I have never been a big drinker but between the ages of 20 and 25 all my friends would go down to the Castle Arms and get completely smashed after work. I’m aware this perpetuates the stereotype of the Irish being big drinkers but if you lived in a country where it was cold and rained almost constantly then that’s how you’d spend your evenings too, anyway there’s only a limited amount of times one can trudge through the delights of Tullymore Forest and The Giants Causeway before the attraction wears off.
I’ve never taken to beer, I’ve tried but I actual detest it, especially Guinness and I know I’m in danger of having my passport revoked penning that but I’ve always done my own thing so I was always designated driver. Most weekends I would happily watch the transformation of my friends from quiet introverted geeks into loud rowdy morons and then into ‘I love you, you are my best-est friend ever’ stage followed by falling asleep in mid sentence and resting their head on the table amongst all the empty pint glasses and full ashtrays.
OK, I know this dwells on toilet habits somewhat but there is a point. What I couldn’t understand for a few years was how the guys could drink pint after pint and not go to the toilet, the general pattern was that they would drink until about 10pm and then go to the loo but then go frequently after that. They would have consumed anything between four and eight pints from 6pm to 10pm and not go once. I thought they all had cast iron bladders, hollow legs or somehow auto-magically plugged into the Castle Arms plumbing as I had no idea where that volume of fluid was going. However, I was talking to Carl one evening about this and he explained what happens when you’re a heavy drinker. You can drink and drink and drink and not feel the urge to go but there comes a point when you just have to and then after that you go regularly and that’s termed ‘breaking the seal’, it’s like the dam has finally burst and all the water pours out.
I know this seems somewhat convoluted – but I was reminded of that conversation the other day. In my group of friends and colleagues for the last 25 years no-one has got sick and suffered any major health problems but since turning 50 in February I know of three folk who are seriously unwell, it’s like someone ‘broke the seal’ and now I have a flood (ouch) of friends not well and the term ‘grave illness’ seems ironically appropriate.
During the first 25 years of my life death and tragedy was a common occurrence and I lost friends and colleagues due to The Troubles in Northern Ireland, we called it Northern Beirut with good reason and that was part and parcel of growing up – at least in Northern Ireland, I imagine it was probably the same growing up with the gangland violence in parts of New York City during the same era, so the first 25 years of my life was marked with tragedy, some involving very close friends.
However, during the last 25 years it’s been all quiet on the western front and the only tragedy I’ve had to deal with was when I worked on Intensive Care and although death and tragedy was a common occurrence there it was not friends and colleagues of mine, it wasn’t personal, the nature of the job kind’a insulated you from the worse feelings because you have to come in next morning and start all over again with someone else. However, that was the last 25 years, now it feels like someone has broken the seal and in my extended group of friends and people I’ve had dealings with in the past suddenly there is more and more tragedy occurring and it’s a bit of a shock.
I wrote in a previous blog posting about Facebook and how I was sad that it doesn’t extend into Heaven, I think it would be quite nice to be able to check up on a few friends when they pass over and make sure they are okay..