As Time Goes By - January 1982
When the evening started the whiskey shelf was groaning. Now it was purring contentedly and I was purring back at it - always glad to help relieve a burden.
An elbows-down evening. A cocoon of whiskey fumes and cigarette smoke into which no one was welcome exxcept the bartender when invited by a raised eyebrow or a cocked finger Xand then only long enough to fill the glass or empty the ashtray.
Thinking time. Lots to think about.
A whole new year to play with. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, stuff like that.
Middlesex, for instance. We all know where that is. Where's Uppersex? Not to mention Lowersex? Question like that can get a person with an inquiring mind to the bottom of many a glass.
"Do you know what I'm going to tell you?",' croaked the cretin on the next barstool. Oh, gawd, another one.
Yes, I knew what he was going to tell me. Approximately.
"The world is in a shocking state." Close enough. It's that or the deecline 'of Liverpool FC, the cost of the pint, or isn't it about time Gay Byrne caught himself on.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath andreleased a warning grunt.
"You never", he nodded, "said a truer word."
Why can't people just drink when they go to a bar? You want to talk, you go to a pub. You want to play darts, likewise. Or you want to engage in rapartee with strangers of one sex or the other in the hope of achieving a close encounter of the horizontal kind - there are appropriate watering places (and watering is what they do to your drink). The only thing you want to do horizontally after leaving a bar is sleep. Bars are for drinking.
This is the theory. It hasn't really caught on this side of the Atlantic. Hell, if people here want to play Space Invaders where do they go? - a bar. No sense of the fitness of things.
Tried thinking again. How come the Blackwall Tunnel - which you take when you're heading south from London towards Kent has got white walls? Now, there's one for you.
"And, furthermore", said the space invader on my right, "it's going to get worse, too, as well". I seem to attract these nutters the way marginal constituencies attract airports.
"Now take this Poland thing ... " At which point, moving with all the delicacy of a TD leaving Buswell's at closing time, I swivelled, vacated the barstool, one hand tossing back the remains of my drink, the other picking up my hat and carrying it in a sweeping arc to my head - the brim catchhing his pint a finely judged quarter of an inch below the lip and knocking it into his lap.
"Yessir," I told him as the black stuff seeped into his y-fronts, "the whole world is a guinness."
This year I fight back.
An optimist has been defined as someone who looks into a glass and refuses to concede that it's half empty - an optimist says brightly that the glass is half-full. Lazy Pete Maguire goes further than that. When his glass is in such a condition he says, "It's your round". '
It was. Atmosphere of evening ruined, I sought companionship iri The Oasis. Hadn't had time to get around to a good think about why the TT crowd, the teetotalers, hold motor bike races in the Isle of Man. There will be other nights.
"I think we can say", ruminated Lazy Pete optimistically, "that 1982 will be like the tyre on a racing car ¸a Goodyear".
"Or, to put it another way", I rejoined, "it could be tyresome." Me, I've had enough experience of years to recognise that one is pretty much like another. Some problems, some joy, a couple of disasters, and an incalculable amount of annoyance. January, you're crazy in love. August, you're just crazy. By December, it all starts happening again. Time goes by, you straighten up and fly right. Or don't. Either way it beats the hell out of lying on your back and staring at the quilted inside of a rather cramped wooden box. Take it as it comes.
Lazy Pete found his One True Love in 1981 and lost her again before the year was out. This is not as traumatic as it sounds, as Pete has found a One True Love four times in the past three years. Pete thinks Love is a fine place to visit but he finds difficulty in living there. "Love", he is fond of emoting after his seventh pint, "is a suburb of the metropolis of Despair!" I've been after him for ages to put that to music and scoop the Eurovision Song Conntest.
One happy consequence of all this is that Lazy Pete smothers his periodic heartache by indulging in furious spurts of political activity. This is a useful idiosyncrasy when one is General Secretary of the Spontaneous Aggravation Party.
Thus, while the rest of us were singging the post-yule blues, keeping our hangovers at bay only by feeding them placatory doses of alcohol, Lazy Pete was off in Navan doing his best to straighten out the Tara Mines strike.
Canvassing door to ,door, pub to pub, Lazy Pete was attempting to connvince the mine workers, their families and supporters, to sign a petition to change the name of the area from Navanto Silesia Beag.
"Seems obvious enough", says Pete ...
"You work in the mines in Silesia and you strike for your beliefs - and Ronald Reagan puts a candle in his window for you, the Pope gives his blessing, the Independent sings your praises. Work in the mines in Navan, strike - and you get dumped on from all sides. Seems to me that while the scale of things is different the principle is the same - workers collectively deeciding on and striking for demands. Right?"
"Could be, could just be," I addmitted. "Seeing as last year Ronnie was into smashing PATCO, the flight controllers' union. And the Indo ussually thinks that the only good strikers are the ones on soccer pitches. And when the P AYE strikes were happenning the Indo, Press, Times, FF, FG and Labour thought that political strikes were a no-no. Could be that working class militancy is all very well in its proper place - i.e. Poland."
"Got it in one", says Pete. "Has to be something to do with names".
I pointed out one flaw in Pete's scheme. Suppose the nasties in the Kremlin and Warsaw got to hear of it - they might start changing placeenames over there. Silesia becomes Navan, Gdansk becomes Aughinish, Szczecin becomes CIE. Then they could proceed with smashing unions, interning workers and shooting miners without the slightest tut-tut from the Indo.
Now, that's really something to think about.
It was about that time that the spacer on Pete's left leaned over and said, "C'mere 'til I tell you (didya see the Late Late a few weeks ago when that eejit Byrne took off his trousers ... ?"
I looked at Pete. Pete looked back.
I raised my eyebrows. Pete nodded and held out his hand. "The hat.