Alcohol and work…..

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35 years ago I worked with a guy who had been a cooper on the docks in Liverpool. A cooper built new barrels or repaired damaged barrels. He was a great story teller and his stories lost nothing in the telling or to put it another way he was not averse to gilding the lily. But it was fascinating and entertaining when he got going about working in the bonded warehouses in Liverpool where the tobacco and alcohol came in. He said that a lot of the men who worked in the bonded warehouses were very old men and alcoholics. Basically they could not retire because they would not be able to survive without access to very large quantities of free alcohol. How did they get it? Well it was common to have a rubber tube that ran from their necks to down their sleeves. When a damaged barrel was available they would push the tube into the barrel and take a big blast of overproof rum – which is pretty much poison to anyone else. If there was no damaged barrel? – they damaged one. And if they couldn’t do that they would put some boiling water into an empty barrel and that would draw out enough alcohol from the wood to get them by.

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