Sunday 12 August 2007


It was a warm night and I was awake by 5.30 - rather reluctantly, it must be said, as that seems a bit unnecessary for a Sunday. I lay there dreamily for nearly an hour and was just drifting off again when my eyes slid sideways to the clock, which read 6.25. Since the alarm was set for 6.30 anyway, I got up. I felt remarkably chipper, considering that Peter and I drank a bottle of wine between us before dinner last night (I should remember not to drink alcohol when I'm hot and thirsty) as well as nearly another bottle between four at dinner. That's not much each though. There will be a glassful left to go with dinner tonight, which is so abstemious as to nearly count as abstinence.

Back and forth to church as usual on the second Sunday (as I'm sidesman at the monthly 8am service, as well as organist at the 11am one - and anyway, the Fellow is on holiday), but I did have time for bacon, eggs and tomato for breakfast in between times. I didn't have much lunch.

I heard that Brewster has died. He lived in the village for many years, until he had a stroke some time ago and needed nursing home care. He was an interesting, educated man, very knowledgeable about wildlife and books and, apparently, very good at his job. He had worked in the oil industry, in the Middle East and on the oil rigs. In these places, complete abstinence was required but, very sadly, he made up for it when he was home.

He took full responsibility and made no excuse for himself. Drinking, he said, cost him his marriage, his children, his health. The pity was, he told me, that he never suffered a hangover in his life. He could drink to oblivion but wake up a few hours later without a care in the world. Then he'd go off to apologise for his behaviour the night before.

You used to see him, cycling home from Yagnub, eyes glazed and fixed straight ahead. Sometimes he'd fall off and crawl for a bit. People used to stop to help, and the braver ones offered him a lift - not that he was aggressive, but sometimes he wet himself.

Once, I was in the greenhouse when I saw someone in the field. I didn't have my glasses on, so I went and peered across the stream to see if I knew who it was, and he came through the ford to greet me. His speech was slurred and his gait shambling and Chester, my dog, was suspicious. He stood close in front of me, his hackles up, growling with soft menace. Actually, I was awfully gratified. I'd never seen him in a situation when he thought I was in danger before and he was ready to protect me (he was friendly and soft normally). I said nothing to suggest his reaction was wrong, but spoke in a friendly way to Brewster and stroked Chester gently,who relaxed - though was still wary - after a while.

We walked round the garden, and he certainly knew his plants. He had been on the field to gather mushrooms. He was a pleasure to talk to and I feel such regret that he suffered from such an addiction. He was all right when he was away and could not drink - but he could never stop.

He was on his bike when he had the stroke, and fell into the road. People stopped to help and he went off in an ambulance and never came home, although he lived for seven or eight more years. His house was, finally, sold a couple of months ago, and the Sage and I were only talking about him a few days ago. Must have been about the time he died.

I do feel such regret for him. He was a lovely man and could have had a good life if he hadn't been an alcoholic. I know I tell you blithely how much I drink, but believe me, I would give it up tomorrow rather than go the way he and my grandmother went.

Most people called him Brewster. The Sage and I didn't. We called him Brian, because that was his name.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy wine in the way that you do-with friends and family or after a hard day of gardening or other labor. I often wonder if alcoholics actually enjoy the taste or if it the buzz/escapism they enjoy most. Brian sounds like a man with a heart of gold who regretted what his alcoholism cost him too late. That was a lovely story Z.

Z said...

I suppose, after weeks of 'dry' working, it used to be a great pleasure to come home and have a drink with his mates - but it took him over. Sad.

Dave said...

Being teetotal, it's difficult for me to comment adequately.

I've been alongside an alcoholic, as she drank herself to death, and later conducted her funeral - with her seven year-old child in the front pew.

dharmabum said...

sometimes, i drink a lot too. this post reminds me to be careful - of myself.

and brewster - well the name, reminds me of a play we staged long ago - think it was called 'arsenic and old lace' :)

Z said...

I don't understand it myself. I have never had that sort of compulsion. Yours is a tragic story. I know a child severely handicapped by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (adopted as a baby) and it bewilders me.

Z said...

Dharmabum, it's knowing when to stop that matters, and being able to.

Arsenic and Old Lace - yes, fabulous film with Cary Grant as ... was it Mortimer? Brewster and the batty murderous aunts.

luckyzmom said...

My stepfather and first husband were both alcoholics. Life was scary. The stories I could tell. Like the night my ex went out to buy a pack of cigarettes and didn't come back for 24 hours.

Z said...

Wrecked lives. And nothing to be done, unless they realise what they are doing and really want to stop it.

Z said...

And it's been a pleasure to read all your comments, Luckzmom - it's felt almost like a conversation. Sleep well, see you soon!

badgerdaddy said...

I'm not sure I'm familiar with this character, must have been before my time I guess.

It's something I worry about myself, actually. I try to have dry spells, but when I drink, I drink. No half measures, so to speak. But then I'm optimistic that marathon training will cut it right down. Seriously, alcohol is the only thing that keeps my, erm, 'figure' as it is.

I don't especially want to follow the example of my dad, see. And this very reason is the forefront of my thinking that I'm not having children.

Z said...

It was, he had the stroke several years ago. He'd have been well remembered if you'd known to ask about him though.

Damn, I nearly said something personal there. I'll email it instead.

Pat said...

It's the families of alcoholics or any addiction that I feel sorry for. One thing I have noticed after two jolly evenings lately - the wedding and a family meal out on Saturday - no hang over, but an inability to remember absolutely everything - especially in the latter part of the evening and repeating stories I had already told them. Should I be worried?

Z said...

Not if it isn't a regular happening, Pat