Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Not drunk, just drinking.

Somewhere along the line turning 18 has turned into a drinking thing. On Eldest's 18th birthday his father met him at a local pub on his way home from work to buy him a celebratory pint, which was a bit of a farce because of course he’d been drinking in pubs for ages, ever since he destroyed the iron and the ironing board attempting to ‘laminate' a fake ID card. Middle One is to be treated to the same ritual on Friday night, except he’s going to the pub with both his father and his older brother, who is coming home for the weekend to celebrate.

I don’t remember this legal drinking thing being a big deal, way back when I turned 18. I drank in the back room at the Black Bull in the village of Escrick from the age of 14. It wasn’t until I won a national writing competition and my photograph was in the local paper with my age underneath that there was a problem with this. Unfortunately the landlord saw it. After that I drank lemonade that my friends spiked with booze when his back was turned. Our gateway alcohol was cider, although there was the unforgettable Malibu debacle of New Year’s Eve 1982 when I was taken to a party by a boy who lived two doors down from us, who was a medic at The Royal Free Hospital in London, and briefly home for Christmas. He plied me with Malibu and then named all my body parts for me, slowly, one by one, using the correct medical terminology (class), with some help from his hands. I haven't touched the stuff since. Not once.

On Saturday night, for Middle One’s birthday, there's a family dinner at a central London restaurant, with cocktails, for four, because now we can.

“I love this bar," I say, as the five of us perch on bar stools like birds on wire. "And I’m definitely having a pina colada like last time. I don’t care if it’s uncool. I like it."

"Don’t get drunk, Mummy," says Youngest. "I don’t like it when you’ve been drinking."

What he means is he doesn’t like it when I’ve had a couple of beers and a glass of wine and I get a bit over-confident and cheerful.

"You’ve never seen me drunk," I say. "In any case, I’m a nice drunk, affectionate, not like Daddy, who turns belligerent."

"I do not turn belligerent," says Husband.

Middle One ponders the cocktail menu. "Have a pina colada," I say, "they’re great."

"Bit gay, though," he says.

"That’s sexist," says Youngest.

"There’s no such thing as a girl’s drink or a boy's drink these days," I say. "It's all gone non-binary and gender fluid."

"I’m definitely not having a cocktail of gender fluid," he says. So we order two pina coladas.

I like pina coladas.

Eldest orders an old fashioned, which is whiskey - I think - and Mr Bartender asks for his ID, and not Middle One's, which everyone thinks is hilarious except for Eldest who has to whip out his student card. But at least it's the real thing, at last. He's keen to 'preload' at our expense before hitting a party with some LSE mates, in Angel; and to use the brand new all-night service on the Northern Line to get home. He needs to eat a lot in the restaurant first, though, because he doesn’t do a lot of that at university.

"It's like Viking heaven," he says, tucking into a mountain of steak with a side order of bone marrow, and a beer.

"Van Halen," I say.

"Valhalla," says Middle One.

"That’s the one."

"You’re drunk, Mummy," says Youngest.

"I'm really not," I say, "I only get drunk if I'm drinking wine, I’ve had one cocktail."

"I’m ordering a bottle of red wine," says Husband.

"Are you sure we need that as well?" I say. "Let's just have a glass each."

"No." He says. "I am ordering a bottle."

"I’ll have some," says Middle One.

"And me," says Eldest.

I think about their fresh little livers (near the diaphragm, not far from the mammary glands), about to be pumped full of alcohol. But what can I say? I was drinking at 14.

"I'm bored," says Youngest.

"You need to discover the art of conversation," I tell him.

"Yeah," says Eldest. "So you can talk to girls, and say, Oh really? Tell me more, that’s so fascinating…"

"Until you marry them," I add. Cheerfully.

At the end of the meal we part company outside in the street, in the rain - Eldest off to the party, the rest of us for home.

"Filthy weather," I say. "Let's get a cab!"

"Oh for God's sake," says Husband. But then he suddenly sticks his arm out to hail one.

Three cheers to that.

Love E x


P.S. Sunday morning we're regaled with tales from the night before, when everyone at the LSE party talked about The Communist Manifesto, apparently, like some sort of cliche. "And was everyone pissed at 3am on the Northern Line?" I ask. "Oh yeah," says Eldest. "Plus there was this guy in my carriage smoking a spliff." 

"Of all the g... " you know the rest.


  1. My 18th, a pint at Victoria Station, 1st licensed premise reached, noon-ish. Not long after, a couple of pints one Saturday lunchtime with a vegetable curry, a bottle of Port, and a chance encounter with a pal and his homebrew, down to the yeasty dregs. Thereafter, a nightmarish hangover and veggy curry plastered onto a radiator, hard-baked the next morning, and lots and lots of bile seeing daylight, followed by a somehow-contained 6-hour coach trip to Yorkshire for an UCCA interview.

  2. That's beautiful, Ed. You with your honeyed words. E x (I think it's just you and me in this bar, by the way. Here's mud in your eye.)