Having thought long and hard (or, to be more precise, around 10 seconds, which is long and hard for me) I decided I would tell you the story as to how I stopped drinking a week before my 18th Birthday, with the result that I have never had a legal drink (I did a fair bit of drinking from 15 to 17, it was in the days when you got your pint and sat in a corner of the pub trying not to be noticed). I have chosen this as a subject as it has had a huge impact on my life, not least because there is a huge social pressure to drink in the UK. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with people who drink sensibly i.e. who don’t start throwing punches after a couple of drinks (not that I’m saying it is in anyway acceptable to throw punches after loads of drinks) or who decide it is perfectly alright to drive home after they have been drinking because they “Drive better after they have had a few”….If that really is the case I would advise that they do society a big favour and either learn to walk everywhere or stay at home permanently.
As this is in general a "what actually happens (or in this case happened) in life" blog, I have to start with the sad part. My father died shortly after my 17th birthday, after a long battle against cancer. This left me at a cross roads. From the time of his death to the week before my 18th birthday I managed to drink myself into an uncontrollable state just once. This resulted in me locking myself in a toilet at a party and shouting "I want to die, I want to die" at the top of my lungs. I guess this was not a particularly happy time of my life. The result was that they had to break the door down. Hmmm that made me popular. No wonder people avoid grieving people.
This experience left me associating drink with bad times but at that age the peer pressure to drink is strong. I carried on drinking, but the seeds were set. The decision to book a holiday to Ibiza with friends was the next step. I had a poorly paid job and so could not afford to drink very much as I saved for my first holiday away from my family. I set off to Gatwick airport with great excitement. My friends and I did the normal thing and purchased Duty Free (not sure how, I guess they didn’t check the age on your passport in those days). Things probably would have been OK, except our plane was delayed by four hours and so to relieve the boredom we opened up the duty free. The rest of it all became a blur and I had to rely on my friends to fill in the details.
Having not drunk very much for the previous six months it did not take very much to turn me from wild party animal to unconscious dribbling idiot. In between these states my friends attempted to sober me up by dragging me around the Satellite lounge while I did very little but puke and drag my feet. They tell me that they were being trailed by a little cleaner who had a very busy evening - nice. The next thing I knew I woke up the other side of passport control with a stewardess handing me a plane ticket and telling me I was a complete bastard. (One of my friends had burst into tears when they attempted to carry me onto the plane and were informed by the pilot that I was too drunk to fly. It’s not like I expected to be at the controls or anything). I should count myself lucky that they did not charge me for the ticket, in fact it probably makes me sound a little ungrateful when I pointed out to them that while my holiday was in Ibiza the ticket was to Menorca. It was frostily pointed out to me that there were no more flights to Ibiza until later in the week.
During the flight I looked down and noticed that my T-shirt was in less than pristine condition (a little more chunky than I last remembered) so decided to ditch it – which left me with a thin pale weedy chest encased in just a sleeveless denim jacket – it is hard to believe just what a fashion god I was back then…..Hmmm, moving swiftly on…. I managed to purchase a ticket (fortunately being a fashion god I was sporting a trendy money belt, move along nothing to see here - just another fashion disaster) and made it to Ibiza. It was at this point that I realised that having not booked the holiday and expecting to be dropped off at the hotel I did not really know what the hotel was called. Eeeek – remember this was in the days before mobile phones so it was not just a case of calling my friends and finding out the name. I managed to use a bit of initiative and got hold of a list of hotels and as I went through them one name stuck out like a sore thumb -the hotel Pooshit – the actual spelling was Pushett but I recalled the banter we had had around the name. To be honest, when I finally arrived Pooshit was an accurate description.
I’m afraid I was a bit ungrateful again when I pointed out to my friends that since they had carried my cases all the way from the UK they might as well have put them in the correct room …. The rest of the holiday was a hoot and I had no pressure from my friends to drink, not even on my 18th Birthday (which was celebrated in the middle of the holiday). A number of incidents stick out in my memory:-
“A constant game of - Hi! who are you?”
I met an endless stream of people who clearly knew me but I did not have a clue who they were. These turned out to be people I had encountered at Gatwick but who I did not recognise without my beer goggles on...
The incident of the broken stool
My friend Rob stood on a wooden stool as he tried to get glimpse of the topless girls on the balcony next door. As he stretched forward the stool collapsed and Rob hid the remains in the cupboard. A couple of days later we received a bill from the manager for about £50. Incensed we marched down to his office, protested about the danger that the stool had put us in and then took the stool into the hotel lobby and attempted to mend it in full view of the other guests. After 20 minutes of BlueTac* and brute force the manager caved and let us off the over the top charge. During our Blue Peter assembly attempt (except we did not have a stool that we made earlier) our Rep walked in. So we took the opportunity to ask for his assistance with talking to the manager, his helpful response was to vanish. Thanks for nothing....
