I dropped in at one of those drop-ins for people like me the
I think the idea is that you hold your own counselling
sessions (they're cheaper that way) and get to meet others who are proposing to
devote the rest of their lives to staring into an empty champagne flute.
fact they tend to be peopled by middle-aged men longing for a drink they cannot
have while keeping up appearances as a jovial seeker-after sobriety.
arrived mid-afternoon to find three grimy men sitting around an old wooden table
crammed with overflowing ashtrays and biscuit crumbs.
man who keeps jutting his chin out and biting on his bottom lip until he resembles
a hedgehog: "Have you bin doin' out this week, then?"
with jagged scar down right cheek which appears to glow on and off if you stare
at him: "Nah."
Man in corner looking fixedly
at a list of proposed daytrips out for the group and for some reason saying "Nay
nonny nay" over and over again: "Nay nonny nay."
man: "I've been getting into poetry, you know. Look at this".
(He produces dark blue old book from crumpled plastic carrier bag. "It's
someone called Robbie Burns. Only three quid it was."
room goes silent. The man puts the book away. I wonder how anyone can get a carrier
bag to look as dishevelled as that and I decide to slink straight out, past the
sign on the door that says something about abandoning hip flasks all ye who enter
I was mulling over this scene whilst drinking diet
Coke and pretending it was a large Queen Mother's, when I recalled a similar scene
I had witnessed years before.
I was on licensed premises
having just the one when I happened to look around the bar. Suddenly someone lent
me a fiver and I was feeling particularly observant.
like a Monk except with large burnished bump right in the middle of bald head:
"Yeah, I went to Ibiza once when I was a kid like."
with brass earring that looked as though it would hold up his Gran's velvet curtains:
They both turned back to
their pints of bitter, lost in a reverie as empty as an umbrella stand at Café
A third man stood alone at the bar, an empty tumbler
in front of him, mumbling: "Jush one for the road, me old mate".
thought gripped me that I must have looked like them once. I smiled to myself.
sad to relate, but I think I've measured out my life in whisky bottles and I still
can't decide whether they were half full or half empty.