Protempore – Issue 73

Posted by in February's Magazine

As some of our loyal readers will know, I like the odd, social drink now and again. And again. And again. And in those self-deluding moments when my regular attendance in the main stand at the Carrier’s Quarters is called into question, I convince myself that it’s the social aspect of my alcohol indulgence that keeps me coming back for more. Sometimes the chat in the bar borders on the surreal and I have become quite addicted to it. For example, the other night, the Laird, Big Dave the fireman and I were discussing whether Randolph Scott was any good as a cowboy. The Laird’s argument that Randolph was, and I quote, “fucking useless” centred on the fact that he only ever shot baddies in the hand forcing them to relinquish their dastardly grip on their six shooters. The Laird felt that Mr Scott’s films would have been much improved if he had “just shot the bastards in the heid and goat oan wi’ it”. Dave and I, being of a slightly younger vintage than the Laird and therefore in no position to comment on Mr Scott’s prowess with a pistol nodded in agreement and got the beers in.

Laird on Question Time
On another occasion, I left the confines of the CQ utterly convinced that we had managed to arrange for the Laird to appear on Question Time in the guise of Professor Mearns who had, quite simply, found the answer to the recession and the rising price of food. His thesis revolved around tattie peelings and how these could be utilised in order to stretch household budgets. Professor Mearns would also wow the Question Time audience with his mesmerising simplicity and render the other guests speechless as they tried to refute his arguments. Like all good television guests should, we rehearsed the Prof’s arguments while downing drink to increase our confidence that he would be an overnight sensation. For example, when faced with questions about how the country could set about recovery in the face of ever-increasing debt, Professor Mearns would simply raise his hand in order to grab the audience’s attention and then shout at the top of his voice; “WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN!”. And when David Dimbleby fired off his incredulous stare that terrifies most guests, the Prof would stop him in his tracks by saying “I DARE YOU TO ARGUE WITH THAT!” By this time the audience would be on their feet roaring their approval. Even you’re beginning to see it in your mind’s eye and there’s a distinct possibility that you haven’t even had a drink.


Sometimes the solace (and alcohol) to be found in bars is required to numb the feeling that the world is a mess and you’d rather not be a part of it for a while. George Bernard Shaw said that “alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life” and although I still feel that it’s the ‘social’ aspect of drinking which is its greatest virtue, there’s no doubt that the stuff itself can help to get us through. There’s many a night when I’ve felt thoroughly miserable and resorted to drinking wine and listening to the saddest songs that I know in order to sort things out. And in a funny way, as the drink starts to take effect and the songs become more desperate, sinking lower actually makes me feel better. My recipe suggestion for when the weight gets too much is some (lots of) red wine and Townes Van Zandt singing “If I Needed You”. I’m guessing that the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo probably liked the odd miserablist evening to herself. She said “I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling”.

Misery loves company
Yesterday morning (which like most mornings was the one after the night before) I was thinking of staying off the social roundabout this weekend and giving my liver the kind of rest that it truly deserves but I made the mistake of buying a newspaper to read on the bus. A young boy, thought to be between 10 and 12 years old, and dressed in school uniform had walked into an army compound in Pakistan and detonated a bomb which was strapped to his body, killing himself and at least 31 other people.

The Taliban merrily claimed responsibility for the bombing. I don’t understand the concept of martyrdom and I’m pretty sure that 10 year olds don’t either and for the life of me I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going through that wee guy’s mind as he walked into that compound. My liver’s holiday is now on hold for a while and while I might be able to revel in my own petty misery, no amount of alcohol could possibly drown some of the sorrowful bastards who inhabit our world. But there’s enough of the stuff to temporarily numb the pain so I’m off to the Carrier’s.

I’m just hoping that the Laird and Big Dave are in because misery loves company. Sing it Townes.


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