*I firmly believed during this time that BlueTac, despite all evidence to the contrary, could mend everything.
The battle for laughs
My friend Mick – started it off by getting hold off my money tube (yet another fashion statement) and had a dump in it. Fortunately he gave the game away by looking shifty anytime I went near it, I guessed what he had done and threw it away before I opened it. I then countered by waiting until he fell asleep face down by the pool and put a bar of chocolate down the back of his trunks. A couple of hours later he woke and went for a swim and fished out the brown sludge in front of the other guests. He never really forgave me for this and has not spoken to me since…..In truth I do regret the end of the friendship but if you dish it out you have to be able to take it.
Little old ladies and the naughty playing cards
I purchased a set of playing cards sporting naked ladies, it's the soret of edgy thing you do as a teenager. However, as the time to go home came ever closer, I lost my bottle and decided not to risk taking them through Customs. Opposite our hotel room was another hotel which we had spotted a couple of old ladies staying in one of the rooms. I threw the cards at their balcony and, through shear luck, not only did the cards land on their balcony I had a bonus of seeing them shoot through their open door and into their bedroom. To this day I still imagine one of them finding the cards in the room and suspecting the other old lady of having purchased them…..Perhaps I even started a couple of old ladies on the path to a full blown lesbian relationship…
How to get on with your rep
The battle with the Rep started my life long hatred for summer holiday Reps . He was being a bit cute about giving me my ticket home. (I lost my original ticket when I failed to fly out in the first place. I bet Peter pan never had these problems) – I suspect he thought he was being funny. This, combined with his total lack of support over the stool incident, convinced me to declare all out war on him (possibly not the best thing to do when I was depending on him for my return ticket). On a trip to Ibiza Town, which was the gay capital of the island, the Rep was on the coach lecturing everyone about the dangers of men dressed as women luring unsuspecting tourists into compromising positions. I shouted from the back off the coach “Shut up and get your balls out” which for some reason really upset him and made the incident (in adolescent eyes at least) far funnier than it should have been. When I got to the airport on the way home, the Rep had still not given me my ticket and said, I guess in response to the Ibiza town incident :-
Rep – “You think I’m gay don’t you?”
Me – “Yep!”
Fishing around in his wallet he produced a picture of his girlfriend
Rep – “So what do you make of her then?”
Me – “I’ve seen better sex changes”
Rep – burst into tears and ran off
Half an hour later the Rep's manager came up to me, thrust a ticket in my hand :-
Rep manager – "I don’t know what you said to your rep but he really is not happy – he didn’t want you to have this."
Me – attempting, and failing, to look like butter would not melt in my mouth.
It was a few months before my friends started asking me if I was going to drink again. By then I had decided that I had had a great time on holiday and really didn’t need a drink to enjoy myself. At this point my stubborn streak kicked in and the more pressure they put me under to drink the more determined was I that I would not. That was almost 27 years ago and I can remember the holiday like it was yesterday. The conversations I have reported are almost word for word accurate – now don’t tell me I would have remembered any of that if I had been having a skinful every night…So I think you will agree, I’m probably obnoxious enough sober and don’t need the encouragement of drink….
Over the years I have run into the odd individual who objected and on a few occasions felt slighted that I did not have a drink with them. Since I didn’t drink on my 18th, 21st or at my wedding I don’t see why they expected me to have a drink just to keep them happy.
I upset a barman one New Year when a so-called friend tried to spike my coke. I asked the so called “friend” if he was going to replace my drink, he just laughed, so I dumped the spiked coke in his pint. The barman saw me and replaced his pint and told me to clear off, not interested in my explanation. How fair is that?
Not drinking gives me the advantage of not having to worry about driving – I am therefore a permanent taxi driver for Mrs B.
I now return you to the present with catch-up corner
The photo of last year
The clear winner is McG – thanks to everyone who took the time to vote
We ended up with the two sets of sofas. The charity that was picking up the old one waited till I popped out to drop Mrs B at the station before slipping in the card saying – failed to pickup as no-one in – Sod them I say.
They managed to install the wrong wood burning stove. We (i.e. Mrs B) ordered a modern flush jobbie while they fitted an old fashioned stick out half into the room model, claiming afterwards that the original one that we ordered was not suitable… Hmmm, this statement made even though they had surveyed the chimney and previously found it suitable. They had already told us that we could not have a wall mounted version that Mrs B's original vision called for, so we trusted their judgement . Only they did not actually check that the stove that they agreed to supply was suitable. (and that’s our fault because?.......) I’m currently refusing to pay for the work until they manage to find a way of fitting what was agreed. Did they think we were born yesterday???? So Mrs B did not get her cosy Christmas fire after all but she did manage to hide the monstrosity with candles and our old fire guard…..
As a teaser I have included some photos from our New Year Ski trip. I hope you enjoy them and don’t forget to tune in next week for the full story including my unintentional attempt to kill myself or at least leave me badly maimed…