Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 29 November 2015


The Office Party


Looking in at them:
people out of context,
in violent relation to
each other…

underage drinkers,

…and nobody notices
the silent Outsider
in his little bubble
floating just out of reach.

Alter Egos and Subconsciouses
dancing while their Consciences
sit and get bottled at the bar.

Drink just frees the mind,
the heart and the hands…

…and mental blocks become
chips on shoulders.

Time hasn’t got a membership card
so They won’t let him in.

Three of Them have got the
Outsider in the toilets;
They’re trying to smash
his bubble.

They’re trying to tear off
his mask, but They can’t,
and even if They could it
wouldn’t matter: his face
isn’t real either…

…but then again,
neither’re Theirs…

…records’re jumping…

These are not real people.
These are photocopies…

…plastic ice in the drinks…

“—but the fog is getting thick enough I don’t have to watch. And somebody’s tugging at my arm. I know already what will happen: somebody’ll drag me out of the fog and we’ll be back on the ward and there won’t be a sign of what went on tonight and if I was fool enough to try and tell anybody about it they’d say, Idiot, you just had a nightmare; things as crazy as a big machine room down in the bowels of a dam where people get cut up by robot workers don’t exist.

But if they don’t exist, how can a man see them?”

Ken Kesey
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

30 August 1976

newcastle-brown-aleI said in my last post I’d find a poem about drink and post it. I found three actually, ‘The Reception’ (#393) from April 1976, ‘Eight Concepts from a Beer-Glass-Drama’ (#415) and the above. I was sober when I wrote the first one—the one and only time in my life I’ve chosen to drink tomato juices—and the second is a more pretentious version of ‘The Office Party’.

I did most of my drinking in the late seventies. I was not very good at it but everyone else was doing it and I wanted to fit in. I went to the above party with two lads I worked with, Richard and Gerry. I stayed with Richard that night and I have a very clear memory of him getting up in the night, going to his wardrobe, locating a plastic carrier bag, vomiting in it and then going back to bed. That had a surprising impact on me. That someone would make such preparations. I’d been sick several times due to drink but it had always come as an unexpected and unwelcome surprise, a disappointment. I never wanted to be sick and I’ve always hated being sick.

August seems an odd time for an office party. I remember a Christmas party in the same place—the staff canteen—and I expect there was more than one because I can also remember being there with my first wife while she was still my girlfriend; she was drinking Pernod and blackcurrant. I was a cider drinker back then since I pretty much hated beer and lager although I developed a taste for 'Newkie Broons’ (Newcastle Brown Ale) some years later.

I’ve always found drunks interesting from a distance. Some say alcohol makes you more honest but I’m not sure I agree. Maybe you think you’re being honest. In social settings like this I always head to the outside the better to watch what’s going on. I have no idea how much of this poem was written whilst under the influence but it was certainly started on the night. For all my failings in my later teens the one thing you could always be sure of it that I’d have a notepad and pen with me. Never went anywhere without them.


Joseph Hutchison said...

"In vino veritas"—truth, not honesty. And I think it's so. Alcohol releases repressed elements of the personality—as I imagine it, the elements that often surface in extreme old age. My grandmother, a funny, quirky, somewhat straight-laced woman (who very seldom drank at all) became, in old age, a shrewish, paranoid person—a side of her I'd only ever had glimpses of and had always dismissed as a passing mood. But no: it was as essential to her as the all the rest, and as dementia came on—like an extended bender—that dark-of-the-moon side expressed itself as it hadn't before. I presume it hadn't expressed itself before because of social pressures, and I have to think those pressures were a good thing, given the spectacle we're enjoying on our side of the pond of Donald Trump, whose money and fame insulate him from all social pressures, so that we see a man drunk on egotism and wealth, reeling with delusions of grandeur. His followers are drunk as well, most of them on celebrity and wishful thinking and the rotgut of hatred. This is the political veritas we're stuck with, for the time being at least. Would there were an AA for nations!

Jim Murdoch said...

Perhaps quantity is a factor here. Maybe I’ve never been drunk enough, Joe, to reach the stage I no longer cared what came out of my mouth. I can see where you’re going with the dementia too but as my only experiences are second-hand—both Carrie’s parents died recently in advanced stages of dementia—I can’t really say. Just as drunks can be very different dementia affected Carrie’s parents in very different ways: her mother retreated into childhood whereas the control freak in her father came to the fore. As far as people like Trump go—although I expect he’s in a class of his own—yes, the old adage about power corrupting is spot on. It does bring into question the efficacy of democracy. Like communism it sounds like a good idea but only when we see it play out do we start to realise it is not without its flaws. Idiots should not be allowed to vote for idiots. And that’s what is happening. It happened here in the UK with the UK Independence Party and if proportional representation was the way things worked here they would have a real foothold simply because they had a charismatic leader. I’ve seen politics change over the years and not for the better. Now the politicians pander to the masses. All you have to do is watch a show like Veep to see how farcical it’s become. The colour of a man’s tie should not be an issue or whether he opts to wear one.

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