I do not care that my television set is broken. I do not care that the picture has shrunk to the energy-saving size of a matchbox. And neither do I care that the manufacturer’s guarantee ran out last week.
Apart from The Simpsons, there is nothing worth watching anyway. Yesterday, on the local news, the constipated presenter informed me: ‘That’s it for the lunchtime bulletin. We’ll see you at six this evening when we’ll be meeting a woman who owns a shed.’
I rest my case.
Having more free time does provide for one the opportunity to explore new horizons, but my initial plan to simply ‘do more work’, may, I admit, require a little tweaking.
It’s hard being a very creative individual; you are always ‘on’. It is essential to flip the off switch occasionally, and without the mind-numbing, anodyne televisual content to which I have become accustomed to viewing in the evenings, I’m afraid I may once again be tempted by the accursed bottle to help me calm my active mind.
Yes, I know: I could read more – but it’s hard to find a book that does not inspire me in some wonderful way. Reading a well written novel is very energising and always leads to me picking up my guitar and beginning to write new songs. Besides, books? I’ve read them all.
When you get to my age, thirty-five (Eh!? – Ed.), hangovers take on a malevolent character and can be very debilitating.
Nelson returned to London over a week ago and I am only now beginning to feel human again. I blame him – out of pure expediency, naturally – for being a bad influence on me but of course it is I who must take full responsibility for my actions.
I do feel slightly let down by my body: when I was younger, hangovers would only last for twenty-four hours at most. But what I find hardest to deal with now are not so much the physical after-effects of a binge but the mental ones. Apart from feeling overwhelmed by isolation and loneliness, I often disappear again into my favourite deep black well of depression.
One feels confident, elated and ebullient when under the influence – ignoring the fact that I go completely over the top these days and am always too inebriated to actually appreciate being drunk – but the trouble with alcohol is, like any drug, it makes you feel good but it isn’t the truth. It makes reality interfere with your delusions.
When the hangover strikes, my hard-earned mental equilibrium always deserts me. It makes me realise that my defences against my depression are not as cast-iron thick as I sometimes like to think they are.
At least there is one thing of which we can all be certain: when Santa is emptying his sack all over the world on Christmas Eve, Nelson and I will be talking complete nonsense about middle-eights and drinking ourselves steadily into a festive Bolivia.
‘That’s impossible,’ said a dishevelled old man in front of me at the checkout in the Co-op this morning.
He stank of urine and looked like he was wearing a costume from some low-budget apocalyptic Hollywood movie. He was trying to buy a bottle of vodka but didn’t have the necessary funds and was performing a well-rehearsed pantomime of desperately rifling through his scruffy pockets – pockets that were obviously empty. It was as if every time his hands dived back in, he was somehow expecting a twenty pound note to have been magically deposited there. ‘Impossible,’ he kept saying. ‘Impossible.’
Even though my stress levels were reaching a dangerous intensity, I felt rather sorry for the poor fellow.
A large, heavily perfumed woman behind me was sighing and tutting loudly and demonstrably. She was accompanied by a spotty teenager who appeared to be suffering from some kind of mental or physical disability: his eyes kept disappearing up into his head and his mouth gaped open, revealing a monstrous purple tongue that seemed on the verge of ejecting itself in a sudden bid for freedom from the slimy confines of the orifice that contained it.
Pointing at the man, the woman jabbed her son in the ribs.
‘That will be you, Wayne,’ she said, ‘if you don’t stop playing with yourself.’
I popped down to the shops last night to buy porridge and apples and was confronted by an unusual sight. There is no night-life to speak of here in the village so I was astonished to see a gaggle of heavily made-up and garishly dressed young women standing around outside the pet shop.
They were being engaged by a drunken man holding a can of cider who seemed to be experiencing some kind of fit or other mental aberration. He was jigging around aggressively in front of them and chanting what sounded like African war songs. I fancy that he was quite ill as well as completely inebriated. He did look rather forlorn and I felt a little sorry for the poor fellow. He stank of failure and was wearing the ruined evidence of lost love.
As I drew closer, I could hear that the women were not speaking English. They were conversing in what sounded like Polish or some other East European language. There has been something of a substantial influx of such people into the area recently, a fact that is evidenced by the sudden appearance of various Baltic food products on the shelves of the Co-op supermarket, the like of which I find quite mysterious.
I was suddenly distracted by the sound of one of the women’s uncaring laughter and I realised to my dismay that I had stopped in my tracks and was staring open-mouthed at the people in front of me. I resolved once more to stop doing this kind of thing: it has the potential to develop into regular beatings if I am not careful.
Audrey loves this pet shop. Indeed, she has made it known to me that it is her favourite shop in the village. She loves to go in and sing to the guinea pigs, but, predictably, the little things totally ignore her attempts at forming a cross-species friendship.
