I’m in my fifties now and I started drinking when I was 15, which was in the early 1970’s.
I always looked older than my age, though not old enough to pass for 18 when I was three years younger but it was the 70s and landlords pretty much turned a blind eye to 15 and 16 year olds drinking as long as they didn’t look to out of place.
My first ever pint was in a pub called the Man in the Moon and it cost me 17 pence.
And the first sip of that foaming brew set me on the road to oblivion.
I didn’t drink everyday but when I drank I didn’t hold back and I didn’t know when to stop.
On one occasion, a Friday, I left work at 5.30pm and went straight to the pub, with that weeks pay packet in hand, in those days we got paid weekly in cash, I woke up the next morning in a bus shelter with 3 pence in my pocket, I had pissed away a weeks wages in one night.
On A works beano one year we went on a day trip to France the more serious drinkers among our party drank nonstop for 26 hours and very nearly drank ourselves sober, one or two of the group had to be carried but the hardened drinkers walked back to the ferry.
On another occasion after a friend’s house party I woke up on the bedroom floor, having no idea how I got there.
It was only later when I spoke to my friends that I found out the whole story of what I had done and that they had carried/dragged me home.
They were good friends, who through my behaviour, I gradually alienated one by one until there was no one left to get me home.
So I woke up in gardens, subways and gutters, I even woke up once in a skip with a kebab stuck to my face.
In the end I was disowned by my family and my only friends were fellow drunks.
Despite my drunken binges I still managed to hold down a decent job so when
I was in my late twenties I moved to Woking to take up a very well paid job which served to fund my benders very well indeed.
On one particular weekend in September I had been drinking since breakfast and kept it up all day, but by midnight all the pubs were shut.
But a serious drunk always knows where to find a drink so I took a cab to Casper’s, a members only an all-night drinker.
It was there that I met Angela who would become my salvation.
She was a good looking woman, around about my age, who was also a drunk.
Although the drink hadn’t yet diminished her looks.
The next morning I woke up in the passenger seat of a car on the sea front in Frinton with Angela sleeping slumped over the steering wheel.
I had absolutely no recollection of how we got there, or how we got there.
I got out of the car to stretch my legs and the bracing sea breeze almost knocked me off my feet.
I walked along the sea front, trying desperately to clear my head but things were no clearer 20 minutes later when I returned to the car.
Which by some miracle was parallel parked to perfection, and I marveled at how we had got from Woking to Frinton and lived to tell the tale.
Then a sense of doom came over me as I looked at the bright blue Chrysler in front of me because although we had got to Frinton unscathed the car had not.
The front of the car carried all the hallmarks of a serious front end collision.
I roused Angela from her drunken slumber and got her out of the car and walked her up and down until the sea breeze had blown the cobwebs away.
“How the hell did we get here?” I asked
“Get where?” she mumbled
“Frinton” I replied
“Where the hell is Frinton?” Angela asked
I walked her further along the seafront until we reached a café that was actually open at 6.00am on a Sunday and several coffees later I got some sense out of her
“The last thing I remember we were in Casper’s and you said “I haven’t been to the coast for ages”” She said slowly “so we finished our drinks and got in my car”
“And?” I pressed
“And then you woke me up” she said, head in hands
“Do you remember hitting anything?” I whispered
“No, like what?” Angela queried
“I don’t know” I replied “but whatever it was, you hit it hard”
It was after nine when we stood up to leave.
A small group of fishermen were coming in as we were going out.
“All I know is old Joe was walking the dog when he got hit” one of them said
“And he’s dead?” asked another
“Yes, and the driver didn’t stop” the first one replied
What little colour had returned to Angela’s face while we were in the café instantly drained away as the realization of what she had done dawned on her as well.
We returned to the car but Angela was too distraught to drive, I was suddenly stone cold sober so I got behind the wheel and chose a route that took us back to Woking via a circuitous route.
After That September Sunday all those years ago when some poor resident soul in Gods waiting room lost there life at our hands I lost my taste for booze.
I still see Angela from time to time she still lives in Woking but she never came to terms with what we had done that day and surrendered completely to the demon in the bottle.
I see her around about town with the other winos and I believe she sleeps under the canal bridge.
I wonder if she sleeps any sounder than I.