10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia
When I encountered people who I have either admired or had to endure I have watched and observed their drinking habits and routines?
In the early days of my career I was impressionable and wanted to learn how to live my life and was interested to see other routines. I do not know if others do the same, but I expect they do in some shape or form.
Everyone has a hero, someone on whom they base their own characteristics, but other than a few lecturers and teachers, who had served their purpose, and the impressionable memories that lingered from my parents, I was a clean sheet of paper ready to be influenced.
Here are some details of some of the first people who influenced and help form my drinking habits. I do find it surprising that I remember one boss thirty years ago who we all knew had a drinking problem, but also knew he was disciplined, easing into his craving at 5 in the afternoon with a tin of beer from his fridge (whilst his secretary kept a bottle of gin in a paper bag in her drawer for her own consumption – I would learn in later life that this was not to deal with the stresses of their lives, but rather to get over and through the boredom of dictating and typing long aggressive letters).
And why do I remember another boss at this time who confessed that he was a member of a group of Brighton commuters he joined each evening to drink at least three large gin and tonics before their train reached home, whilst another enjoyed a Campari at lunch in his rooms over-looking the communal gardens.
However, it wasn’t until I left London and embarked on a major stint at one job, which I combined with more studying, that I was able to study the habits of just one person I admired and adapt my own beliefs of what I thought was acceptable. Unfortunately, I also adopted my hero’s drinking way of life.
You need to understand that I had been brain-washed into believing that drinking was the correct routine for my chosen calling, as my father had once told me he drank, not only because he enjoyed it, but also to make sure he could drink amongst his peers and not make a fool of himself, because drinking was a requirement.
This boss followed that routine almost precisely. Just enough wine at lunch to be able to drive, always a beer on his way home and dinner at a family gathering fueled with a selection of liquid refreshments in the evening.
Alongside these habits he would enjoy the usual pleasantries and cerebral demands of our profession and would focus on his work with a passion that defied his own liver.
I remember over the post one day, when he arrived disheveled and unkempt that he told the story of his own doctor telling him that his own liver could cope with just wine. This tale stuck with me and I have mentioned it earlier, but from that point on you were doomed and I began to follow his routine and developed his habits, finding myself also pursuing my work passionately and pursuing a second degree with such great stamina, fitting my own drinking around both pursuits, thus satisfying my mistaken belief that I was behaving as others expected of me and I was being successful also. Or at least so I thought.
Looking back, I know I developed into a high-functioning drinker at that time, not showing any signs to anyone in particular, as I worked so hard and performed so well. Even when the studying took me back to London for weekends in the British Library, researching topics unavailable anywhere else, I followed the same drinking routines, achieving my work goals and enjoying the taste and mental experience of drinking.
Only you and I knew about these routines, as you had to deal with the alcohol and destroy it. I kept within the rule concerning wine alone, but as you know on occasion slipped into the enjoyment of French brandy
The need for enjoying all things French came from this first provincial boss, as he owned and rented a French cottage to me, thus introducing me to the joys of that lifestyle. It became a dream of mine to one day also own a French property and until that time to enjoy Paris and all things French at least once a year, especially the rustic charms associated with coffee, brandy and a small cigar outside on a pavement cafe.
After you cried your tears of blood, I immediately lost that dream.
I now have no compunction to drink, so I lost the need to sit in cafés in French streets with a brandy and a cigar, to re-trace the steps of Hemingway in Paris, to court the mayor’s daughter along the riverside of the Chateau or enjoy oysters again at the Ritz.
That saddened me deeply, as not only did I need to extinguish from my mind all of the fond memories I had of my high functioning habits, my years of training and a love of the French chateau, I lost my retirement plan.
The initial source of my drinking habits was therefore one of my first bosses, who I admire and still admire, although we have not spoken in decades. He was the first influence and from then on I just perfected my habits, emboldened that I was correct in my approach by comments from peers and society, in particular TV and movies, but I believe things might have been different if before I had sought out habits, someone had actually told me not only the risks, but the dangers of tears of blood which can arrive unexpectedly with no warning from drinking when you are trying also to cope with work
I am who I am as a result of following my heros, so its time to think for myself, a little like you do