I don’t have a drink problem. I drink, I fall down. No problem!
It all started in the Autumn of 1970. It was October and my parents were celebrating something long forgotten. For the hell of it, they had decided to open a bottle of Spatslese (I know it’s spelt wrongly but I don’t know where the special characters are!) a German dessert wine.
One bottle became two, and they must have got a little tipsy and left my brother, my sister and me at the dinner table with the half finished bottle of wine in front of us. I think it was my brother that suggested I have some, but even at five I guess I was already bad to the bone. I picked up the bottle, poured a bit into my plastic cup and took a sip. I remember this part, it was early afternoon and we had eaten Sunday lunch, the only meal of the week where we would sit as a family and eat together. The wine was as sweet as syrup and I was immediately hooked. Peter and Tracey sniggered, urging me on.
I emptied my cup and poured some more. The second cup rapidly went the way of the first and I was on my way. After that, the rest of the afternoon was told by witnesses. I’m not sure how much of the first part was really remembered and how much was assimilated from the anecdotes recounted over the years. Anyway, before long, my mother came by and took away the bottle – but the damage was already done. Mum scolded us all for drinking the wine and my brother and sister duly blamed their little brother.
Aside from eating together as a family, we had another Sunday ritual. My brother and I would walk through the graveyard with all the Horse Chestnut trees, to the high street where we would buy a triangular carton of long life milk from a vending machine next to the church, then it was on to the tobacconist’s to pick up some vanilla icecream and some Break-Up Block, which, I think, was a kind of home made chocolate.
This particular Sunday was no exception, and my parents gave my brother the money and off we went on our mission. I don’t know how they never noticed that their five year old son was intoxicated, but somehow it slipped their attention. Pete and I began our walk through the cool Autumnal afternoon and we got as far as the graveyard before disaster struck. My brother was ten, and hated having to drag his five year old brother everywhere with him, so he walked ahead doing his best to lose me. I tried to keep up but it was tough, my legs didn’t want to go the way I told them.
Once I’d reached the graveyard and all those wonderful piles of Conker tree leaves I just had to give them a big kick. I fell over immediately and lay on my back, unable to get up. The world was spinning and I didn’t know what was going on. I called for my brother but he was gone, so I just lay there calling out for help, five years old and pissed as a fart.
From what I have gathered, Pete went on ahead, bought the milk, bought the chocolate and met me on the way back. He couldn’t get me up so he went home and got Dad, who came and carried me home. I would like to be able to tell you that I learned my lesson there and then. But all I really learned was how much I like German Dessert wine.