Elf’s, Safety, and an old Sea Dog!

‘Elf’ & Safety -V- Sir Francis Drake’s ‘olde’ watering hole.

Sir Francis Drake
  Sir Francis Drake

More often, than ‘often’, I mention the past, and comment on historical dit’s and adventures (‘swing the lamp’ for the Navy/’pull up a sandbag’ for the Marines). This is mainly due to the fact that it is fairly difficult to foresee and predict future escapades!

This post stands firm in the same manner.

Far gone memories were brought flooding back through a recent newspaper article (as well as several outraged phone calls from ex-Bootnecks). It concerns the past affection held for Sir Francis Drakes ‘olde’ watering hole in Plymouth, the Minerva Inn (from where, as a Vice Admiral, he quaffed a gallon after defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588).

Minerva Inn, Plymouth

The ‘Minerva Inn’ is a pub dear to my own heart. I drank my first ever pint there as a newly qualified Royal Marines Commando. When my son was born, a dozen or more good hardy Marines took me there ‘to wet the baby’s head’. In the same bar I celebrated a Marines engagement, his eventual stag night, and even ‘wet the baby’s head’ when his son was born. I celebrated all of my promotions within the ‘Minerva’; and sadly over the years I also mourned the death of some good Marines.

Consequently I ensured that every ‘sprog’ that became part of my Section/Troop/Company knew of the tradition that went along with the Minerva Inn, as well of other ‘public houses’ of great repute, that have passed into Bootneck folklore.

The ‘Minerva’ in particular, because one great individual that walked through its hallowed door was the great Vice Admiral ~ Francis Drake (who also dwelled in the house next door before moving onto far greater things). He will turn in his shroud at the thought of what public ‘elf’-&-safety demand of the present landlords.

Teak and oak beams taken from the ships of the defeated Spanish Armada form part of the interior of the Minerva Inn, they stand open and proudly on display for all to see. ‘Elf’ & Safety wish to see a great tradition covered over from the public eye, forever… Prior to active deployments, quite a few names from years gone past have left their mark within; some never to return. It is hoped that a tactical resolve can be found that suits all concerned.

Here comes the ‘dit’

On reporting for duty at my first RM Commando Unit, I was unfortunate enough to (literally) bump into a giant of a Marine; by sheer coincidence I happened to bump into him again a few hours later, as I was shown my bunk opposite his in a two-man cabin. ‘Tiny’ took it upon him self to show me the ropes as well as the run ashore in Plymouth. That same evening I was ‘ordered’ to accompany him to a pub for a ‘quick’ pint of cider… being a ‘sprog’ straight from training I had no option but to comply. Fortunately it was a Thursday evening, the start of a long weekend’s leave, as well as the end of the month & payday.

Exit right & roll down the hill to the Barbican
            Exit right & roll down the hill to the Barbican

Having caught a ‘hackney’ black cab into the City centre we pulled up outside of a small unassuming bar. Obviously I had the privilege of paying the taxi fare, and as I was reminded all evening, it was a ‘sprogs privilege’ to do so.

My first pint in Plymouth, on my first ever night in Plymouth, was at the bar of ‘The Minerva Inn’ on Looe Street, the oldest pub in Plymouth (CIRCA 1540, and home to the dealings of the press-gang).

As I paid the fare, Tiny was already through the door and ordering the pints that I was (also) about to pay for. He ordered four? I could have sworn he threw the contents of the first onto the floor, as he quickly banged the glass back onto the bar, empty? ‘Oh My God’, it dawned on me that this man was not just a giant of a man, but also a ‘Beer Monster’ of the most fearsome kind… The game was on! I followed suit and banged my empty glass down in the same fashion, and the next, after which I felt my leather belt strain slightly as my steel muscled six pack expanded (a newly acquired six-pack, the result of recruit training at the Commando Training Centre), what had I let myself in for…

An Elf that is also a Beer Monster, which has nothing to do with this tale

(An ‘Elf’ that appears to be a ‘Beer Monster’, which has nothing to do with this tale)!

