Friday, 21 February 2014

The NiND Commissions #2: Brave and Handsome

This blog post has been commissioned by NiND* donor Nick Frost (not that one). 

This is what Nick Frost looks like as imagined by the magnificent Tokyo Sexwhale**,

which is a pretty good likeness, although I can't remember ever seeing Nick use his left eye as a laser beam like that. 

Anyway. Nick made a donation to further incentivise me on my epic quest, and commissioned the following thus:

"If you would, tell us how your friends, family and others now seem once they've had a drink or two. I've heard this is one of the hardest parts of being sober."

Thank you for your suggestion, Nick, and your kind donation. This one's for you:

The Long Distance Loneliness of the Last Sober Person in the World Room

Snappy title. Ninety per cent of us in this country do alcohol. And we do it well. As Greg Proops said: "the British drink like someone is going to take it away from them." 

That's fine, everyone's got to have a hobby, but being sober around fellow countrymen and women whilst they indulge their passion for giggling bollockry can be an unenticing prospect.

Indeed, as Nick alluded to in his brief, being trapped in room with a bunch of drooling, incoherent, over-opinionated berks is only fun if you're one of them.

This still has the power to surprise. Here's Simon Pegg on his decision to go teetotal:

“The only downside about not drinking, is if you go out with your friends, at about 10 o’clock every single one of them becomes a complete c---. And you just think “Well… Eh? Wha? Why is this happening!?” And it’s because you also were a complete c--- when you were drinking. You just didn’t notice. Even my wife will become this bizarre cackling stranger, who I don’t really like.” (RHLSTP*** 20 Nov 2013)

Alcohol's capacity to completely destroy the self-awareness of even the most poised among us is fascinating. Lloyd Cole sent it up in three words in an ancient Melody Maker interview:

Q: What are you like when you're drinking?
A: Brave and handsome.

A more laborious illustration of the same point was made in a Big Train sketch which featured a panicky man running Day of the Triffids-style through a post-apocalyptic suburban environment (i.e. a completely unapocalyptic suburban environment filmed through a shaky camera and soundtracked with over-the-top dramatic music). He would encounter people staggering around, who were shouting incoherently and trying to attack him. 

He tried to get help by knocking on the door of someone's house. The people inside seemed to offer him sanctuary, but as soon as he thought he was safe they turned on him, offering him alcohol and eventually trying to force it down his neck.

In a later sketch, we see the explanation for the set up as it was re-run from a different perspective, with the protagonist shouting at people and attacking them. He has a moment of clarity and says: "Ah! So it was me who was completely pissed and everyone else was sober. It all makes sense now"

Coping mechanism

That's not to say I mind being sober around drunk people. It can be an efficient way to solicit gossip. Alcohol is a truth drug, and with the correct prompts, people open up voluntarily. I should know, I've been indiscreet enough times myself. 

If you haven't got anything better to do, observing the rhythms of an evening until all the coherency has been squeezed out of it can be very entertaining. If you have other responsibilities, or a burning urge to be at the gym at 6am, it's acceptable to turn up somewhere at 8.30pm and leave on the dot of 11pm. If you really can't cope with two-and-a-half hours sober, talking to people you work with/like/are related to then you shouldn't be there in the first place. If you have to turn up to a do, but don't want to, access to alcohol rarely makes it better. Again, trust me on that one.

There is one unavoidable downside to staying dry during social occasions - it's hard to mask your fatigue. Alcohol is one of the four energy sources your body can process (the other three being fat, carbohydrate and protein), so whilst your brain is getting a psychoactive boost from the booze rinsing through it, your body is being energised by the alcohol washing around it. This heady combination is what creates that chattery buzz in a bar as people "come up" at more or less the same time. But it can also temporarily disguise the fact you are running on empty. Without alcohol it's that much harder. After a while you just have to admit to your friends you are tired and its time to go home. 

At that stage of the evening you will not mind being around drunk people because you are about to leave them to do what drunk people do. Conversely, there is a chance you will miss out on high jinks. At the age of 25, that might have been an issue. Nowadays, for me, no longer.


* If you want to know what this is all about, start here.

** Tokyo Sexwhale wrote the best review of The Dark Knight Rises ever

*** If you want to listen to some of the most entertaining conversations in recorded history, then download (for free) the Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Podcasts (iTunes link here).  He chats for over an hour to some of the funniest people in the world, swears a lot and introduces Stephen Merchant with the immortal line: 

" talking of paedophiles definite paedophiles, will you please welcome  we won't find out for a few years but we all knew I hope he's there. will you please welcome... if he's there, and if he's not left because of what I just said. Stephen Merchant!  [Merchant appears] Stephen Merchant!  I mean, look at him, though"

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