dubiously true stories and cartoons

Friday, April 18, 2014


When men get drunk they generally fall into one of three categories:
1.     The belligerent drunk
2.     The happy drunk
3.     The sleepy drunk
The belligerent drunk is the most dangerous of these categories. Up until the point of his drunkenness he is a fully functioning human being, capable of rational thought and articulated speech. But once he reaches that one-drink-too-many point his whole personality changes and he becomes paranoid and argumentative. Everything that is said in his presence, no matter how innocuous or innocent, takes on an entirely different meaning as the alcohol in his system begins to alter the delicate chemical balance of his brain. I’ve seen usually quiet, calm, pleasant men turn into raving, punchy lunatics over the space of a few seconds – and all it had taken for them to turn from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde was one gulp of that one-drink-too-many. What’s worrying about the belligerent drunk is that he is totally unaware that this is happening to him and he has absolutely no recollection of it the following morning. And he won’t believe you when you tell him about it because as far as he’s concerned he is a quiet, calm pleasant person capable of rational thought and articulated speech.
The happy drunk is the polar opposite of the belligerent drunk, but he is also the most annoying. He is happy from the moment the alcohol touches his lips and becomes happier still when he reaches that one-drink-too-many point. There’s nothing worse than walking sober into a room full of happy drunks because they find everything funny. They laugh at jokes that even a five year old wouldn’t find funny and they do stupid things like jumping fully-clothed into swimming pools, something that they ultimately regret the following morning once they discover that the waterproof watch they own isn’t waterproof at all and that mobile phones tend to stop working when they’ve been immersed in large bodies of chlorinated liquid. My kids used to have a ball that had a smiling toothy face on it and in the small hours towards the end of a New Year’s party at my house my friends and I discovered that if we put it into my dog’s mouth in a certain way it looked like he had a pair of false teeth. We thought that this was hilarious and we almost wet ourselves with laughter, but when I related the story to a group of dog lovers they threatened to report me to the RSPCA – so perhaps it wasn’t that funny after all.

The sleepy drunk is perhaps the most entertaining of the three categories because once he has reached that one-drink-too-many point he is overcome with an overwhelming desire to fall asleep no matter where he is. I fluctuate between the happy drunk and the sleepy drunk. On my birthday one year my wife arranged a barbecue to celebrate me being one year closer to death and, after drinking one too many flavoured vodkas, the couch in the living room drew me towards its comfortable cushions and I fell asleep. My wife found me after I’d been missing for about half an hour from my own party and saw fit to mark the occasion by filming a video of me lying unconscious on the couch, completely oblivious of my two small boys, both naked, jumping up and down on me. When I regained consciousness I became a happy drunk and attempted to barbecue some fish for my brother-in-law, Andy and his wife, Spike. The coals were almost out by then and now my relatives have an abiding and terrifying memory of me chasing them down the garden path with a plateful of raw fish.

You can also shave a sleepy drunk’s eyebrows off and draw things all over his arms and face with a permanent marker.

I have a friend – for argument’s sake I’ll call him Pete – who, over the space of one fateful night, went through all three of the aforementioned categories, as well as a fourth category which he was almost always afflicted with and which I like to call the I-Love-Everybody category.

We were at a Casino Night, one of the many themed nights we have at the bar we frequent. Pete liked going out for a drink now and again but it usually got the better of him after two or three pints. It was a sure sign when Pete started to put his arm around you and tell you that he loved you that he was in a state of intoxication. Pete loved everyone when he was drunk – it didn’t matter who you were or how long he had known you or even what gender you were, once he’d had that one drink too many he was head-over-heels in love with you.

I’d been sat at the Black Jack table for about twenty minutes when he ambled towards me with a smile stretched across his face. I’d been having something of a winning streak when he appeared at my side and I had a large pile of chips in front of me. He put his arm around my shoulder and slurred, “I love you, Steve.”

“I love you too, Pete.”

(Note: All of Pete’s lines in the following conversation should be read in a slurred, almost incomprehensible tone).

“Yeah, but I really love you. I really really love you. I love you like a brother. No, I love more than I love my brother.”

“Have you got a brother, Pete?”

“No, but if I did have one, I’d love you more than him.”

He sat down next to me and put a small pile of chips in front of him. The dealer passed him his cards and Pete looked at them with the ‘one eye open’ expression that all drunks seem to prefer when they are attempting to focus on something whilst simultaneously trying unsuccessfully to appear sober. “I’ll have another,” he slurred to the dealer.

Amazingly, in his drunken happy state, he won and he announced loudly to whoever could hear him (which was everyone in the room and probably a few people in the next street) that he had done so. He was deliriously happy.

But then a sudden change came over him. He looked over at the large pile of chips that I had accumulated over the previous twenty minutes. Then he looked at me and then back at my chips and then back at me again.

 “They’re my chips,” he said.

“What are?”

“Those,” he said, pointing at my chips. “You stole my chips!”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. You stole my chips when I wasn’t looking. They’re my chips and I want them back!”

