Wednesday, August 11, 1982
"Trapped in dead fuck sadness"
Last night's frolics were good while they lasted but today turned horrible and has left me vowing never again to touch alcohol.
We started again at the George on Rosslyn Hill and worked our way slowly uphill, visiting perhaps five pubs in all. A bit drunk after two ciders, but with lagers too we soon were totally smashed, staggering vaguely about.
Grant was much worse off than me and started to get noisy; in one pub he suddenly decided to ring up Nik just for a laugh, but the phone was out of order so we staggered onward eventually dragging ourselves into a gay pub with a public phone that worked. He rang Nik and a cursory conversation on the “I’m pissed” line followed. We had another drink, and I wrote in my notebook, “He is in some sort of alcohol despair. Says, ‘Oh God, no point in doing anything.’ Unreal.” Those 17 words sum up our evening.
By this stage Grant was loud (conspicuously so) and totally paranoid, often crying out “Oh God!” and “I want to talk to somebody” and holding his head in his hands, and when I came back from taking a slash there he was, embroiled in a conversation. The people he'd trapped were Londoners, three men and a woman, who humoured us, but especially Grant, who by now was waxing enthusiastic in an oddly naïve sort of way. I caught a glimpse of a secretive smiling look between the lady and her friend, which wasn't cruel or critical, just amused. Two wild drunks from the pagan North.
We got into a debate about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and whether we should be happy with our lot and not strive for more and I tried to follow along but found that with my blunted senses the words sounded meaningless, so I just stared blindly ahead and nodded. Grant got annoyed with this turn of conversation and left us to go talk with a tattooed heavy metal girl smoking on the steps outside.
The hostel closed at eleven so we had to leave abruptly; our parting seemed sudden, but I’d enjoyed our talks, however wild and uneasy they’d appeared. With a last quick comment about how it was sad we would never see one another ever again, we stumbled out into the night air.
Here my memory conjures only hazy recollections. I remember faces and occasional moments, principally Grant’s despair and awkward elation; in the gay pub he'd penned a poem about being “trapped in dead fuck sadness – what do we do?” and although I said he'd ‘trapped’ our four friends it was more than just the mere humouring of idiots and actually a sort of drunken exchange. All very confused and confusing. I remember virtually nothing of the walk home and preparations for bed; Grant later said his attempts to climb into his sleeping bag amused our German dorm mates.
When I woke up I didn’t feel too bad, just a slight tide of nausea in the stomach and an aching head on standing but nothing unbearable. Grant said he felt awful and had thrown up a few times during the night. We set off back to Victoria with no idea of the great sickly scenes that lay ahead.
As I stood on the platform in Camden underground I suddenly knew I was about to be sick. I rushed outside and across the busy road, plunging into a toilet where I puked up bitter yellow bile. This made me feel a bit better. Then Grant threw up at Green Park. I retched my guts out again at Victoria, a nightmarish vision of vomit pouring from my mouth & nose and spattering onto the platform as I coughed and choked, reeling now and begging a lone figure standing nearby for a tissue. But with a diffident, almost disdainful sneer and smile he simply said “No.”
Total alcohol degradation.
Finally we made it to Victoria coach station and laid outside on the grass in a small green oasis of trees and sunlight, Grant quite recovered but me now feeling completely drained. As I lay there surrounded by pools of brown bile, I saw the half curious-half fearful glances of passersby. I'm sure our scruffiness didn’t help.
I must’ve puked seven or eight more times, the final instance actually on the coach but I fought it back and swallowed and momentarily improved, but even then the sight of alcohol advertisements or visions of pub' frontages brought it all (literally) up again. I felt restless yet desperately weary and hollowed out, unable to bear how I felt but unable to do anything to change it, a tiny but terrible taste of a horrific alcoholic existence. I never want to go through that again. It was the worst thing I've ever endured and literally the worst twenty four hours of my life, and it ended at Leicester Forest service station where I felt sufficiently improved to eat peanuts and down drinks and talk.
My lasting impressions of our London visit are unpleasant ones of doubt, anxiety, the silent strangeness of Grant, and general seediness and isolation.
Total London cost: accommodations £9-plus; bus tickets, £10; spendolas £27.