Literature is literally liberally littered with alcohol. The goodies do it. The baddies do it. Most novelists do it, or have done it to such excess that they had to stop doing it because it tore their lives apart. Or killed them.

Self portrait...

Self portrait…

It makes motives for murder, and excuses for seducers. Where would crime or crime fiction be without it? Cigarettes have been extinguished from novels in later years, and drugs are mostly for baddies, but alcohol still flows freely.

In the seventies I smoked and drank to excess, but for some reason I never experimented with LSD or dagga which was available, back then. As a novelist, I sometimes thought that I ought to have done so.

On a whim, three of us decided to fly to Holland and the UK for 1971 Christmas break. We had barely unpacked our Land Rovers after returning to South Africa from natural resources surveying in the Zambezi Valley, when we were on a KLM flight to Amsterdam.

And drunk. When the flight attendant informed Bruce Barichievy, Derek Tawse and I that they had run out of beer, we were proud of our accomplishment. I doubt it was true and probably a ploy to put us off, but we promptly switched to whisky. Playing poker dice, ours were the only lights still on while all others were off.

When a lady asked us to switch them off as she could not sleep, we thought we were funny when we asked her to switch hers on because we were afraid of the dark.


We spent a couple of days in Amsterdam, and, unprepared for European winter, immediately bought winter coats. Derek’s dark coat made him look like a flasher, which amused Bruce and me no end. Derek was an easy-going man, willing to please. If one was to play hunter-hunter with him, he would be the buck.

We prowled the red-light district, shopping. The girls sat in lit shop-fronts in singles or pairs. When a man made his choice, he knocked on the door. Derek fell in love and went back for another round but when his darling found that he didn’t have enough money, she pursued him into the street, took a swing at him with her fist and he narrowly escaped being knocked into the canal.

After a pleasant brief stay with my old friend, Kees Korndorffer’s sister Lot Lassche and her husband in Nunspeet, we took the ferry to London.

We shared a room in a hotel near Paddington station for a few days, night-clubbing until the morning and sleeping off hangovers most of the day.

My brother, Richard Earle and his wife Maureen were living in London at the time. They innocently took us to a church dance where we suitable disgraced ourselves. Bruce felt sorry for a tipsy girl who started stripping on the stage, so he went to dance with her. Derek dived through the car window onto the laps of Richard’s friend’s daughters to go to their house for coffee, afterwards, then threw up in their bathroom. Richard was concerned for him, but believed us when we told him it was malaria


The three of us hired a Hillman Hunter and drove to Wales to explore. Our rules did not allow driving while pubs were open, and we drank while they were, staying in inns along the way, imbibing cider, a new thing for us, and challenging the locals to games of darts. So, between closing time in the early afternoon and opening time in the evening, we drove drunk.


We flew home by BOAC, drunk. Bruce cracked an imaginary whip towards the pilot’s end of the plane and said, “Bowack, take us home!”

To the bush where we belonged.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
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