What’s The Word? – How To Avoid Urinating In A Frenchman’s Laundry Basket
When I was a feckless teenager, whiling away sunny Saturday afternoons getting smashed in public parks, there were only three drinks available to me. Cider, obviously. MD 20/20, of course. And lastly, the king of teenage tipples. The ultimate fortified wine. Thunderbird.
Back then, Thunderbird was considered rocket fuel, despite the fact that it was only 14% by volume. That’s about the same as your average meaty claret nowadays. Something you middle class types might want to consider when you’re having “a couple of glasses” of wine after work. Every one of those glasses of fruity Malbec is the equivalent of a massive slug of Thunderbird.
Except of course that it isn’t. Not really. Thunderbird used to be advertised back in the 1950s with the following rhyme:
What’s the word? Thunderbird!/How’s it sold? Good and Cold!/ What’s the jive? Bird’s alive!/ What’s the price? Thirty twice!
What that little ditty didn’t mention was that Thunderbird was a wine that was fortified with more than just rough grain alcohol. It was also fortified with “herbs”. The label never stated what those herbs were but I think it’s safe to say that they weren’t Basil or Oregano. Because when you got hammered on Thunderbird, you didn’t really get drunk. You didn’t really get stoned either. You just got, well, Thunderbirded. It was a sensation like no other.
Despite its ancient pedigree, Thunderbird is firmly rooted in the Eighties for me. It is associated with many a pleasant lack-of-memory. I assumed that in the Eighties it would stay. Until it briefly reared its ugly head again a few years ago.
On that fateful night, I had been invited to a barbecue at the house of a man called Alex. A Frenchman called Alex, as it happens. Thoroughly nice chap and a stonemason by trade. He was earning most of his living repairing Cathedrals at the time.
We sat in has back garden drinking beer and eating burgers and soaking in the sunshine. He even let us have a go at some stone blocks with his masonry tool. That’s a great deal harder than it looks and it provided us with some hilarious “Generation Game” style entertainment.
Eventually though, the sun went in and we adjourned to Alex’s front room where he had a rather impressive home cinema set-up. As we were watching some weird French film – is there any other kind?- my friend Carl made an announcement. He had got me a little present. “A little stroll down memory lane” as he put it. He’d got me two bottles of Blue Label Thunderbird. (I couldn’t afford the Red Label when I was a teenager).
Having already put myself outside of quite a few beers, I considered this to be a brilliant idea. The Thunderbird was cracked open and the nightmare commenced. It was all going okay to begin with, or so I thought. Until it was time for me to pay a visit to the little boys’ room.
I desperately needed a wee. Now, those of you in possession of uncircumcised penises will be aware that a foreskin can be a treacherous thing. It’s no surprise that many cultures get rid of the bastards at the first available opportunity. Mine let me down really rather badly.
I aimed at the toilet, which was directly in front of me. To the left of me, however, was Alex the Frenchman’s laundry basket. With the lid off. As I commenced with the business in hand, my foreskin did the party trick that foreskins sometimes perform at the most inopportune moment. It diverted my stream of urine away from its intended “straight ahead” trajectory and fired it away at right angles. And to the left. Being well and truly “Thunderbirded” by that point, I didn’t notice for quite a while. Alex’s laundry was soaked with my piss. Oh dear.
I went back downstairs, and normally I would have confessed and apologized cap-in-hand. Being full of American Hobo Wine though, this is not what I did. What actually happened was that I came downstairs, looked my French host in the eye and flatly said:
“I’ve pissed in your laundry basket”.
Then I just carried on as if nothing had happened and stayed there for at least another hour. This caused much laughter, although not much of that laughter was coming from the direction of Alex.
So, What’s the Word? Thunderbird! What’s the price? Temporary insanity, apparently. And having to apologize profusely in the morning for your arrogant behaviour the previous night. And to a Frenchman of all people.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015