“I’ve been sat here for twenty minutes and I’ve won all these chips – they’re not yours. They’re mine.”

“No they’re not. You stole them from me. You stole them from right under my nose. You stole them from me when I went out for a piss.”

“You haven’t been for a piss.”

“Yes I have. I’ve been for several pisses tonight and you must have stolen them then.”

“How could I have stolen your chips when I wasn’t even near you?”

“I don’t know – but you did. Only you know how you stole my chips. Chip Stealer!”

He turned around in his seat and announced to the entire room that I was a chip stealer. “Steve Mitchell stole my chips!” he shouted. “He’s a thieving fucking bastard!”

“For Christ’s sake, Pete,” I said, attempting to reason with him. “I didn’t steal your chips. Why would I steal your chips when I have enough of my own?”

“Because you didn’t have any chips. You stole mine.”

And so it went on for another ten minutes, until I eventually gave in and passed my entire pile over to him. “Here,” I said, “have them. I don’t want them anymore.”

Before I left the table chipless, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, “I love you, Steve.”

Not long after that the sleepy drunk in Pete took over and he wandered home with a pocketful of my chips. He locked all the doors and went upstairs to collapse on the bed. He had that acute awareness that most drunks have about forgetting something important but he was unable to recall it owing to the alcoholic stupor that was causing the room to spin and he fell into an unwakeable slumber until the following morning when he woke up in a panic after suddenly remembering what he had been trying so desperately to remember before unconsciousness overcame him and carried him off into a dreamless, dribbling sleep.

In his overwhelming desire to visit the land of nod he had completely forgotten that he had attended the Casino Night with his wife.

He found her shoes on the front doorstep. After ringing the doorbell for over an hour she had given up trying to raise him from the dead. Luckily the car was unlocked and she spent the night attempting to sleep on the back seat of their vehicle. And when she was finally able to enter the house she had indentations all over her body from the rhinestone encrusted dress she had been wearing for the past fifteen hours.

When I bumped into Pete later that day he was all bleary-eyed and feeling sorry for himself. He told me that he couldn’t remember much from the night before but he must have had a good time because he had found loads of money in the pockets of his trousers.

“That’s because you stole my chips,” I said.

“No I didn’t,” he replied.

I realised that it was futile to carry on and I left him nursing his massive hangover.

The Casino Night was over four years ago and Pete moved back to the UK soon after that. We’re still in touch because I know that, when he’s had a few, Pete still loves me, as he does everyone in the entire world.

And so, Pete, until we meet again I've only got one thing to say to you:

“You stole my chips!”

Sunday, April 6, 2014


My bromance has started up again. Andy was round the other night and we watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead, drank some wine and then started listening to Elbow’s excellent new album The Take Off and Landing of Everything, and generally having a good time.

It’s what all bromances should be like.

But as we were listening to the music Andy said, “There’s something wrong with your left speaker.”


“Can’t you hear it?”

“Hear what?”

“There’s a faint crackling sound coming out of the left speaker. Are you sure you can’t hear it?”

“All I can hear is the music.”

“No – listen carefully. Can you hear it now?”

Of course I could hear it then! Once Andy had pointed it out with his bat-like ears I couldn’t help but hear it.

I’m probably going to have to go out and buy some new speakers – even though I don’t need them, because there’s nothing wrong with the ones I already have. They’re perfectly fine for what I want, but because Andy heard a crackle in them and pointed out which speaker it was coming from, I can now hear that crackle. If it hadn’t been Andy that pointed it out I probably would have suspected that there wasn’t a crackle at all and that he had made it up as a joke. I would have suspected that he used the used the power of suggestion to make me think there was a crackle and that he did it to everyone before going home and having a good laugh about it.

But Andy’s not like that. He wouldn’t have gone home chuckling to himself before selecting an album from his fine collection of vinyl records that he owns, which he would then place onto his top-of-the-range deck and listen to it without any crackles.

The thing is – Andy can genuinely hear things like that. He’s not like the rest of us poor demented souls who have been going slightly deaf for years without realising it. People like us have to pay regular visits to the nurse in order to have our ears syringed with warm water. I’ve been so many times that if I’d collected all the stuff that was forced out of my ears at high pressure I would now have an impressive set of tapers that would rival my friend Gillian’s collection of Yankee Candles.

Andy treats his LPs like children. He cares for them lovingly and if I didn’t know any better I would probably say that he sings lullabies to them before going to bed. I don’t have any vinyl records. I replaced all of them with CDs years ago and since then I’ve replaced all my CDs with downloads.

Downloading music has virtually brought about the disappearance of the independent record shop on our high streets, which is something of a relief to a lot of people. It wasn’t that I didn’t like going into record shops – on the contrary I loved being in them. I could spend all day flicking through the LPs. The worst part about being in a record shop wasn’t looking – it was buying.

