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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I went to the celebrations for an old mate's 60th birthday last night. It was the landlady's homemade meat and potato pie with mushy peas and all that in a jolly 17th century pub called the Church Inn.

The "all that" part would at one time have been about a gallon of real ale before the proper drinking (i.e. whisky) would begin. We never would have got round to the pie.

To be fair, it's a ritual my friend Trevor has enjoyed all his life. He looked well on it, too.

He mends dry stone walls by day, an ancient craft that sees him out before dawn a thousand feet above sea level high up the Pennines. I'd love to say in all weathers, but he's not daft. "I work for myself nowadays, " he told me, "cos there's no point in killing yourself."

He downed another pint of Rushcart bitter and a familiar landlady slid a fresh one into its place.

I had hoped to witness colossal scenes of drinking and laughter and debauchery. I wanted buxom barmaids sitting on Trevor's lap and ribald remarks flying back and forth across the snug.

The pub was fine, tucked away in a fold of the hills with a real log fire glowing and crackling.

But the landlord was a sharp young businessman and the car park was full of shiny cars. Another of Trevor's daughters has just got married and the talk was of lavish buffets and chauffeur driven cars to fancy hotels, whereas it used to be of where he had slept the night before.

I had hoped for a taste of my own youth, too. Memories of watching a young George Best and the night we drank champagne and brandy till we fell over each other.

Trevor downed another pint and I didn't know where he was putting it and I bet that's what they used to say of me. We've never fallen out in all those drinking years apart from when I told him to stop driving through the railway tunnel to get more quickly to the pub at the other end.

"This is a birthday I never expected to see," I said, thinking of myself. "We didn't, did we," he mumbled as we made an attempt at a bear hug, and I didn't know if he was thinking just of me too, or of himself.

Trevor's never been to Ibiza, but someone from the pub took him on a private jet to Spain last year to talk about quarrying. There may be a trip to Mexico in his 61st year.

Life's not over for Trevor, despite all his drinking and it gave me heart.

I left after half an hour without touching a drop, but for once I ate some pie and peas with pickled red cabbage and no birthday cake ever tasted so good.

Sinclair Newton