I live between two extremes. Plastic Man on one side and Drinking Neighbour on the other. Both are married with two children each, but there the similarity ends.
Plastic Man washes his car with a sponge and a hose with some kind of brush attachment. His car is black and shiny and immaculate. He also vaccuums the inside.
Drinking Neighbour washes down his works van with a power washer when it reaches the point where it's hard to see out of the windows. His van is silver with Irish number plates. I have never seen his vacuum cleaner leave the house.
Plastic Man's garden is a neat square of grass, now encased in matt black (see previous post). Drinking Neighbour's garden has fascinating multi-level decking, solar lights, strange ornaments and flower beds. Mine is similar but he's more restrained with the colours and his pergola never has runner beans growing up it. His wife prefers to grow flowers. Well, each to their own I suppose but I can't eat flowers. Except hibiscus, and I have one of those in the house.
The thing about Drinking Neighbour is that I think he overdoes it sometimes. I know, I know, I can hardly criticise anyone's drinking patterns since mine are not exactly NHS approved and I am a big contributor to the whisky industry's profits. There is a difference between us.
I drink because I like the actual drink. I drink far more than is approved but I take it in slowly and I have very, very rarely been so plastered I can't see. Drinking Neighbour begins the drinking session with the stated intention of getting wasted, and will then drink until his eyes melt. For me, it's about enjoying a good evening with lots of good whisky. For him, the booze is merely a means to an end. For me, it's the taste and the buzz. For him, it's just a road to oblivion.
I have no problem with that. It's not my liver he's training to take George Best's place and he's never been a violent drunk. He just talks a load of shite. He's a harmless drunk unless you count boring people to death as an actual act of murder. So I say, let him tank himself up all he wants. He likes it, he does no harm, no problem.
Yes, it is likely to harm him but it harms nobody else and nobody forces him to do it. No crime is committed, so no action is required by anyone. Sure, you could say 'think of his wife and children' but his wife can fairly put it away too and his children are good kids, capable of looking after themselves and him too. Even when he gets to the point where he has to carry his liver around in a wheelbarrow. I cannot interfere or advise anyone on drink, certainly not when I'm three-quarters of the way through a bottle of whisky myself. It's not my business and I can hardly claim to be a role model.
He doesn't smoke but he does most of his drinking at home these days. The removal of a large part of the pub-going clientele has had knock-on effects: some non-smokers don't bother going to the Puritan gatherings either. But that's not what this is about.
It's about drugs. Alcohol is a drug in that it does have effects on the brain. When I want a new idea for a horror story I'll generally drink a good belt of whisky and wait for the dreams. I dreamed the zombie story I'm working on in one night, in Technicolor and Cinemascope, right through to the wonderfully evil ending. This is not a recommended method especially if nasty dreams scare you. It won't work for everyone. I wake up writing from dreams that make most people wake up screaming. Besides, alcohol, like all drugs, will affect different people in different ways. Drinking Neighbour remembers no dreams the next day and in fact remembers nothing for several hours before he passed out. Sometimes, cruel people make up things he didn't do and tell him he did them. Heh heh heh.
I am not interested in the harm any drug does because it only harms the user, and legal or illegal, it's the user's choice to take it. Oh, you might say 'But druggies rob people' and yes, they do. The robbing is the crime. What they do to their own bodies is nobody else's concern. You might say 'But what about their husband/wife?' What about them? If someone were to do something every day that pissed me off, they would find that I'd be notably absent from their circle of acquaintances very quickly. I sure as hell wouldn't marry them, nor would I stay married to them if I already was.
Then, naturally, 'What about the cheeeldren?' What about them? If they are being abused, we have a Social Services that could deal with that if it hadn't been ripped to bits by self-important cretins with more regard for their own importance than for the job they are supposed to be doing. There are good social workers out there. They spotted this guy and tried to get shot of him before he killed but were overruled from on high. There are bad ones too, but they are not all bad. They used to do a pretty good job before the idiotic Common Purpose drones popped out of Julia Middleton's schools for the insane, believing they could do more than their remit when they actually couldn't be trusted with cleaning a toilet. Common Purpose does not train people to be great leaders. It trains them to believe they are. None of them have yet managed to grasp the difference.
But again, if a druggie is abusing his or her children, take them into care. If not, leave them alone. Like Drinking Neighbour, who is a good dad to his kids, druggies are not automatically bad parents.
Nor are they necessarily beating up old ladies, stabbing pregnant women and desecrating churches to get their drugs. Cocaine is apparently in common use among the middle class, who can afford it even at illegal prices.
I've never tried it. Not interested. But if you like it and can get it without resorting to street muggings or MP-style expenses fiddles, why shouldn't you have it? I see no reason. It has no effect on me if you are out of your face on powder and have one wide nostril. No effect at all. If you can afford it then I don't have to worry about you popping out of an alley and demanding all my cash while brandishing a claymore with half your face painted blue. I hear the more southerly muggers have a different approach.
Like Drinking Neighbour, who is likely to end up with a liver you could strain vegetables in, the middle-class cocaine snorters might end up like Tara Palmer Mononostril. Or they might not.
See, the thing about booze and tobacco, and most other drugs, is that the advertised damage depends on high, sustained use over a long period of time. Drinking Neighbour is absolutely sober when he's working. As am I. Those dreams take one night, sometimes two, of eye-melting booze but to type them up I have to be sober for a long period afterwards. I like smoking but there's no tobacco on me when I visit the town or the supermarket. Why take it where you can't smoke it? I don't chain-smoke. I savour the experience.
Those middle-class partakers of nosecandy are likely working to the same pattern. I sometimes drink like Dylan Thomas without the poetry but when I go to the lab I am stone cold sober and not even slightly hung over. I also never smoke in there because any hand-to-mouth movement in there would be a bad idea. Likewise, the dinner-party dust sessions are likely to be occasions, rather than the central point of their lives as is the case with some druggies.
Is cocaine safe at that level? I don't care, I don't use it. It's not really what they're talking about though. The article looks like it's building up to something. Remember 'no safe level' of smoking? Remember 'no safe level' of drinking?
That's where it's going. They are now trying to ban something that's already banned.
This one could be interesting.