The Thinking Allowed Newsletter: Just another little drink
"Same again, Laurie?"
It was the best part of fifteen years since I'd last seen my old drinking mate and fellow sociologist Mick, so it would have seemed positively unfriendly to refuse his offer of another pint.
But this would be our fourth in less than an hour and a half and I was only too aware that, in the years since we'd last met, my capacity for drink had seriously declined.
Anything more than two and a half pints and I was in danger of repeating my dramatic 2008 Christmas Eve fall down the steps leading to the men's lavatory.
"Cheers", said Mick, gulping a third of his new pint. "Cheers" I said, sipping from my glass as though sampling a fine wine.
"Where to next?" said Mick looking around the pub as though in the hope of encountering an invitation.
I was rather less concerned about our next destination than finding some way of disguising my desperate need to visit the gents for the third time during our session.
"Crisps?", I offered, realising that the morass of drinkers at the bar would make it easy for me to disappear for a couple of extra minutes.
It was at this point that the tell-tale signs of incipient drunkenness became all too obvious. I seemed only able to stand at the urinal by placing my right hand against the dank wall for support.
And as I climbed back up the stairs, I paid so much attention to each step that I missed the top one entirely and was in danger for a moment of hurtling forwards like an out-of-control drone into the far end of the saloon bar.
"Drink up", said Mick, when I got back to the table with two packets of sweet chilli flavour. I lifted my pint, opened my throat, and poured down the remaining three-quarters of a pint.
Somehow I managed to follow Mick out of the pub and lurch alongside him until we reached this little bar he knew in Soho where they kept quite the best pint of Gruttocks to be found in the whole of London.
The rest is more or less a blank. I can only vaguely summon up memories of being refused entry to an Indian restaurant, singing interminable choruses of You'll Never Walk Alone, and missing the seat when I climbed into the taxi that was taking me home.
The next day, Mick rang my mobile and said that we'd had a really great night.
"Just like the old days. We must do it again soon."
"Yes, it was fantastic" I said feeling relieved that Mick was referring to our joint enjoyment of the evening. It sounded as though we'd been as drunk as each other. Equal drinking mates. Yes, just like it had been in those days.
"How are you feeling now?", said Mick.
"Oh fine", I said. Big drinkers didn't complain about their hangovers.
"From when you fell down those lavatory steps", said Mick.
There'll be more stories about drunken nights out when I meet the author of a research article on British stag party tourism called Off the Leash and Out of Control.
That's at four o'clock today or after the midnight news on Sunday or on our podcast.
Also today - how fathers cope with childbirth.
Laurie Taylor presents Thinking Allowed
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