Magazine article The Spectator

Demon Drink

Magazine article The Spectator

Demon Drink

Article excerpt

The intricate cunning with which the rebel faction of my mind tries to convince Captain Conscience that alcohol and me are the greatest of pals, and that we must spend more time together, is amazing. Of all the drugs, it's true, I like alcohol best. But a relationship with drink is like having a lifelong friendship with Ron Kray: hilarious and exciting to begin with, then unexpectedly onerous, and finally, as you realise you are being drawn into a dance of death, very worrying.

Until lately I've appeased the rebel faction by going out and embracing my old friend on average about once a fortnight.

I'd go out and get completely Harry Stoshers, as they call it in the army, deliberately, in much the same way that the government appeased its rebel faction by calculatedly laying reason aside and forcing through Parliament the bill to ban hare-coursing and fox-hunting. An outbreak of deliberate madness once in a while, by individuals, as well as by national governments, is, after all, I suppose, what makes the world go around.

But lately Captain Conscience has been anxiously reviewing the situation. The cost of appeasement, in his opinion, has become far too high in terms of shame and humiliation, not to mention physical injury. Take the last time, for example, three weeks ago. I bought two tickets for West Ham v. Middlesbrough and travelled up to London and back from Devon, a 500-mile trip, by train, having not touched a drop for a fortnight. I didn't even get to see the match. I stayed in the bar underneath the grandstand, drinking. Back at Paddington station afterwards, I passed out on the wrong train. In bitter hindsight, and in a nutshell, I'd racked up over 300 quid on my overdraft to swig lager out of a plastic cup in the concrete and steel toilet of a bar in east London.

'Enough's enough, ' pronounced Captain Conscience. (The emergency, I think, wasn't my eventual dying in squalor so much as the very real possibility that I was becoming a bore. ) So alcohol was banned for the foreseeable future, and the rebel faction gagged. As a distraction for the evenings and weekends, when the thought of popping out for a drink usually becomes paramount, I embarked on yet another fitness campaign, with gym sessions as the staple, supplemented by circling and hitting the punch-bag at home. …

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