I am very aware of alcohol. Fully aware that we don’t get along. In fact, we shouldn’t even speak to each other. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve fallen out with more types of drink than I have done actual humans!
As I sat last Saturday waiting for my eldest to return from an afternoon/evening/a bit into the night drinking session, I began to ponder my own history with alcohol. His is barely beginning and there have been days recently (whole days because that is how long a hangover lasts now if I’m lucky) when I wish mine was well and truly over!
I wasn’t really exposed to alcohol as a child. I recall bottles of wine on foreign holidays and the odd Lambrusco being opened on special occasions. I remember that a cupboard in the sideboard was allocated for a variety of alcoholic beverages but, just like my kitchen cupboard which is full of cleaning products, it was rarely opened.
So, at some point, I started ‘going out’. This was traumatic for me for one reason and one reason only. I still looked like a child the age of 16/17. (See Life begins at ….) Just getting into some drinking establishments with steroid enhanced bouncers guarding the door was a feat that needed to be toasted with a Shandy, Diesel or Snakebite and Black. Friends usually fetched me drinks whilst I skulked in the darkest, deepest corner of the pub in fear of being thrown out. Before long, we progressed onto classier drinks: Peach Schnapps, Blue Bols and Blastaway. It was like we were drinking pop and, the following morning, we would bounce out of bed like we had indeed been consuming soft drinks all night.
These were the days when you needed 10p at the end of the night so you could brace the stench of the urine soaked floor in the public phone box to request a lift home from a long suffering parent. I don’t remember taxis being around. To be fair, my friends and I didn’t need them. We had dads. But one dad was enough. He would be summoned and, on arrival, would be greeted by a myriad of well oiled souls and learn he was about to take a magical mystery tour of West Cumbria at half eleven at night.
“Is it OK if we take John Boy, Jim Bob, Mary Ellen and Elizabeth home too?”
Too inebriated to recognise the daggers being aimed at me, we’d all hop in and talk utter nonsense for the rest of the journey. I think this fatherly duty goes largely unrecognised and definitely unrewarded.
I never felt pressurised into drinking as a teenager. If I was accused of ‘budging’, I would happily leave my drink instead of downing it, so we could progress to the next pub. Why we had to visit every drinking establishment in Whitehaven in the space of three hours baffles me, when all I want to do nowadays is find a seat and stay put for the evening. We probably visited them twice at the rate we whizzed round. Or maybe my memory fails me as is so often the case nowadays. As far as I can recall with my remaining brain cells which haven’t been addled by vodka or reduced to mush by a series of pregnancies, my first hangover was in my second year of university. I woke up not sure what was happening until my flatmate explained this new fact of life to me. I was still confused, although that’s pretty much the state in which I navigate through life. Was being sick in the last pub then falling asleep on the toilet floor something to do with it? Definitely, maybe was the reply. (She was paying attention to me and not listening to an Oasis album.)
So I lost some of that day to sleep and bewilderment, but when you’re a student, this is nothing new – sober, drunk or hungover. It’s when you drink after pregnancy that the fun really starts……