What you hear in the pub never stays in the pub. Pub stories are our way of bringing up the grand after the tipsiness kicks in. In this outing, Mario Laghos was in York where he learned of the handy exploits of a man called Milky.
I met Milky on a weekday night and I was third-wheeling. I was at a pub with a mate – one of those who latches onto girls like a mayfly – and his girlfriend. It was a pub’s pub, of the kind locals in York frequented. Usually, I’d go to the Stone Roses bar, where they’d play Joy Division and Sonic Youth, and mingle with Liam Gallagher wannabees in parkas and over-the-hill skinheads – but I ended up here, leaning on a poorly-attended sodden bar, my eyes drawn to the quiz machine and thinking ‘do I, don’t I?’.
A quid went into the machine, and the game was on. The aim wasn’t to win the jackpot, just to shout ‘Lee Sharpe!’ loudly and often. Then out for a smoke, crowded around a tall table, the kind you have to stand at, leaving scant room for error when you had to lean over your pint to stub your cig out.
I don’t explicitly recall how Milky approached me, and struck up the conversation, but his aim was to sell me duty-free, or perhaps counterfeit cigarettes. He was a large man with a thick Yarkshar accent, he seemed sound, like one of these friendly northerners you heard about, he was one of them. My interest in his dodgy cigarettes was feigned – but in light of tobacco duty hikes wouldn’t be today (if you’re reading this Milk, get in touch).
‘Take my number’ he said, and I obliged. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked. ‘Milky’ he replied with an expectant look. He had a salt of the earth ring about him, he made me feel like he was doing me a favour by flogging his contraband – I could hardly refuse him the story he was chomping at the bit to tell.
‘I used to work at the artificial insemination plant, the one for bulls, the one on the industrial estate, you know, the one as if you were going into town and then took a left, and a left again…’
I zone out when people describe directions. Stop telling me stories with directions. I don’t need geographical exactitude.
‘And there was this prize bull’ he continued. ‘Oh yeah’ I said, to reassure him of my continued, but probably visibly waning interest. ‘And it had SRS!’. It was clear he wouldn’t elaborate without my input, sort of like a real-life NPC. I had to play my part in the performance – ‘what’s SRS?’ I asked performatively. ‘Semen Retention Syndrome!’
He described, in explicit detail, how exactly one procures semen from a bull. ‘You put it in a plastic sock, and you have to stimulate it, until it, you know, delivers. But this bull, proper pedigree breeding and all that you know, just wouldn’t do it. So, me and the lads put a betting pool on, just a tenner each like, but when there’s five of you that’s fifty quid, nothing to sniff at is it?’
‘No, n-‘. I thought my input was required again here, but it wasn’t.
‘One after another, we took turns to massage the bull. They all have different techniques you see, some were giving long slow strokes, right from one side to the other, and it was quite a way you know, you had to take a step or two to actually manage that – and others were going as fast and as rapid as you like’.
Nine men had tried, but they were all of them, failures. Milky, in with a shot at the pinky, stepped up, and had a stroke of genius. ‘I took the plastic sock off, you know, to get that skin-on-skin contact, to properly stimulate it’.
I wondered if he really went to these lengths for the fifty quid, but then, it’s nothing to sniff at, is it?
‘I started off gently, and then gradually built up the pace. I could see it starting to twitch, I could tell he liked it!’. There was a real sense of pride in his craft, which I supposed is fair if that’s your job, someone’s got to do it.
‘Then, as he was getting all worked up, I started going like the clappers, and then –
With that, Milky blew the froth off of his beer.
‘And I was covered from head to toe, in bull semen.’
Silence. For a couple of seconds.
‘That’s why they call you Milky then?’
‘No – I used to be a milkman’.