After a half of a gallon, I was about to visit the heads and make a deposit to aid my expanding girth, when I heard a voice boom “where-R-U-going-Royal” ~ “to the heads” I replied, “but I don’t need to, & nor do you, we’re leaving and heading down the street to the Barbican, lets not waste time peeing”! Obviously giants have much larger bladders than mere mortals…

I groaned, my bladder groaned, and my leather belt ‘creaked’ like the harness on a heavy Shire horse pulling a cart full of potatoes.

Safe to say I made the next pub with dignity intact, and continued the night in good form. It was made easier as I somehow managed to lose my 6’ 6” drinking partner in a bar that was packed to the ‘gunwales’. Though I was fortunate enough to bump into two of my squad mates from training.

The next morning I was tipped from my bunk by a grinning ‘Hercules’, as he required my presence at breakfast. Mid morning I endured a long 7-mile run with the beast, all in readiness for that evenings second attempt at bladder control, which obviously started in the Minerva Inn

Train hard, fight easy, and drink till you stink on R & R… Not the words of Sir Francis Drake, but the mighty Beer Monster ‘Tiny’.

Madonna, and the 1%, in a Taxi Cab

N Training

New York City- I board the N Train in Queens, sit down, and close my eyes. It is not dangerous this, I know the subway like the back of my hand.

The N and the R lines have seats, versus the 4, 5, and 6 (which run down Lexington or up into the Bronx.) The Lexington cars have grey benches. Seats are more private. They have a slight curve to them, differentiating them from the long, unsegregated bench.

I have my headphones on. And some old music soothes me. iPods are but a future memory in those days, the 90s.

NYC Subway Sandwich Map

We grind through all the Queens’ exits before ducking low low under the river, heading in. To the City. And more stations.

We round that curve, lurching to the left with a screech.

Riders start to fill up the train as we move through midtown. Suddenly, we chug. As in, not moving fluidly. But in little jerks. Like Tom Cruise. Dancing. To a stop. And then we start up again.

We pull into the next station. And wait. Without moving. This had happened before. We wait more. This has not happened before. Not this long.

I have music, but most of the riders don’t and they exchange looks, as in a secret Santa gift swap. Wide eyed. Surprised with each other.

Rawr Godzirra!

The announcer, the conductor, comes on. Above us and orders us off. For some reason, which I do not hear. We are told there are no downtown trains available.

We stream out of the exits onto Broadway, hundreds of people. Acting in our own Godzirra movie. All we need is a giant lizard.

A guy near me turns around. Anyone going to the Village? 

I am, I reply. And so does a businessy woman to his left.

Let’s get a taxi. And he whistles one streaming downtown.

Madonna in a taxi cabby, New York City

I sit in the front and they plop into the back. Where to, the cabbie asks in a Russian accent, with that eastern hardboiled look. Like he has something other than blood, maybe a vodka-infused borscht, pumping through his arteries.

The Village, I reply. 5th Avenue near the Park. The passengers in the back mumble approval.

He grunts and veers into traffic.

How is your day going? the lady asks him.

Oh, good.

Busy? I inquire, to which he bobs his head. I stare out the window.

Had any celebrities recently, the male passenger asks. I think it an odd question, but remain mute.

Yeah, Madonna. About a month ago. Where you are sitting, he says, jerking his thumb back at the woman.

Get outta here, the male passenger rasps. I want to take him up on his offer.

Greenwich Village, My Arch Enemy

I could not see her behind me, but I hear the poor business-lady shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

We drive downtown, through traffic. No one says anything else. Our taxi has turned serious.

And soon the arch of the Village looms and we pile out. Standing, we split the fare three ways.

We should have split it four ways, with one share being Madonna’s. She ruined our small-talk and she is part of the 1%, right? Heck, she should have paid it all. And given us stipends. And paid our college loans. After all, we are living in a material world. . .