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Laurence Inman’s Blog

SINGING THE BOOZE

16-10-2008

As the government threatens to restrict cheap alcohol offers, Laurence finds that he can go without altogether.

It is now a very long time since I last drank alcohol.

I woke up (or came to) one morning feeling as if a grenade had gone off in my hypothalamus and another one was waiting to go off in an area roughly where my liver used to be.

I had the uneasy feeling that some complete hours had passed for which I could offer no reasonable explanation as to what may or may not have happened in them.

The only solid memory I retained of the previous few days was of two very attractive women in the back bar of the Prince of Wales in Moseley, neither of whom was my wife, staring at me as if I were a massive pile of Martian dinosaur poo which had just re-materialised, like in Star Trek, on the table next to them.

'The consequences of this so-called night out could last for years,' I thought, 'and it’s cost me 12/6d!’

That last bit might be an exaggeration, but not much. I’d be very surprised if my last pint cost more than 40p.

It was all a very, very long time ago.

And I can’t honestly say I stopped because of some dramatic, never-again, life-changing, clear-the-decks-of-rubbish-type resolution. I just stopped seeing the point of it.

Since then I’ve spent many a happy hour observing the effects of alcohol on others and, by extension, on my own previous self. I think the drinking career of most people falls into three distinct phases.

First there’s youthful drinking, then there’s trying to reproduce youthful drinking and finally there’s one of two crucial choices: either you carry on along the path established by phases one and two, or you grow up and realise that happiness (or misery) are entirely in your own hands.

Before going to university I hardly drank at all. I was too busy thinking I was a great poet. At university I seemed to do nothing but drink. All my mates drank on an industrial scale.

We would think nothing of downing ten pints at lunchtime. There was no actual physical limit to our consumption. We couldn’t even rely on unconsciousness to stop us. In fact, on several occasions I swear we began to drink ourselves sober!

Once out into the adult world I began to realise that drunkenness to that extent was only enjoyable (or possible) when you have no responsibilities, when you don’t have to get up in the morning and when you can still use the excuse that you’re young.

Twenty-five is probably the upper age-limit for that phase.

I’m sure I thought it might be boring being a non-drinker, but it never has been. It’s good watching others gradually getting louder and more outrageous and knowing I’m not. I don’t want to sound smug, but I am.

No amount of fun to be had out of a bottle can ever outweigh the pleasure I get from waking up feeling reasonably okay every morning.

I’ve got a friend who took the other path in phase three. I should say I had a friend, because the person he used to be is effectively dead. He is very nearly actually dead.

His life is derelict. There has never been a story to it, or an enterprise, just one thing after another, in his case bottles of progressively cheaper booze. He’s never had a proper job, bought a house, learnt to drive, had a child. It’s as if he got pissed one afternoon when he was seventeen and stayed like that forever.

I don’t say that would have been me, but, taken all in all, life is calmer and simpler without having to bother with the stuff.

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