It is a sad and scruffy old shop that has long seen better days. It has a front window that has not been cleaned in years behind which are ancient and dusty red curtains that are now only held together by dead moths and cobwebs. I once ventured inside and asked, ‘How much are your wasps?’
‘I’m sorry, we don’t sell wasps,’ the pipe-smoking proprietor told me.
‘Are you sure?’ I asked. ‘You have one in the window.’
I never know whether to give money to homeless people or not.
‘Spare change, mate?’ I was asked this morning by a dirty and disease-ridden beggar who was loitering outside the Co-op.
‘Yes, thank you,’ I replied and continued on my way wearing a wry smile of childish satisfaction.
I felt awful on my return to the house, however, and had to severely rebuke myself for being such a self-righteous arsehole. So much so, in fact, that I immediately went out again to try to make amends.
I relocated the young man easily. Huddled and crouching, he had positioned himself in front of the bakery and was frowning at the pavement, spitting. As I approached, it sounded as though he was reciting some form of ancient Scottish verse to himself, though on closer inspection, I realised that it was just the eager mutterings of someone who was practicing his swearing for later on in the day, when he was drunk.
Going against all of my principles – casual or otherwise – I deposited five pounds in his grubby, little, wooden box and stopped to chat to him for a few minutes. ‘I fancy you would have more luck if you busked with an instrument or something, rather than just hanging around looking forlorn,’ I ventured.
‘Did do,’ he told me. ‘I had a flute but sold it for drugs.’
‘Oh dear. Is that what you will do with the fiver I have just given you – use it to buy drugs?’ I asked him.
‘Yeah,’ he said – his face a big rancid grin of rotting teeth.
And therein lies my dilemma. You can never be sure whether it will realistically benefit these people or not: if they are simply given money for doing nothing. And to that end, I always tend to err on the side of not.
I do appear to have made a new friend, though. Trouble is, I am now afraid that he followed me home and is planning on breaking into the house. Or am I being paranoid?
I can be pretty irresponsible at times but I have never driven a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol. Especially a spaceship.
The fact that NASA are so meticulously cautious and controlled in everything they do, and should then allow two of their astronauts to blast off into space while drunk is reckless and absurd at best, criminally idiotic at worst.
It has been a while since I departed the groves of academe, so my cerebral acuities are perhaps not as extensive as they once were, but even I can see what a completely foolish enterprise it was.
Perhaps it was someone’s birthday or maybe a few creative ground controllers thought that it would be an amusing experiment:
‘Hey, Hank, you ever wondered what would happen if . . ?’
It could have been an elaborate joke played on the American tax-payer. That would be a very British thing to do; to use so much irony that it becomes almost ironic.
Whatever the reason, it does lead one to believe that perhaps a timely review of the agency’s system of assessing the mental health of employees should be ordered. As I keep saying: it’s not rocket science, is it?
But more than anything else, what I want to know is: how did they get caught? How on earth would a traffic cop be able to stop them and pull them over?
On the Fantastic hi-fi today:
At My Age – Nick Lowe
There are no bookings in the studio for a few days, so Nelson is taking advantage of the situation and is coming up from London to work on his new album.
Audrey is not very impressed at the prospect of his arrival, however. She knows that there will be some drunken exploits occurring and she doesn’t enjoy watching me struggle with Nelson or with my own tentative hold on sobriety.
By way of recompense, I took her for and extra long walk this morning. But rather unfortunately, we were mugged by a flock of bees when we were about half way round.
Normally, I love bees. They are one of the treasured things that the English summer offers in such charming abundance, like flowers and scantily-clad females. And of course, bees produce sweet honey: a substance I could not live without, spooning it liberally on to my porridge every morning as I do. (I do not like wasps – they produce mustard and are generally quite disagreeable little creatures.)
One bee in particular developed a strong attraction to Audrey and would not leave her alone, buzzing hither and thither in an impressive aerobatic display around her head like an over-enthusiastic spitfire pilot in a WWII dogfight. It displayed an intense physical attraction to me, also, seemingly intent on having a close and very intimate airborne relationship with the pair of us.
For some reason, it just would not leave us alone. And please excuse me for using complex and sophisticated psychiatric jargon here – but it was driving me round the bend.
Audrey dealt with the situation very magnanimously by not obliterating the eager insect between her jaws – her usual method of dispatching such nuisances, and preferred instead to run around in ever-decreasing circles whilst barking excitedly and going spectacularly cross-eyed.
Eventually, its passion subsided and it decided to leave us in peace, returning to join its friends who were on their way to bee school or wherever it is bees go in the morning.
On our return to the house, I was reminded of something my grandfather used to ask me when I was a small boy.
‘Hey, Napoleon,’ he would say, teasingly, ‘what would you rather bee or a wasp?’
On the Fantastic hi-fi today:
Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
Parallel Lines – Blondie
Singles Going Steady – Buzzcocks