Over time I have come to form the view that – when it comes to social addictions, if devotion to the likes of of food, cigarettes and alcohol can be described as such – there are basically two types of human personalities, viz. those who possess ‘addictive’ genes [i.e. are susceptible to becoming ‘hooked’] and those that do not.
I’ve never smoked cigarettes – well, beyond the obligatory three or four behind the proverbial bike shed aged about eleven or twelve – but at various times in my life have smoked (usually small) cigars for periods. Last year, for example, I did so for about four months for no acceptable reason that I can identify. But then I don’t have the ‘addictive’ gene and can also give up smoking cigars at any moment of my choosing – as I have done as often as I’ve taken it up. I last gave up smoking last about seven months ago and I have no idea when (if ever) I’ll ever take it up again.
It’s the same with alcohol. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t regard myself as a drinker. That’s to say, although when I choose I can drink alcohol with your average man or woman who likes a drink, I’m not a ‘whisky at 6.00pm in order to sit down and watch the BBC TV News and relax for the evening’ man, or indeed anything like that. I’m just as happy downing water, a soft drink or even a can of Diet Coke.
My relationship with alcoholic drinks is therefore similar to mine with cigars – I can totally take it or leave them. For example, since 1st January this year until last weekend, I can detail exactly how many alcoholic drinks I had imbibed: five gin & tonics (four of them when staying with my father, joining him as he drank his 6.00pm BBC TV News whisky) and three bottles of lager beer.
That changed somewhat on Tuesday evening.
Let me explain. About a decade ago a Canadian relative called and announced that he had booked a ten-day ‘four-man’ golfing holiday in Eire as a 50th birthday present to himself. One of his pals (none of whom I had previously met) had now been obliged to drop out and would I be interested in stepping into his place in the team?
Why not, I thought.
Accordingly about a month later I checked in to a small Dublin hotel and waited for the others to arrive. Two – including my relative – were travelling together from North America and the third (let me call him Al) was flying in separately and slightly earlier.
About an hour later, the hotel reception door flew open and in came Al – a 20 stone Canadian with a personality about as big as his frame. He greeted me like a long-long mate, threw his bags to a member of the hotel staff and suggested we went around the corner to the first pub we could find and have some lunch and a few beers. Which we did. By the time the others arrived that evening, Al and I were bosom buddies and the tone of the holiday was set.
I can honestly say that what followed was the most enjoyable holiday I have been on. It contained at least one hundred incidents of surreal hilarity – ranging from the tiny to the truly extraordinary – involving alcohol, epic nights out (pub lock-ins), hotels, terrible golf on some of the finest golf courses in the world, classic Irish characters (many of them caddies) and a ‘four outlaws on tour’ mentality that is impossible to do justice to with words, but which I hope my readers can do their best to imagine, despite the fundamental and inescapable headline that, undoubtedly, in order to appreciate any of it properly, of course, ‘you really had to have been there’.
Since then, the four of us have had the strongest possible strong ‘band of brothers’ collective bond.
When Al came to London on business last weekend and immediately rang me, we agreed to meet up ‘for a few beers’ and a meal late on Tuesday afternoon. Naturally, based almost exclusively upon our time in Ireland together, he regards me as even more of a complete fun-loving nutter than himself (which of course I am not in real life).
Whereas, of course, he is a bona fide, genuine, complete fun-loving nutter.
So we went out drinking in Soho on Tuesday.
The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital ward in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. I have no memory at all of the moments before the incident, as my discharge medical notes [‘Patient had an unwitnessed fall down fifteen steps in a restaurant. Patient has no recollection of events …’] accurately testify.
I had certainly had a few beers, but – and I’m being completely honest here – have absolutely no recall of feeling inebriated at any time. That said, I had certainly bled like a pig. They also had to cut me out of my shirt. I was sent home with two stitches on the bridge of my nose and various other bumps and bruises. I’d like to be able to attribute my nose injury to a jealous husband, but I’m afraid the rather more prosaic explanation is that I suffered it doing an impromptu audition for a job as a stuntman on the new Bond movie.
The only aspect of this that’s worrying me now is that, as a result of Tuesday evening, Al now plainly believes I’m even more of a legend than I was before. He cannot wait to get home to tell the guys all about it.
That’s the irony of life as we live it, isn’t it?
In the UK, my reputation is that of being practically a teetotaler. Over in Canada, my reputation as a hard-drinking outlaw of almost Keith Richard proportions will now be now irreversible. I cannot now possible ever go and visit there again – at my age I’ll never be able to live up to my public’s expectations …