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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I WAS once in this bar in San Antonio (There's a surprise. Ed.) when these two totally out-of-it Manchester United supporters lurched in.

Through the slurring, they ordered two burgers with a plate of chips between them as they sat half-helplessly on high stools.

One was wearing a teeshirt that said: "Hello darlin'" on the front and "Now Fuck Off" on the back.

He squirted a great dollop of ketchup towards the chips and missed. With a squelch, it settled over his friend's left hand resting nearby.

Nobody moved. Curious that. Somehow I would have thought that if you had a splodge of cold ketchup squirted all over your fingers, you'd move. Jump up, or go "Erghh!" and shake it off. Now I know you don't and so do you.

So he just reaches out and puts a succession of white paper napkins over the ketchup with his fingertips sticking out and starts eating the chips with his other hand. No one mentioned the ketchup.

I mused that these poor unfortunates just didn't know what to do or how to behave. They needed, at that moment, their mothers to come and clean them up and put them in fresh nappies.

I was reminded of the young drunks when the government here dropped all-day drinking from the Queen's Speech, which means the much-trumpeted change in Britain's licensing laws has been put off. Again. Along with anything else to do with alcohol.

There's lots about drugs. There are even new care standards coming in to provide separate rooms for addicts in rehab, whether they want to be alone or not.

But Tony Blair has omitted to include an alcohol strategy that would embrace everything to do with sobriety in public, something the English do not instinctively understood.

I'll put it simpler: The English are not embarrassed about being drunk in front of their mother.

I'll never forget the look on the face of the bar owner as he walked over and saw what had happened, the red digits splayed under the serviettes.

As he looked with wonderful bewilderment at the two drunks, who by now had abandoned being cool and were giggling hysterically, he shook his head. Wearily. To him, this was a public outrage, behaving so badly after drinking too much. In public and in his bar.

But - he appeared to reason - they didn't know any better.

That's what the Queen's Speech ought to have been trying to address. Education! Education! Education! was last time then, was it?

Joke: I suppose I'd better tell you my tattoo story, now I've been reminded of it by mentioning that teeshirt. This other United fan lurched into a tattooist's and had "FUCK OFF" tattooed right across his forehead. As he grew up and matured, he figured out the message was preventing him from gaining gainful employment, so he had "DON'T" tattooed above it.

Sinclair Newton