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Archive for December, 2010

Brave New World

And so December arrives and most of the UK freezes under snow and ice… except here. In this little corner of the island we have seen nary a flake. I’m not loving the Siberian winds though.

Life is changing for me, strange and unexpected things have happened this year which have pushed me off course and into unplanned-for territory. Still, it all keeps me on my toes, eh? No details required here, suffice to say, ummm, I don’t really know what’s going to happen next! Finally, I am dragged kicking and screaming into something approaching the ‘real world’, perhaps it will be my friend…

Went out accidentally last Saturday night. I’m not really much of a social animal, but on the few ocassions when I do actually brave the outside world it is planned and usually goes without a hitch in a very civilised and enjoyable manner. So when my manager invited me to his ‘birthday party’ at 5pm in the afternoon when I was due to work till 8 then go home and shake off the day I was very surprised to find myself saying “Yeah, ok”. Of course I changed my mind about 17 times over the next hour but was persuaded by my work colleague it might be fun so we knocked off early and at 8.30 I was breezing through the door of a local hostelry, anticipating a couple of hours of inane chatter and a gentle stroll home. By 11pm I was asking myself why I just hadn’t said ‘no’ in the first place.

A few background facts which are important to the telling of this story :  The person whose ‘birthday party’ I was attending is an alcoholic. It was a birthday party in the loosest possible sense – some of the girls at work invited the manager (who we will call Tom from here onwards) to meet them in the pub at 9pm for a ‘birthday surprise’. The people who organised the ‘party’ are all Polish.

So, there was chatter, merriment and consumption of beers and spirits. Tom was already very, very drunk and enjoyed wearing his birthday present – a red bobble hat with a sherrifs badge on the front – a little too much. His other present was two small bottles – one containing black liquid, one white. It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The Poles informed me that both liquids were highly illegal Polish alcohol, one of them being 95% proof. So we stood them both in the middle of the table and talked about them loudly. At this point, one of the girls produced a large bottle of Polish vodka from her bag and we all toasted Tom with delicious vodka and apple juice. Tom refused the apple juice, apparently only ‘pansies’ water down any kind of alcohol. This was all fairly amusing until Tom reached across to the vodka bottle and finished the remaining two thirds in one gulp. I could see the evening was about to veer swiftly towards disaster with very few opportunities to get out and run home crying along the way…

Sure enough, half an hour later Tom was on the floor of a different pub with me and a strapping Polish lad called Marcin trying to lift his dead weight into a chair. That took several minutes. It took about another half hour to get the pissed fucker out of the chair and into a taxi. The taxi driver took one look at the sack of human we were dragging from the bar and said “No way mate!” . Luckily the rest of us were fairly sober and I managed to convince the cabbie we would look after him.

It had taken us a very long time to find out Tom’s address, he sounded like he had a mouth full of lego and seemed to have forgotten what words are for. Eventually we got there. With two girls supporting him I found myself on his front path, on the edge of a busy main road, running my fingers through his trouser pockets to find his keys. With my eyes tight shut and my teeth clenched. When I did find them and got the door open I fumbled around the wall inside for a light switch. No switch. I used the light from my mobile to scan the wall for switches – none. Casting the light about it looked like I was standing in a landfill site and I fell and stumbled over strange shapes strewn across the floor until I got to the light switch which was, bizarrely, across the other side of the room.

The light illuminated a sorry scene, Tom’s house is a disaster. We were gobsmacked. Every available surface was piled high with junk, bags, papers and crap, the floor was covered, the same in every room – the kitchen looked like nothing had been washed up for years and the crusted plates and crockery piled on every surface and some on the floor. I actually found myself hiding his birthday presents in case he came round and gulped at one of the small bottles of Polish poison. We poured him into his sofa and I put the TV on for him to watch. The whole time he was completely vacant, vaguely opposing us whenever we tried to move him and muttering completely unintelligible sounds and babbling like a tiny child might. I got him water and we had to try and convince him it was vodka before he would drink it. I don’t think he actually drinks any liquid other than alcohol.

More things happened, things unsavoury and connected with the politics at work, things I have no wish to transcribe as they would be meaningless unless you work in the same place as me. I ended up, hours later, walking one of my colleagues home in the bitter cold having left Tom unconscious on his sofa pointed at the telly. We had debated whether or not someone should stay with him but no-one could bear to stay in the house any longer so we left him to it.

Next day he didn’t show up. ‘Great’, I thought, ‘we’ve killed the boss.’ Needless to say, Tom’s system is one gigantic alcohol sponge and after he had been texted and called a few times he decided to respond at 5pm to say he was in the middle of a pub pool tournament and not to be disturbed. You couldn’t make it up. And I haven’t.

The aftermath of the politics side of things is currently unfolding at work, I’m keeping my distance – it’s all very boring but people will be people.

It has been many years since I was in a position like Tom during a night out, and he is older than me so I feel a mixture of sorrow and contempt for him. He is the way he is, and alcoholism is a terrible all-consuming thing – but until he either decides to try and sort it out or it kills him he will continually be a burden to others who have to clean up after him and baby him. 2 hours of Saturday night were about having a good time, the other 4 were spent trying to simply take a grown man in his late 40s half a mile home to bed. And he hasn’t even apologised.

Ah well. Nearly Christmas…

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