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Around The Sun: The Liver Is Evil And Has To Be Punished

Steve Harrison tells the cautionary tale of a man who set a drinking record.

The only thing we learn from our mistakes is that we neve learn from our mistakes.

Iíve learned many things over the years from many people. Folks have come and folks have gone, but it never ceases to surprise me at some of the antics they think they can get up to and survive.

Running a bar like the Temple in Phnom Phen, Cambodia, was very demanding. For one thing you were expected to drink with all the customers, become as blind drunk as them and create outrageous concoctions that literally reduce a man to a babbling idiot. Being the social creature that I can be, I am very often quite adept at all of the above.

On my very first visit to Cambodia I met Austin, a London geezer through and through. Drank like a fish, ate like a horse and borrowed off you till you were bankrupt. He obviously took a shine to me straight away,

. He'd already had a skinfull and quickly offered to take me to a girly bar he knew. I agreed to go - but could I lend him $10 dollars for the event. He's been borrowing money off everyone I know ever since. He is one of lifeís hangers-on: never any money, up to his eyeballs in debt, invariably drunk and always with a new girl.

He used to come into the Temple bar regular as clockwork, run up a bill of $50 and stagger off into the night. Austin is a big fellow and can really put away a rare cocktail of various assortments.

We invented a drink called a Flaming 52. Actually I stole it from a little lady I knew back in Sydney. You take a shot glass, half-fill it with Kahlua, another half of whatís left with Baileys Irish Cream, then top it off with Cointreau. Line a couple of these up on the bar, turn down the lights and the fans, then set fire to them. A beautiful blue flame flickers and woos the customers.

The idea is to dip a straw into the flaming concoction and drink it up at one quick go, thus reducing the risk of removing eyebrows and whiskers. This drink was an adventure and it sold like hot cakes. Austin loved it. I usually started an evening rolling by making one for myself and one for a customer. Austin tried to always be that customer.

What does it taste like? Well it is quite sweet, with a hint of bitterness. If you are not skilled with the straw it can rip away the lining of your throat on the way down. With a sudden rush of alcohol to the bloodstream the experience is complete.
Several of these in quick succession will reduce most peple to unconsciousness.

Onlookers find watching people drinking this drink irresistible: the blooming flame, the apprehension...

It was not unsuual to get through a bottle of Kahlua in an evening.

Like I said Austin was the master of over indulgence. One day he managed to down 17 flaming 52ís. He lined up two and, snorting them through a straw up each nostril. That day he also had 10 beers, eight tequila shots and several other drinks to push him over the edge. He was staggering though still comprehnsible.

He asked for his bill and was told it amounted to almost $100. When I heared that I thought there had been a mistake. Cambodia was the land of cheap alcohol. A party group could sometimes spend around $100, but never an individual. I double checked, and the bill did indeed amount to $87. And the man could still walk.

The bill was framed and displayed so that all could marvel at its magnificence.

Austin's money woes were beginning to get him down. His father was becoming increasingly less likely to send cash. I decided to rescue him. I offered him a job as a barman. Unapaid, but he could help himself to a few drinks.

Austin, lovely chap that he is, almost drank our profits away. Not a good idea to put a big-paying customer on the other side of the bar. But then I never was a good businessman.

They say that things eventually catch up with you. One night Austin became seriously ill. If he doesn't receive emergency treatment he will be dead by morning. said Dr Gloria, who is the sort of woman who calls a spade a spade. If she says you will be dead by morning, then you will be dead by morning.

An emergency airlift was arranged to take Austin to Bangkok. The airport was opened and a private jet was made available. And Austin's life was saved at a cost of $35,000. Some said that was a huge waste of money, but thanks to insurance cover Austin is still with us. He still takes the occasional tipple, but alcohol knocks him about too much these days. But he is still alive, and a likeable soul.

Austin has just been knocking on my door, asking to borrow $5. Oh dear...

He also asked how the book I am writing is coming along, and is he in it.

Austin I can confirm that you are in it.


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