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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

There are hundreds of people trapped on a motorway in the English midlands as I write this on Maundy Thursday afternoon.

There are two people dead and dozens injured after about a hundred cars crashed in the fog at about 7am. I was awake then and heard it on the radio and turned over under my winter-weight duvet. I must get a lighter one this afternoon as the sun has started beating down here which means we all have something to talk about just as much as the first holidaymakers arriving in Ibiza for Easter.

Not the ones who were in that motorway pile-up though because they are going to miss their planes or at the very least the offices they were heading for and my thoughts are with them because they cannot get a drink.

I mean I suppose the police and ambulance people have supplies of bottled water, but I've only nearly been in a situation like this and I managed to drive a few hundred yards up a hard shoulder and escape into the wilds of Birmingham or somewhere. Wherever I was I found a Lebanese café and sat sipping tea and nibbling at flaky pastry things with nuts in until I judged the queue had gone. It was a man threatening suicide off a motorway bridge on that occasion and I remember pre-empting the Home Secretary by saying they should bring in stun guns like they would if it was a leopard. He announced the idea about a month later and I'm still waiting to hear of it being used.

No, I've been thinking that today should be a holiday. It used to be before Robert Maxwell spoiled it when he owned the Daily Mirror.

Today is the day before Good Friday when there never used to be daily newspapers in the UK. Apart from meaning there was nothing to wrap the fish in, it gave national newspaper journalists like me the most glorious day of the year: we were off when everyone else was working.

In very big dictionaries you will find the word "Wayzgoose" and I bet the spell-checker doesn't know that one.

Dating back to 1731, the definition is: "An annual festivity held by the employees of a printing establishment, consisting of a dinner and an excursion into the country."

We took this to mean the opportunity to go for a monumental drinking session in the pub nearest the office to which we did not have to go. The usual regulars looked in for their lunchtime sessions and left before us. The phone never rang calling us back to work and the landlord would cook us a meal to be had in his private apartment upstairs while we tried to remember why we were there.

I've even got a tie somewhere sporting a little yellow goose. I guess we had a dozen made, but I don't know what happened to the other journalists, never mind the ties. Most have gone to that big printing press in the sky where you don't even have to write anything. The newspapers just print out (on hammered vellum) at the merest flutter of an angel's wing and the crossword has already been filled in.

I think I will wear the tie today, but I am forsaking the country excursion on the grounds that it may go past a motorway full of thirsty commuters. What a nightmare. Have a happy Easter and remember what it's for.

Sinclair Newton