I remember in my twenties falling over in my sister-in-law’s kitchen, gently, like a leaf in Autumn. I’d had two shandies! And, no, I wasn’t on antibiotics, wasn’t pregnant, no wayward brother-in-law had spiked my shandy. Simply, alcohol doesn’t really like me. I like alcohol, the taste, the camaraderie but I had to give up before I got properly started. I couldn’t appease Bacchus. My reaction to a single whiskey or gin was too daunting.
So, here we are again, New Year with the family (or a bunch of friendly guys and gals). All salt of the earth, work hard all year, take care of the kids, swear in moderation, visit the old folk, drink and binge as and when – let’s say Bacchus is their mate but not their god.
Here am I, one of a kind, sitting sipping lemonade out of a wine glass. As the evening goes on I’ll get more adventurous and try a tomato juice with loads of Worcester sauce.
It’s a not uninteresting role to play, The Eye at the party, being forced to soberly watch a metamorphosis take place around you.
The man next door who is known to have ‘the common touch’, unassuming, would fit in anywhere, is little by little showing his inner depths. He’s a stand-up comedian; not actually making anyone laugh but that’s because they are all too busy with their own transition.
The second cousin who is a bit outspoken, rather straight-laced and not much sense of humour is standing by the mirror giggling at her image or at some secret inner joke.
The intellectual in the family, pleasant and inoffensive, inclined to keep his own counsel starts gently dancing, eyes closed, making a fair job of Michael Jackson’s moon dance.
Shy boy, always invited to our parties, never had a girl friend, eager to please, is sipping the red wine and pressing his political views on a teenage niece.
Great-grandma: ‘Just a small sherry for me,’ toddles over to the drinks table and takes the sherry bottle back to her armchair.
The television is on all the time, but like an ornamental granny-in-the corner is ignored. Until ‘the countdown’, until Big Ben booms across the nation.
A bit of a fuss took place as Dad on the last minute got into his overcoat and scarf and put on his woolly hat – off out into the pouring rain and biting wind waiting to be The First Foot. The door is thrown open and he comes back in, nose blue, uttering mild, low expletives about the weather. He knocks back the whiskey, takes the bread and the piece of coal. There it is! The New Year is in bringing food and heating and good cheer.
Suddenly everyone sobers enough to link hands, fumbling to get it all symmetrical, laughter, affection. Tears from the depths of nostalgia.
Bacchus or no Bacchus, there’s a lot of love and good feeling in those last moments of a fading year.
Go on then, give me a Bloody Mary! Whey hey!