Peanuts and a red wine cooler…

I drink too much! When I’m doing serious work, it’s mainly tea – sometimes coffee. But I don’t do coffee the way I used to, because since my doctor told me that I needed to lose weight, I’ve stopped using sugar. And coffee without sugar is flavoured like what I imagine the contents of a slurry tank would taste. So I use sweeteners, which make it just about tolerable. Tea with sweeteners, no problem. Good strong Belfast tea can over come any abuse. But coffee?  Nah, it’s too prima donna. So just for occasional.

   Joyless anti-tobacco Nazis won’t understand, but one of life’s genuine pleasures – one of the true blessings of a merciful and beneficent deity – is to wake in the morning to a pipe and a cup of strong, sugar-sweet coffee. The day becomes light and pickled in sunlight, dappled with good humour, whatever the weather. Starting like this puts a spring in the step, in the thought processes and in one’s kindly regard for most of the human race (there will always be exceptions!!). A blessed nicotine hit at the end of the day to ease the coming of sleep ensures sweet dreams and tranquility.

   But I stopped smoking a number of years ago. It had become a choice between breathing and smoking. The former won out  – just about. And as my tastebuds came out of stasis, and I rediscovered just how anti-social is an evening on Guinness and pickled eggs and how farting in bed can be a near-death experience, I needed a substitute. Since pubs should smell and taste of the last decade of tobacco smoke mingled with the ghosts of many beers spilled on a tired carpet and a general mix of body odour and cheap perfume, I don’t really go any more. If I want to inhale antiseptic, I’ll open a celebratory bottle of Dettol, or else have a coronary and get into a ward for incorrigibles.  So I drink at home, sometimes solitary like now, oft-times in the fine company of herself.

   Now, I don’t drink when I’m doing serious work – the work that pays that sheepshagging bunch of thieving, motherfucking tossers, otherwise known as the holders of my mortgage.  No, I stay sober for that. So it’s primarily tea. Coffee at 11am and 3pm because that’s a rhythym of life dictating that my DNA still stays in a logically twisted spiral. It’s when I can escape into the slightly disorientated realms of my mind and not have to think sensibly (like now), that the blessings of ethanol kick in.

   But it’s a funny thing. Since I stopped smoking, my weight has ballooned.  I have a beer-gut like I’d eaten not just a football, but half of the first-division team kicking it as well. So when I drink, I need to be crafty.  The fat monster lurks behind every dish of duck with plum sauce. Bacon sarnies aren’t exactly geared to reducing the waistline to its original 36″. WARNING – if any of you use the s**** word, you can go shag a roll of barbed wire.  So there! High protein, reasonably low fat, suggestive of the pub without having to be there! There is, of course, only one answer.  Peanuts.

      But what to drink and stay relatively in touch with reality? Fizzy beer (even if it’s the golden nectar?), nah! Spirits? Occasionally, but not for real. Them’s for getting pissed! I’m not a wine snob – in fact, I know sod all really, other than what I like. And if I’m working for a few hours, more than a trayful of successive glasses tends to blur reality just that little bit too much. A bit like a painter finding his hand slipping and smearing part of the canvas.  My daughter had the answer. Mind you, I nearly killed her for it.

   On one special occasion when we were drinking en famille, she ordered a glass of wine and a bottle of fizzy saccharine and water and mixed the two. Since it was a quite good (inasmuch as I can judge) claret, I shouted at her. Philistine. Destroyer of…Then again, I thought, she is American, after all. So I apologised and tried it. Not bad, not… actually quite nice or even…OK, and we all hate the French, really. Surrendering frogs who eat monkeys or…something like that. Anyhow…

   So six years later, here I am with a glass of bog-basic house red half-and-half with cheap diet (no sugar, honest guv) lemonade and a bowl of salted peanuts. And I’m getting ready to write epic, searing prose to make Dante’s Inferno look like a limp-wristed barbeque and….

  Ah well, fuck it. I’ll just lie down until I’m not in danger of…..



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