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Brendan Behan: Rental Jacket

"Brendan Behan, the roistering Irish playwright, made many heroic attempts to get off the bottle that was eventually to kill him.

"His longest dry spell lasted some months and, indeed, seemed to have been so successful that a London temperance league invited him to be guest speaker at their annual meeting. Behan accepted and, since the invitation stipulated evening dress, soberly went to Moss Bros to hire himself a dinner jacket.

"Unluckily, the hour at which he set off to the temperance meeting happened to be 6 p.m. -- the moment when pub lights twinkle on invitingly. The temptation was finally too much. Behan stopped with his taxi-driver for a quick one, and never resumed his journey.

"He came to next morning in the gutter, still wearing the Moss Bros dinner jacket. In his night's wanderings, vomited over it, and both urinated and defecated in it. Since it was clearly beyond dry cleaning or fumigation, Behan simply dug a hole in his garden and buried it.

"Some months later, an elderly assistant at Moss Bros looked in the hire-book and saw that the garments hired to a Mr B. Behan were still outstanding. He therefore dispatched a polite note, asking for their return at Mr Behan's convenience. Unfortunately, the note reached Behan just as he was falling off the wagon again. He went out into his garden, dug up the dinner jacket, put it back into its box, wrapped the tissue paper round it and sent it back to Moss Bros."

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