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My pint-pulling days are in the past

At 2.25pm a text message arrives.

"Yo! Any chance u cld work tonite?" I'm briefly paralysed. How did Prince get my number? Turns out it's from Paul, a longtime friend and former colleague back in the distant past when neither of us was remotely bothered about anything other than having a bonzer time propelled by the twin engines of alcohol and rock music.

A Canadian, which hopefully goes some way to justifying the tone of his message, he managed a pub; I was one of his two assistant managers.

Paul now co-owns a superior bar/restaurant operation in Glasgow, one I favour over most of its rivals on account of (a) the nigh bottomless diversity of quality beer available there and (b) my nigh bottomless sense of loyalty. In short, it's a great bar … but I wouldn't want to work there (and swiftly told Paul as much).

Perhaps that should read "couldn't work there". Where once I could concoct a Bloody Mary with one hand and dispense a perfect pint of weissbier with the other - all the while balancing a rimless plate of well-oiled vermicelli on the underside of my forearm and mentally calculating the punter's change in sterling, Danish kroner and Philippine pesos (to keep the grey matter supple) - more than a decade later the notion of manning a bar gives me the willies.

I struggle to see myself revisiting any of my old jobs, frankly. For a mercifully brief spell after graduating I was a watch salesman, cutting about the west of Scotland in a claret Mini Metro 1.0L, sniffing the breeze for sales opportunities. I quit when my conscience objected to the main thrust of the work: fleecing brickies of their hard-earned shekels. Now? I still couldn't sell Sinbad a scimitar.

Then there's touring with bands. From Exeter to Eindhoven, I've tuned guitars, flogged T-shirts and wiped the behinds of musicians (figuratively speaking). Quite beyond the health hazards - among them sleep disorders, fluctuating weight, the 1000-yard stare of the irredeemably roadworn - being separated from my record collection for more than a week would be unthinkable. I've grown accustomed to comfort and routine, I suppose.

While I'm a firm believer in the adage "never go back", I am prey to that aforementioned sense of loyalty. But I've sussed out a way to avoid being drafted into helping out an old friend: I'll get myself barred from his boozer. It's my round. Who's in?

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Food and drink

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