The staff employed in independent record shops were required to have three distinct qualities. The first was unhelpfulness. I remember one time in early 1970 when I went into a record shop in Blackpool to buy my mum an LP for her birthday and when I asked where I could find it one of the assistants rolled his eyes and pointed vaguely at all the records in shop and said, “It’s over there somewhere.” He then ignored me completely to continue talking to the other unhelpful assistant about the concert he’d been to the previous night because I’d just had the nerve to ask him for the latest Englebert Humperdinck release.

The second quality required was condescension. My friend was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix and in the October of 1970, a week after the great guitarist had died, he was walking out of a record shop after he’d just bought and paid for the album Band of Gypsys, when he heard one assistant whisper to the other, “I bet he’s only bought that because he’s just died.”

My friend stopped in his tracks and said, “I haven’t bought this just because Jimi Hendrix is dead. I’ve been a fan of his right from the start.”

One of the assistants sniggered and the other gave my friend a condescending look, before saying, “Yeah, right.”

The third (and probably the most important) quality required was to be judgemental. No visit to a record shop in the 1970s was complete without the assistants sneering at your choice of LP. They didn’t even need to speak – one look would tell you that they thought your taste in music was shitter than shit. There’s a great scene in the film High Fidelity that perfectly illustrates the judgemental attitude of these assistants, where Jack Black, won’t sell a customer the album Safe As Milk by Captain Beefheart because he didn’t look cool enough to own it.

Back in 1972, when I was going out with a girl called Patricia (not her real name), I had a growing collection of LPs and Cassettes. I liked, and have always liked, music that’s a little bit different to the mainstream rubbish that often appeared on Top of the Pops. Patricia had her own car – a mini – and when she picked me up one day she announced excitedly that she had just bought a cassette player.

“Brilliant!” I said, and then asked her to wait while I went back to my room to gather up some of the cassettes I’d just bought so that I could attempt to force my opinionated taste in music on her. Trust me she needed it – she was, after all, a fan of the awful, twee chirpings of Gilbert O’Sullivan. I was a massive fan of Rory Gallagher, John Mayall and Paul Butterfield – or indeed anything with a basis in blues.

Real music, in other words.

I’ve been into blues ever since I was sixteen and discovered that my mother hated it. I remember bringing home my first blues album – it was a sampler album that I had bought in Woolworth for about 2/6d and it featured twenty of the best of the original black Chicago and Delta blues artists. There was the likes of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Lightnin’ Hopkins and the great Robert Johnson.

As I placed side one of the LP on the turntable of my Dansette record player and the first strains of Muddy Waters came out of the tinny speaker at the front, my mother came into the room and asked, “What the bloody hell’s this rubbish you’ve got on?”

“It’s blues, mum,” I said, “it’s brilliant.”

“Well, it’s making my bloody ears bleed,” she replied. “Turn it down, will you.”

“It’s meant to be played loud, mum.”

“It’s meant to be turned down or off, if you want to go on living in this house.”

Mum was a fan of Val Doonican, Englebert Humperdinck and Cliff Richard, which meant that she had no taste in music whatsoever and was, by that token, not educated enough in the development of music in the western world to comment on anybody else’s taste in music – and by that I obviously mean my taste in music.  This caused a problem, in that I was living in her house and she was just as opinionated as I was.

I dislike opinionated people – especially if their opinions differ from mine – and so I went out each week and bought a new blues album to add to my collection. This had the desired effect of driving my mother almost to the point of insanity and when I arrived home she would often have her Val Doonican records playing at full blast on my Dansette.

This had the desired effect of driving me almost to the point of insanity. Luckily I joined the RAF a few weeks after that and never had to listen to them again. Unfortunately Patricia’s taste in music was almost as bad as my mother’s and so I was looking forward to educating her in what real music should sound like.

I was in for a shock. When she had told me that she had got a cassette player she had not specified what type of cassette player she had actually acquired.

Patricia had not got the type of cassette player that I, or indeed virtually everyone in Britain, owned. No – Patricia had gone out and bought an 8-Track Cassette Player.

Remember those monstrous cumbersome things? They went the same way the Beta-Max Video Player did fifteen years later. They were on their way out even when she bought it. The cassettes you played in these things were about the same size as a packet of Paxo Sage & Onion Stuffing and they were more expensive than ordinary cassettes.

Worse still, they were on a continuous loop and so once she put in the Gilbert O’Sullivan cassette it would never stop playing – ever – and would continue to play until the end of time, or until someone smashed the thing that was playing it with a sledgehammer. Even worse was that, because the tapes inside their casings were of a fixed length, tracks would often fade out and then fade back in when it turned itself over.

Who, in their right minds, thought that that was good idea? Imagine listening to Stairway to Heaven by the mighty Led Zep only for the song to fade out just as it was getting to the best bit.

I’ll tell you who thought that it would be a good idea – people who don’t like music – that’s who! People like Patricia and my mother who listened to insipid, middle-of-the-road shit – that’s who!

There was only one thing for it. There was only one way to stop her playing the rubbish that she so obviously liked.

“There’s something wrong with the left speaker.” I told her.