today's hacks – sorry, make that "content providers" – hard at work as usual today and often unaware of this custom.

It's Good Friday tomorrow, when another Easter drinking spectacular is in the offing across the water. You see, it is the one day (bar Christmas) when every pub in Ireland is forced to close. It is one of the last reflexive genuflections made towards the Catholic Church in the country; a ritual devoid of any real meaning or purpose (you may wish to develop this metaphor) and naturally, treated by all right-thinking people as the chance for a monstrous piss-up.

The greater availability of off-sales (closed on the day, of course) has helped greatly. Maundy Thursday is a boom day for retailers; as for their customers, I still recall one Good Friday party in Cork which left me feeling far worse than anyone who partakes of that curious bit of Filipino piety whereby they nail themselves to a cross would. However, in the days before off licences were so common, there were several ingenious ways by which people could get a drink.

Ferries were exempt, so trips to Wales or the Isle of Man were popular. Some people even went to the North, because if ever there was a fun place to be it was Belfast circa 1922-97. Train journeys, too, had no constraints, so many people would spend the day in a diurnal course of journeys with no end in sight and a constant stream of booze (shades of the great Moskva-Petushki there).

But the most curious exemption was the dog show held on Good Friday in the Royal Dublin Society. The bar there was the one place allowed to serve alcohol (one suspects the powers that be thought that only irredeemable West Brits would go to a dog show on that day, a similar mindset to the people who bombed the La Mon, you might note). The event was a great favourite of the likes of Brendan Beehan, Patrick Kavanagh and various other riffish and raffish sorts.

If only the Irish hacks had gone in for wayzgoosing.

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2 Comments:

Blogger dominic said...

Well it is the one day of the year on which mass is not (usually) allowed to be held, (yes, there is a liturgy of the presanctified, but that's not the same thing: the hosts were consecrated yesterday then carried to the place of repose under an ombrellino); no mass - no pub. Cos where else would you go after mass?

(Just saw a boy get tied to a cross here, on the cliffs, where the Stations of the Cross are reenacted every GF: less blood and gore than the Philippino version, however). Sound effects in lieu of nails.

And of course Easter Sunday is, apart from Xmas, the only day that supermarkets must close in England: I think England's obsession with shopping is less preferable than Ireland's with drinking.

12:38 pm  
Blogger bill said...

That's true about there being no Mass (in fact, I am listening to Gesualdo's E Tenebrae as I write this. They couldn't possibly do the Eucharist in the middle of that. It would spoil it). I must say the no mass - no pub logic does explain it all splendidly.

But if you think that Ireland does not share, indeed exceed in many cases, England's obsession with shopping then I am afraid you are more than usually mistaken. A cursory glance at the state of the economy and the levels of private debt will tell you that.

10:31 pm  

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