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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I suppose a sober life is all right, but it’s what happens when the previous half a century catches up with you that worries me.

I managed to get to Ibiza by trains and ferries, lugging one of those suitcases that has wheels, a handle and a mind of its own.

But I’ve not told you about my legs.

I have to say, but then I would, that they look like perfectly ordinary legs to me.

A bit thin perhaps, but then I don’t go to pubs which means I don’t need to walk very far that often. I should point out here that there are seven of what we call off-licences within someone else’s walking distance of Meadow Lane. And three pubs, one of which is called the Jolly Hatters and is to do with when there was a hat industry here and all the workers used to go home giggling after effectively sniffing glue used to stiffen the brims. I assume our bibliophile will be able to confirm that that’s where the Mad Hatter’s name came from in Alice in Wonderland, but how wonderfully I digress.

I suppose it’s a bit perverse for me to complain that because I don’t walk to licensed premises any more - especially when Meadow Lane leads to the beautiful river Tame, replete with purpose-built picnic sites - that I don’t have the opportunity for exercise. But it’s not the opportunity that’s lacking, it’s the initiative. I mean, I had it in San José and walked what seemed like half way up what they used to call Mount Talaia. It makes me feel more American every day. Some neighbours of mine in Nevada once drove round from their house to mine (about ten seconds in a Cadillac) when they came for a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding Sunday lunch.

But my legs hurt when I walk for a bit and I hope you’ll be patient and sympathetic when I tell you that I’ll be in hospital for a day and a night next week whilst they squirt some dye down the arteries to find out what’s going on down there.

To be fair, I could tell them now and save all the bother. There’s something blocking the veins and it’s made up of alcohol sediment, large pools of nicotine and whatever gets leftover from curries eaten at three in the mornings.

Our Editor once took me to an African restaurant where they had three choices of sauce to go with the goat and rice: medium, hot and suicide. I’m sure I downed a bowl of the suicide sauce in one go (there was a bet involved) and was then sick as a goat for about a fortnight. You don’t suppose my consultant is going to detect any of that below the forelock, do you?

But to be fair to the hospital, they haven’t half given me some information about what’s going to happen and it’s in English and not Bangladeshi which seems to be the Ibicenco equivalent of Senegalese.

It says, under a worrying letter heading that reads “Tameside and Glossop Acute Services,” bring your nightclothes, so today I’m going shopping for one of those nightshirts that comes accompanied with a funny hat.

And a towel, it says. You’d have thought they’d have towels really and does that mean I’ve got to take mine home when it’s wet after I’ve had a farewell shower?

Then the current state of the National Health Service kicks in. I quote: “Please ring the Bed Bureau on the morning of admission to confirm that a bed is still available for you.

“You may be aware of the current national problems of very high but variable demand for emergency medical admissions to hospital (no-one told me it was an emergency, by the way, and I think it’s a bit naughty slipping that in there. That goat curry was a long time ago). It is possible that your planned procedure may be cancelled shortly before or even when you come into hospital.

“We apologise for any distress or inconvenience caused and will advise you of any problems at the earliest opportunity.”

The one delight is how I interpreted the next bit, which says: “You may have tea and toast at 7am on the morning of your admission. You may also drink as you require until a member of staff asks you to stop. Well that’s all right then.

My only other concern is that the rest of the letter, that tells me just what an arteriogram is, only ever refers to one of my legs; I mean as if I only have one.

Are they trying to tell me something? Come to think of it, my left heel is a bit sore after lugging that suitcase all around Spain and up and down those ridiculous steps onto the ferry in Ibiza harbour. It’s steeper than Talaya and I’m sure I was higher up.

I will report from the hospital frontline next week. The comforting letter winds up by saying passive smoking is akin to murder and eating your neighbour’s first-born child pickled in inferior Spanish olive oil and that their responsibility is to provide a smoke-free environment and says please be prepared not to smoke, especially if I want to hang onto my other leg.

p.s. I was in London this week and went to the Coach and Horses in Soho and sat in Jeffrey Bernard’s seat. I resisted a large one on the grounds that I don’t want my column to disappear one week and have Gary put “Sinclair Newton has had his leg off” in its place.

Sinclair Newton