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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I dropped in at one of those drop-ins for people like me the other day.

I think the idea is that you hold your own counselling sessions (they're cheaper that way) and get to meet others who are proposing to devote the rest of their lives to staring into an empty champagne flute.

In fact they tend to be peopled by middle-aged men longing for a drink they cannot have while keeping up appearances as a jovial seeker-after sobriety.

I arrived mid-afternoon to find three grimy men sitting around an old wooden table crammed with overflowing ashtrays and biscuit crumbs.

Unshaven man who keeps jutting his chin out and biting on his bottom lip until he resembles a hedgehog: "Have you bin doin' out this week, then?"

Man with jagged scar down right cheek which appears to glow on and off if you stare at him: "Nah."

Man in corner looking fixedly at a list of proposed daytrips out for the group and for some reason saying "Nay nonny nay" over and over again: "Nay nonny nay."

First man: "I've been getting into poetry, you know. Look at this". (He produces dark blue old book from crumpled plastic carrier bag. "It's someone called Robbie Burns. Only three quid it was."

The room goes silent. The man puts the book away. I wonder how anyone can get a carrier bag to look as dishevelled as that and I decide to slink straight out, past the sign on the door that says something about abandoning hip flasks all ye who enter there.

I was mulling over this scene whilst drinking diet Coke and pretending it was a large Queen Mother's, when I recalled a similar scene I had witnessed years before.

I was on licensed premises having just the one when I happened to look around the bar. Suddenly someone lent me a fiver and I was feeling particularly observant.

Man like a Monk except with large burnished bump right in the middle of bald head: "Yeah, I went to Ibiza once when I was a kid like."

Man with brass earring that looked as though it would hold up his Gran's velvet curtains: "Ibiza? Whoah!"

They both turned back to their pints of bitter, lost in a reverie as empty as an umbrella stand at Café del Mar.

A third man stood alone at the bar, an empty tumbler in front of him, mumbling: "Jush one for the road, me old mate".

A thought gripped me that I must have looked like them once. I smiled to myself.

It's sad to relate, but I think I've measured out my life in whisky bottles and I still can't decide whether they were half full or half empty.

Sinclair Newton