St. Patrick's Day is always a time of joyous celebration for many, with the true spirit of Irishness encapsulated in merry drunken brawling, and the covering of pavements with black vomit.

Pints of Guinness Guinness: Bad for you

But for committed teetotaller Bernard Function of Slough and his family, March 17 2004 is rapidly turning into a rancid nightmare, after he accidentally consumed almost an entire pint of Guinness by mistake at lunchtime today.

Fears

This evening, Function, 60, a retired schoolmaster, was recovering at home, having suffered light-headedness and anxiety, but fears that the incident may affect the rest of his life.

'I may seem to be OK on the surface, and I have much to thank God for', he told a local newspaper, 'but that fact that I was spared today by some miracle doesn't change the fact that I will have to face the reality of alcoholism every day for the remainder of my life.'

'Maybe it would've been better if I'd just died from alcohol poisoning', he added, close to tears.

Baptist

A committed baptist, Bernard has never allowed to pass his lips, but visited a friend's house in Bracknell today

'Richard offered me a drink, because it was St. Patrick's day and all that, and I said "yes please, Richard"', he explains. 'The next thing I know, I'm drinking a glass of Coca Cola, only it tasted a bit different. So it must be a new recipe - a different kind of darker, creamier cola beverage drink, I thought'.

'It was only after I had finished that he offered to pour me another one, and brought into the room a black tin can with distinctive white lettering and harp motif on it, that I realised something was wrong. Very wrong.'

Bernard Function Function: Life will never be the same again.

'I couldn't believe what he'd done. I mean, it was an entire glass of the stuff. Irish Stout, it was, and that's the strongest drink in the world. Needless to say, he's not my friend any more. He could've killed me, and I believe that's what he was trying to do.'

First Time

It's not the first time the Function family have faced a battle with the evils of alchol - in 1983, Bernard's wife Sue once sipped from a glass of sherry at a party, believing it to be fruit juice, and while on holiday in the 1990s they once attended a service at an Anglican Church where the blessed sacrament of Holy Communion actually contained real wine.

'We've been very lucky really, when you think about it', says Sue, 'God has looked after us and spared us from the demon drink, despite one or two close shaves.'

Bernard is now planning on attending a series of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in an attempt to stay off the wagon, but admits it could be tough.

'Every time I see another pint of Guinness now, I'll have to go through all that mental anguish again, and relive the moment when I supped of it's dark creamy devilspawn. I don't know for sure that I won't be tempted. I just don't know.'