The humble pear
What in the name of Bacchus was Pomagne all about then? For the uninitiated, Pomagne was some kind of sparkling pear flavoured fizzy thing pumped up with donkey flatulence that came in champagne-style bottles, pre-dating alcopops by several decades and designed to look sophisticated. In all my years as a committed boozer, I never, ever saw it in the shops, but they gave away crates of the stuff at school and village fetes up and down the country. There must be warehouses full of the stuff that the manufacturers can’t shift, instead offering it up to Round Tables, school fundraising committees and bottlers of paint stripper on the cheap just to cut their losses.
Pomagne, then, was a fixture at our school Christmas Fayre. You bought a ticket, the Pomagne guy spun the arrow, and if your number came up you won a bottle. Eight to one chance, simple as that. For the princely sum of twenty pence, you could get your grabbing teenage hands on three quarters of a litre of nine per cent proof sparkling pear flavoured wine substitute, and the powers that be were none the wiser.
"You are over eighteen?" he'd ask.
"Oh, yes," we'd reply in our deepest voices, lying through our teeth. I might as well have said "Michael Barrymore used to be my butler", and the old duffer would have asked for an autograph.
Kids won gallons of the stuff, and soon a drinking den was set up in an unused classroom, where dozens of eleven to sixteen year olds spent the afternoon getting completely and utterly arseholed. As you can imagine under these circumstances, vomit was a feature. Lots of it. While some kids were quite content to sit in a corner, clutching six bottles of their booty, taking generous swigs before lapsing into unconsciousness, others began to sing, fight, and go on drunken tours of the school, pissing into bins and trying to round up players for “the world’s biggest game of strip poker”.
Safe in our den of vice, we knew we were safe from the powers of teacherdom, just as long as no-one spilled the beans. Everything's going to be just fine unless...ah. Benny had gone missing. It would only be a matter of time before the shit hit the fan.
The big, stinking splat of dung against ventilator came during the Grande Olde Christmas Raffle draw - the climax of the whole event, where, as usual, some four year old speed demon would the first prize of a motorbike and a set of steak knives.
Benny stood at the front, clutching his tickets in his left hand, half empty bottle of Bulmer’s finest pear flavoured sparkling wine substitute in the other. He swayed slightly as if blown by a gentle breeze.
“And the second prize winner,” announced the Headmaster, rummaging in the barrel of carefully folded tickets, “is.....”
We never found out who won the second prize.
“Blaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!” said Benny as fruit flavoured vomit surged all over Bull’s feet and legs.
An all-teacher hit squad turned over the Kids’ Speakeasy, where the World’s Biggest game of Strip Poker had just reached a crucial stage. Disgracefully, one nameless teen pervert was discovered on the tug, while others greeted the invasion of authority with cries of 'Fuck you, and the horse you rode in on'. Bleary-eyed and retching pupils were led away to an uncertain fate, the local casualty unit, and in one case the fire station who commented "We'll never get that broom handle out of there, sonny." The head put a ban on anyone even mentioning the whole affair at school the next week. So everybody knew about it, then.
At the following term’s Summer Fayre, I won six bottles of Pomagne. The Speakeasy was in the gym store room. I can’t remember who won the strip poker this time, but after I made a fatal spelling mistake on Ye Secret Mappe to Ye Grande Pisse-Up, (Hint: Don't sign it with your own initials) I did get a whole week of detention instead. Arses.