17 February 2005

Under an Early Influence

Several years ago I wrote a history of my life. I already hear detractors shouting, "What a pointless navel-gazing exercise!" Maybe they have a point but I found the experience quite calming. My initial lofty motivation was to leave a document for a future generation but during the process I realised I was subjecting myself to therapy and attempting to lay some demons to rest. I've recently been editing loads of those recollections and today I had time to work on the following one as I'm on hols. The theme is relevant to the thoughts currently occupying me.
In 1976 I joined The Corporation* where I met the hugely influential character MM. I quickly grew to admire his forthright views and staggering general knowledge. By all accounts M had been an athletic young cricketer and was a member of the MCC. Now in early middle age his ample midriff bore testimony to his drinking habits. He and JS often shared a bottle of Cyprus sherry, decanting it into their coffee mugs. M sent me out of The Office to the local Safeway most days with a five-pound note and instructions to buy Carlsberg Special Brew. I was already fully familiar with this savage golden liquid and applauded his choice. By way of reward, or maybe to avoid drinking alone, he insisted I join him in the dignified French-polished surroundings of the Department over which he presided.

These bright interludes brought welcome relief from the day’s tedium. As time passed I would develop an unquenchable thirst for Special Brew. Three times the strength of ordinary lagers meant the desired numbing effect was achieved without consuming gallons. M often stood up to look out over the high wooden panelling surrounding his domain, caught my young eye and held up an innocent-looking coffee cup in salute with a knowing wink. The Office manager RD, curiously chose to ignore M’s habits.

Working in finance inevitably focused my attention on money. One day I composed a still life of bank statements, cash box, chequebooks notes and coins. I arranged the objects on a sheet spread on the lawn, with coins arranged in the shape of dollar and pound signs. I took a photograph to record this meagre financial situation! The same day I also took pictures of Special Brew bottles carefully arrayed to display the labels. The first example of recording my drinking and it was 1976.

* I still work for The Corporation 28 years on and have slaved in about 20 Offices and geographical locations.

Excerpts from Memoirs Chapter 5 - 1976-1981, “My lips are moving so I must be speaking”


Grace said...

Ah, 1976, it was the next year when I started my drinking career. I remember soon after starting my first job, being invited to what was essentially a 'mens' bar by a girl I worked with. She introduced me to swilling pints (ooh er) of McKewans scotch and playing pool. I was one of the 'lads' and felt like the bees knees. Never looked back....until now!

Perfect Virgo said...

Hi Grace I had a slight head start, I was already at it by 1974/75 and by 76 I was swimming in it! Swilling pints eh, nice one! You know the very thought even now makes me dry-mouthed. I'm so glad you've made this decision, it never is too late to look back.

My first dry day was 10th Sep 1993 yet I can still hear the soft sharp hiss as the can opens and smell that sharp tang. Not a single drop since then, honestly. Yet it really still haunts me you know from time to time.

It will be a long road. Birthdays, Christmas, weddings, outings all still to come. But keep talking whenever you want. I'll put up all sorts of things to encourage conversation. Now I'm off to the fridge for a mineral water...