Friday, 12 May 2017

Cursing the darkness of a drunken jaunt

I sipped and swilled
Blogs are bringing life to wry observations from which you might end up with a story or even a moral tale. Now, I do not have a ready palate for alcohol, I probably lost my thirst for strong drink by accident.
At the age of 10, whilst away from home taking common entrance examinations in Lagos, I found myself at parties where my choice tipple was Tennant's light lager by the can and with all the adult supervision around me, I was granted the liberty to indulge. I never got tipsy, but there was something about my privileged status that gave me a bye when other boys would have been scolded.
I was the son of the high-flying and most successful accountant from our village, I was the proverbial white boy in black skin, with an accent that when foreign guests were visiting, I was the one put forward to chat to and entertain when the children of the host were locked away and out of sight, I probably took liberties without consequence.
More for the drink, less for the taste
Everywhere I went in the 4 months I was down south, I was feted, indulged, tolerated, excused and well, abused too. Yes, that was sexually, but I did not know I was being taken advantage of. I was already used to being taken advantage of by two of our houseboys up north, this fumbling that went further was like pleasure and play.
By the time I was 15, my uncle who had just returned from the UK was both generous with means and things apart from offering good swills of rum that it got back to me that my parents were concerned that I was being introduced to drink, little did they know, in fact, with hindsight, my parents know so much and yet so little about me, it is almost an enigmatic paradox.
After secondary school at 15, I had a job in the laboratory of West African Breweries where I carried out water tests and introduced conveyor belt quality controls that fed back down the line to improvements in bottle washing and other bottling activities. My exposure to understanding fermentation, counting dead yeast cells, the tank farm and tasting the finished product put an end to my palate for a lager, beer, ale, cider and strong spirits.
I have little tolerance for alcohol abuse
I have the occasional wine with meals and sometimes an aperitif, but bitters and the rest are completely off limits. Essentially, I am dangerously sober in all that I do where people would require Dutch courage to attempt those same things.
That I have little tolerance of the inebriated and drunken is borne of the reasoning that I think the consumption of alcohol is an expression of discipline, you know when you’ve had enough and allow yourself the benefit of keeping your wits about you. We all make mistakes, but we can forgive ourselves and promptly begin to make amends.
A half-brain on a long train
So, as I was about to board the train from Edinburgh to Manchester, a man stepped in front of us with bravado and disregard to get on the train first. He did and as the train departed the station, he enquired where the train was going, the slurring of speech and the unsteadiness of his feet suggested he was all not himself, not by reason of ailment or infirmity, but for the abuse in excess of alcohol.
He was going due west to Bathgate some 18 miles away but had hopped on the train going southwest with the next stop at Lockerbie, some 76 miles away. Any other man might have comforted himself of his folly like Esau of old, but not this man. He fidgeted and buffeted, sighed and hollered, swore and cursed, murmured and blustered to the irritation of all around him that they left their reserved seats for other available seats.
For the lost of Lockerbie
He was by terms a bloody nuisance all because of drink and we endured the menace for a good hour until he disembarked at Lockerbie. Lockerbie itself brings some poignancy to me, it was where the Pan Am Flight 103 crashed on the 21st of December 1988, which happened to be my 23rd birthday.
That tragic event and my birthday somewhat creates an affinity with Lockerbie that I should one day disembark and visit the memorial to those who perished at that heinous act of terrorism for which I have not yet been convinced that the real culprits have seen justice.
Cursing the darkness sheds no light
However, the man railed and ranted, I thought of the proverb being played out before my eyes, “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” It is said to be an old Chinese proverb and at the same time attributed to a sermon titled “The Invincible Strategy” given by W. L. Watkinson and collected in 1907. The former attribution is suspect and the latter is contentious, but we have a saying to work with. [Wikipedia][QuoteInvestigator]
There was nothing the man could do other was sit still until he got to Lockerbie and hopefully he could get a train back tonight to Edinburgh and then to Bathgate, that is if the conductor on the other train was in the least compassionate, he could have contemplated his folly in the solitude of regret and silence, but he was literally cursing the darkness and it made no difference to the fact that he first had to get off the train and maybe get back home tonight.
In effect, he left an odious impression and the inspiration for this blog. Never drink yourself to not being aware of what you are doing and if you do, responsibly accept that consequences of your folly without becoming a public nuisance. Any of us could have compounded his situation by calling the police to attend to an unruly and drunken passenger at Lockerbie, in which case, he would have had free lodgings at Her Majesty’s pleasure for the night until sobriety gave him gumption and reason along with even more regret.
C’est la vie!

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