Worked into the early hours, drawing that particularly unpleasant cartoon, which I decided to post because, honestly, I like posting cartoons even more than I like posting articles. I also suspect some of you enjoy the cartoons more than my written work and, if so, then these cartoons are for you. For me, that’s a reward in itself.
From now on, the cartoons that are really too far out there and have no commercial value, I’ll try to stick here. Not that the others have commercial value. As I said about my woeful adventure into ebook publishing: 30% of zero isn’t going to make me rich…
I’m a bit delayed today because I also watched the Trump rally in the early hours (4am) and I need to sit down this afternoon and gather my thoughts to write about it seriously. It really was… something.
Today is also the first day that pubs and hairdressers open. I don’t intend on making use of either.
My attitude to pubs has never altered throughout my entire life. Perhaps it’s because I prefer quiet to noise but I’ve hated nearly every pub I’ve been in. I enjoy quiet bars and cafes. I like being able to talk or to listen to other people. I enjoy people-watching, though in a non-weird way that doesn’t attract the attention of the authorities.
I also rarely drink, which is another of the shames I lived with until I realised that a lot of people now abstain. I guess I’m shaped by my growing up in a working-class town. Beer is not something I ever developed a taste for, plus I saw too many men (non-relatives, I should add) spend their lives in stale miserable taprooms, stuck in that working-class cycle of drinking to excess and then abusing the women around them. I swore I’d never become that kind of man.
Spirits are a different matter, though I rarely touch them. My Ph.D. supervisor was a connoisseur and our study sessions in his room would often be accompanied by grappa. I suspect I have the makings of a serious drinker since I’ve enjoyed every strong liquor I’ve tried. It’s why I don’t touch the stuff.
Wine remains the one mystery to me. I can never tell if I’ve never had the decent stuff or whether I just don’t have the right taste buds. I was in London a couple of years ago when I was introduced to a restaurant owner, a friend of the friend I was staying with. He was Italian and owned a vineyard in Italy, where he made his own non-expensive wine, which he routinely drank. We got talking wine and I explained how I’d never understood wine. He gave me a glass of his own brand wine and a glass of something expensive to see if I could tell. Naturally, I preferred his own non-expensive wine, much to his delight, which probably accounts for how I did drink a bit too much of it.
I also didn’t like the slightly befuddled drunkenness that followed that lunch and I think that’s probably the main reason I rarely drink. As anybody who follows this blog will be able to testify, I already have enough trouble coping with reality. Ideas like “pro-celebrity botulism” do pop into my head all day long. I’m also a clown when entirely sober. I do dumb things, either deliberately to make people laugh or accidentally much to people’s shame. Drunk, I’d probably become the guy who climbs to the top of statues or streaks down the Mall. Not having tested my capacity for drunken behaviour, I have no idea what I’d do.
It does make me look at the country returning to pubs with dismay. I’ve known too many people who drink because they’re unhappy, and, rather than solving their unhappiness, they drink even more which only makes their unhappiness worse. It pains me when I see that happen to friends I care about. It astonishes me when I go out, seeing how many wine bottles are in people’s recycling each and every week. I think that’s why I find this morning’s news rather depressing.
The sight of royals and politicians raising their glasses I find galling. It’s patronising, cheap pretence, and really quite crass given they don’t properly understand the lives of the people they’re encouraging back into the pub at 8am on a Saturday morning. It always reminds me of Malcolm X’s words on dope: ‘the black man taking dope is only helping the white man to “prove” that the black man is nothing’. I’ve always suspected that’s true of the British attitude towards drink. We don’t have a culture like France or Italy, where it’s part of a quite different tradition and taken with far superior food often in the company of family and friends. The British way is to drink until you’re unconscious, wake up, and go to work. Rinse, repeat until retirement…
The upshot is that I don’t know what to make of today. It is a nation returning to life or a nation going back to the serious business of drinking to forget?