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Down Beer Street

  Thu 19th May 2016

4am and I am on my way to wearing myself out over Wendy, and trying to keep away from my phone. Last night, before going to sleep, I texted her. "Night night, you wordsmith. I wish I could be next to you now, slowly undressing you and stroking you with my fingertips, my lips, my eyes, and all of me. See you Friday x"

It really doesn't help. It rams home to me my sexual frustration and rejection, and it's an imposition on her -- although she is sometimes a bit ambivalent about such texts. I lack clear guidance, so it ends up desirous.


Me and Trina had a successful afternoon in Ormskirk. She gets a meagre four hours a week State-provided respite from her demented mother, and we sometimes spend it in the pub there. It took me a while to come round to Ormskirk. I thought it was a bit fur coat and no knickers at first, but the seep of Liverpool has produced a Scouse lack of side; the people are warmer and more frank than they are here.

I quite like the Moneyed Working Class South Lancashire style -- women in tight white trousers and narrow lapelled pale blue tailored jackets, men in well-fitting jeans and un-tucked-in simple shirts with lined patterns without obvious branding -- and there are enough young people from the local university to prevent the town becoming too stale. There was a gorgeous young girl sat opposite with one of those tops -- I don't know what you call them -- with an exaggeratedly wide, high neckline that just about perches on the outermost reaches of the shoulders. This results, as I am sure you are now imagining, in The Visible Bra Strap Syndrome, which is lip-bitingly attractive on a woman.

I didn't get the job I went for last week. I am indifferent about it, and I didn't read to the end of the rejection letter before throwing it into the recycling, but Trina, endlessly kind, bought me a gallon of proper unfiltered Somerset cider she got in a farm shop in north Wales, when she was visiting her son last week. It is excellent stuff and I've already made progress.


Talking of drinking, I came across an online journal the other day, New American Notes Online which did an issue on "Intoxication". One of the articles, by Michelle McClellan, discusses the special obligations of self-policing on women who choose to be intoxicated. Starting from a memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola published last year, the article critiques the standard model of recovery alcoholism -- a tale of excess, fall and redemption in which pleasure's true nature is eventually revealed as deceptive and sinful. Hepola opens with a refreshing shrug of a response to a leaflet which aims to help you self-diagnose whether one has a "drinking problem." To the question "Do you ever drink to get drunk?" she thinks back, "Good lord. Why else would a person drink? To cure cancer?"

From such open-minded a beginning, McClellan then outlines Hepola's relapse into the familiar story of the slow process of abjuring alcohol, a story owned by those who have renounced it. "As a result," writes McClellan, "Hepola's initial defense of intoxication rings hollow."

It's a fascinating article which goes on to outline several problems in any simplified or innocent account of alcohol as pleasure with which one might counter the redemption narrative. The article's main, and liberating point to me though, was that it suggests that we hear less from people who love alcohol, and live with it happily (perhaps storing up silent liver damage) or who have an ambiguous but generally happy relationship with it, and have no intention -- as is the case in the vast majority of my peer group -- of renouncing it.

The word "alcoholic" is crushed under such a weight of context-specific social connotation as to have lost any autonomy of meaning. Saying this (less wordily, perhaps) leaves one open to an accusation of resisting the sober physician's diagnosis, which provokes, in a contrarian like me, the impulse to put a neon sign above my head reading "alcoholic", in order deliberately to incite and then examine the responses to such an admission -- or, as I would more bare-facedly call it, a declaration.

I am happy to be considered an alcoholic, but I have no interest in the curative redemption narrative and its heroic teleology, that I'd have to sign up to by adopting such a label publicly. Nor do I fancy being seen as the hopeless ruined figure slouched on Beer Street, slopped pint in hand and volition vanished. I enjoy my drinking, and one day, when I'm less pissed, I'll write A Defence of the Sot -- one of whom might be a happy fellow, interested in others, sensual, with a sexual drive unknown to him in his twenties, intellectually and artistically curious, politically involved, and who rejoices in the disinhibiting sociability that drinking produces in him.

6 comments

Comment from: isabelle [Visitor]

I think it’s called a bardot collar. I like them too.

Labelling folk is always a very small part of their story. Of course perhaps you’re lucky, maybe you’d be classified as a functioning alchoholic, others are not so fortunate as I’m sure one of your regulars , Futherton, can confirm.

I certainly love that warm sensual gregariousness booze can bring but I wish I could get that way without the hangover that follows.

Thu 19th May 2016 @ 16:08
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

I’ve only drunk with any regularity in the last decade, but I despise the parsimoniousness; the lack of generosity of those people who stick within the government limits. The colleague who says “My husband wanted to open a bottle last night! I said to him, Duncan, it’s a MONDAY!” Where I live we nearly all drink to the extent that we’d illegal to drive by 8pm (including a 95 year old widow), but only two or three have taken it to health or life-ruining levels.

Thu 19th May 2016 @ 21:07

I can only think that being drunk feels different to everyone else than it does to me. I never associate a ‘good’ feeling with drunkenness. It only ever made me feel sloppy and sick. Sex is the furthest thing on my mind. I wish I could experience that euphoria that apparently everyone else feels. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

Fri 20th May 2016 @ 11:47
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

Oh the moneyed women of Lancashire sound wonderful, much like the moneyed women of my suburb, it’s like a living, breathing art gallery, my fucking over-active imagination can give me random hard-ons just watching them…

I’ve worked with many functioning alcoholics, my grandfather was one, today it seems like society likes to label everything, as if we all need our little ailments or mental health issues, we wear them like a badge, i’m sure at some point in my life i made the requirements for alky, i’ve always been to lazy to be an alcoholic though, i’ve always preferred drugs, it’s just booze was always readily available, i don’t really drink much anymore, i much prefer other things, and while everyone bashes the heavy drinker all the soccer moms are posting about their favorite cocktail, i touched on this recently, how in America i couldn’t sit around and talk about my favorite strains of weed but it’s all cool to talk booze, except of course if your’re a boozehound, but fuck the squares, they’ll never understand the joys of boundless drinking and drugging, you good man have a pint for me…

Sun 22nd May 2016 @ 13:24
Comment from: J-P Stacey [Visitor]

Someone somewhere has got that job. You, on the other hand, have got a lot of cider. I think we know who’s the real winner here.

Thu 26th May 2016 @ 11:31
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Isabelle: Thanks, I’ll have to store that one up to bring out at the right time. Or maybe not. I come across as gay without using phrases that refer to types of collars on women’s clothes.

I read Furtheron’s blog partly because I find his experience difficult to understand, and I’m interested in understanding the psychological background of his version of addiction.

Homer: Oh dear, poor Duncan! I like watching the sozzled posh Gogglebox couple. Sure they’re probably needing a taxi by 8pm too!

Exile: I wonder whether you’ve got that gene that’s common in SE Asia where your body rejects alcohol. Slightly unusual for an old mitteleuropäische such as yourself though :)

kono: Thank you very much! I will raise the next glass of Rioja (already open) to you.
I always think it’s wrong that we can drink ourselves legally to oblivion in public, but we can’t rack up a nice couple of sociable lines on the table in the pub.

J-P: Thank you. That’s a good way of looking at it.

Thu 26th May 2016 @ 17:50


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There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
Sergei Korovin, quoted in Pavel Krusanov, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic

I am here to change my life. I am here to force myself to change my life.
Chinese man I met during Freshers Week at Lancaster University, 2008

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
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Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?
Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

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John Whale

One good thing about being a Marxist is that you don't have to pretend to like work.
Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
Mick, The Golden Lion, Lancaster, 21 Mar 2011

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