It’s nearly the end of January, and so nearly the end of the January detox. I was too late to register for the Dryathlon, though I might donate some of the money I’ve saved to Cancer Research UK. If I haven’t spent it all on cocktails by the end of February 1st. Though it won’t be the amount that the Dryathlon Drink Calculator says. Four quid for a glass of wine! They’re being ripped off.
Not drinking is like being on some sort of very peculiar drug. Too much energy, and in my case too much thought. If Mr T had been a psychologist, he would have diagnosed my condition as Jibber Jabber. Most of what my brain comes up with makes no sense whatsoever. Not a speck. Not an iota. Not a jot. Just a twisted stream of nonsense and non sequiturs.
Now, while writing that kind of thing down might have been fine for the likes of Edward Lear, the days are long gone where you could reasonably expect the paying public to fund your lifestyle for doing so. Unless you want to work for Guardian or the Daily Mail, of course. Which I don’t. Occasionally though, my mind coughs out something that I understand, and this is the sort of thing you are now reading.
My body also goes crazy on this sobriety thing. At the moment it’s behaving like one of those bogus factory machines that Jonathan Routh employed to set up unsuspecting members of the public in the 70’s on the TV show Candid Camera. All the flaps and switches and toggles going berserk and the hole in the front spitting out custard pies at breakneck speed. Though not literally, obviously. I’m not spraying passers by with cream based confectionery because I’ve not had a pint in a while.
I am getting acne though. Acne! I’m 43 for fuck’s sake. And also, I’m pissing like a racehorse. Mainly due to the vast quantities of tea I’m consuming. Plus – and this one’s a hoot – I’m waking up with hangovers. It’s like all the ones I’ve avoided by simply getting drunk again are ganging up and finally having their day. Finally – and crucially – there’s the Jibber Jabber, the quietening of which is the main reason for me drinking in the first place.
I started drinking when I was about fourteen, and frankly got bored of it years ago, but continued anyway. Self medication they call it apparently. But instead here I am on this bizarre drug sobriety, which does admittedly have one major attraction. It’s like having a dealer who gives you thirty quid every time you score off him. Mind you, if everyone knew the side effects, there’d be a public outcry and do-gooders would launch a crusade against it tomorrow.
All this has started giving me shiny happy people thoughts. “Wish I’d never started drinking in the first place” being the main one. As soon as this thought appears, though, there is a great clamour and commotion in my already noisy brainbox. A chorus of “Don’t be such a tit” is how it starts. Once it gets a little more coherent, this is the gist how the argument in favour of drinking continues.
Winston Churchill – I’m quoting him a lot recently, no idea why – once said this : “I’ve taken a good deal more out of drink than it’s taken out of me”. This is a very important point.
There is a great furore about binge drinking at the moment. It’s turning our men into violent thugs and our women into cock hungry slappers. Civilized society is aghast. But one of the many facts that civilized society likes to ignore is that men are violent thugs and women are cock hungry slappers. Deep down.
That’s part of our Stone Age character, and evolution hasn’t even begun on working to alter it. And until the situation stops aiding human procreation, evolution will have no reason to bother. In other words “In Vino Veritas” – in wine the truth.
This is why wine, and all its post Roman equivalents, are so very necessary. Nature saw fit to evolve the very yeasts which allowed us to make wine in the first place, and to give them a home on grapes. These yeasts are the “bloom on the grape” mentioned in the famous saying. This is probably not a coincidence.
Drinking does not temporarily construct new parts of your personality. It temporarily throws parts that are already there into sharp relief. Unpleasant parts that many people might not otherwise have any direct dealing with. It is vital that people do deal with these aspects of themselves, because they are equally as important and valid as the warm and fuzzy bits. Drinking allows us to do this.
People get drunk, make fools of themselves, and remember in the morning. Or more frequently are told about it in the morning. They look at themselves in the cold light of day and realise that they’re not all that different from the hooligans and slappers they look down on. Realising the things you’re capable of can often help you veer away from them.
Of course, other people become full blown alcoholics. Hit rock bottom, ruin their lives. Then they go into recovery and then what happens? Invariably, they become better, more helpful, more productive people, often to a far greater extent than they would have been had they never taken a drink in the first place. Fair enough, some of them become tedious, boring, sanctimonious bastards; but as far as antisocial behaviour goes, that’s pretty far down the list of offences.
Other people drink themselves to death. But these are people who are beyond help, or just plain don’t want it. They prefer a death sentence to a life sentence. As drink highlights, it is a cruel, vicious, uncaring world. For some, suicide is the only viable option. That’s a tragic fact of life, but it is a fact. Hard liquor allows those of us to take that option who wouldn’t otherwise – if you’ll pardon the pun – have the bottle. And it does afford at least the illusion of a good time on the way.
Booze has given us the outpourings of some of our most creative geniuses. It has inspired – though admittedly partly hindered and prematurely curtailed – their best work. And some individuals really should drink. Churchill: consummate piss artist. Hitler: life long teetotaller. And we all know how the Hitler thing panned out. I know this seems like a facetious example, but I’m not so sure that it is.
Our doctors would have us all be tee total. Not that most of them are. They would also have us locked away from harm in steel cubes being tube fed fibre and fruit juice. Probably. Not that they follow most of the rest of their own advice mind.
The truth is that alcohol has helped fertilise, cultivate and nurture civilisation. It has licked our wounds and mopped our fevered brows and above all generally added to the most important element of living: fun.
Many people disagree. They can feel free to go and fertilise themselves any way they see fit.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013