Sunday, 16 October 2011

More on Addicts and Addictions: Merely The Beginning

Toping Dylan Thomas
The literary agent who sold rights in my first book took a quick look at a summary for this book (sic) and said that he didn't see a commercial book. This is understandable. After all, I have not (like Russell Brand) called it a "Booky Wook" or (like 'Shed' Simove with his "What Men Think About Apart From Sex") left all its pages blank. However, given that the agent saw a commercial book in my first book and that book has delighted a few thousand happy purchasers (worldwide) since it was published in October 2008, I hope that he is always wrong. If he is always right, then this will join my burgeoning list of books that delight the few. Either way, someone is going to be right and someone is going to be wrong but someone is also going to be pleased and I shall be relieved. I shall be relieved of an obligation that I feel to set the record straighter than it is abouts addicts and addictions.

This is not intended to be an apology for the wastrel addicts and alcoholics (who, I am sure, are legion) or for those who lead them astray (all of whom deserve a good kicking); neither is it meant to be any kind of encouragement to leading a life of excess and wastefulness.

But I have noticed that the world is full of smug 'recovering' alcoholics and addicts, lecturing us with fingers wagging, from their self-appointed moral pedestals, of the dangers of using alcohol, tobacco, drugs and the devastation caused by addiction: devastation to self-respect, career, family and friends. They leave out of account as moral anomalies or, maybe, unspoken exceptions that they think prove their precious rule, all those achievers, with addictions, who never wanted to 'recover'. I expect that S T Coleidge would be there with his opium and, if he had not been there with his opium, we would never have had The Ryme of The Anciemt Mariner or Kubla Khan. Dylan Thomas would certainly be there, sliding under the table with Richard Burton, on their fire water and, if they hadn't had their fire water, Dylan would never have written Under Milk Wood for us and Richard would not have so well performed it, even if, without the firewater and the chain-smoked fags, they had both lived to be ninety.

I suspect that Amy Winehouse wouldn't have written her best lyrics or sung at her best without her addictions; just as the great poet, A C Swinburne, who took the world by storm with Atalanta in Calydon:

"Maiden and mistress of the months and stars

Now folded in the flowerless fields of Heaven...."

never wrote anything of note after the Godly and well-meaning (but dull), Theodore Watts-Dunton 'saved' him from brandy and doled him out a bottle of beer a day, for the rest of his sorry days. Augustus John was plainly addicted to women and gave the world a raft of powerful paintings of the creatures that he loved.

Winston Churchill would, without any doubt at all, now be classified as seriously addicted to alcohol and tobacco (even though our nancified age somehow (mysteriously) managed to vote him 'The Greatest Briton'); yet Charles Kennedy MP, a sometime recent leader of the Liberal Democrats was forced out of his position because some paparazzo snatched a couple of snapshots of him looking 'tired and emotional', after a hard day's night, and the scandal-gluttonous public lapped it up, sucking in their lips, tut-tutting and wagging their fingers too. I would have had more respect for Kennedy if, instead of resigning and promising to reform his moral character, as though he had signed up for Sally Anne, he had sought out the paparazzo responsible and given him a good hiding.

Then a 'recovering' alcoholic got on his soap box and told us all, through a broadsheet newspaper, that he had battled alcoholism, beaten it and (of course) emerged a better person and so, therefore, should you, Charles Kennedy. But just a moment, how dare you say that? Who do you think you are?

If you had said that to Winston Churchill he would have told you, as he told King Ibn Sa'ud, of Saudi Arabia, that using alcohol and tobacco were absolutely 'sacred rites' to him or, as he told Bessy Braddock MP when she accused him of being drunk: "And you're ugly, but in the morning I'll be sober". And he would have insisted on his rights to drink and smoke. Of course, despite all that, some inconstant little jerk in the British Medical Association would tell us that Winston Churchill was an alcoholic. Incidentally, it never ceases to amaze me that these medical people have the utter gall to get up infront of us and lecture us about excess: some of the most problematic drinkers and smokers that I have ever known have been medical doctors - I suppose that they just fall back on that old saw: "Don't do as I do, do as I say"; which is just as well, as I recall one who, in the last fifteen years, would regularly render herself unable to stand after a couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio and, on being poured into a cab, would proclaim that she would be driving her large saloon from her home railway station to her house. As far as I know, she is still in business and holds a quasi-judicial post as well.

If forced to accept the scientific 'definition' of alcoholism, Winston Churchill would have insisted that he was a functioning alcoholic - and look at his achievements, across the field from: politics to painting, to literature, to flying and hunting; building walls, lakes and gardens; as well as letting the world have some of the most inspirational oratory in the history of mankind, along the way. He would also have said that "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me". It seems quite plain to me that those great, rolling passages in his wartime speeches, with their mounting grandeur and indomitanble spirit, in the very eye of the storm, would never have come out of him without the: comfort food (steak and kidney puddings), the Pol Roger champagne, the Hine brandy and the Romeo y Julieta cigars.

Without his addictions, Churchill would have been less. He more or less said so and there is no reason to doubt it and Without Churchill, as he was, the world might well have been crushed sooner by the jackboots that now storm the stage of public and professional life, populate the media and, sofly, softly, persuade us to believe ourselves to be less worthy than we ought to be.


  1. Have you read The Thirsty Muse? I keep meaning to pick up a copy.
    I love that quote from Churchill, what a constitution he had.

  2. AMEN!!!

    Cheers, St.Tully

  3. B&P - That sounds like a good read! Indeed, WSC must have had the constiution of a shire horse!