Drunken days, sleepless nights | VailDaily.com

Drunken days, sleepless nights

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colorado

Because Northern Ireland in the summer experienced about 21 hours of daylight with three hours of darkness in the wee hours, Frank and the other soldiers found it particularly difficult to sleep, even with the help of black curtains.

Despite working long days, which often started at 5 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m., the men found the extra daylight hours left them with time on their hands.

Back to the world of bicycles.

Frank and his friends formed bicycle brigades. Once gathered, they would climb on their bikes and head out to explore the countryside, and what they found were country roads that wandered here and there, but the one thing they all had in common were the pubs to be found along the roads.

Inside one seemed just like the other: scarred wooden floors, black ceilings, the smell of smoke and beer embedded in everything. The men would go inside and have a brew and then ride on to find another pub. When they finally grew tired, they rode back to the barracks and tried to get some much-needed sleep.

Soon it was time to leave Ireland and move to Scotland. Once again Frank was in charge of loading the men and supplies of his battalion and this time they went by ferryboat. The trip took a couple of hours and the crossing was uneventful.

Once in port, Frank began the chore of unloading everything, and once unloaded, everything had to be reloaded on to train cars, cars that were called “Goods Wagons.”

In port, Frank found Scots who would lend a hand with the unloading and loading, but these gents went by the Scottish rules of work, and only did so much before they waved their arms in the air, found a shady spot to sit down, and poured themselves a spot of tea.

The first time this happened, Frank was dumbstruck. With a strong work ethic and as a man who worked until the job was finished no matter how long it took, Frank couldn’t understand this pause for tea, but every few hours it would happen, and no matter how much needed to be loaded or unloaded the stevedores insisted on their tea break.

Having tea in Scotland was a prevalent custom. So it wasn’t long before Frank had his first encounter with the tea custom. He moseyed into town ” after the unloading was completely finished ” and entered a pub.

It was mid-day and Frank said to the sturdy looking bar maid, “I’ll have tea.”

Without a pause, she asked, “With milk or water.”

Frank thought for a second and then rubbed his chin with thumb and forefinger. “Just tea if you don’t mind.”


Frank gave her an affirmative nod, wondering if she was deaf. “Just tea,” he said again.

When the tea arrived, Frank took sip. His eyes grew wide. The mixture in his cup just about took all the enamel off his teeth and was so strong and bitter he had to spit it out. From then on, he knew to order either milk or water with his tea.

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