Heavy drinkers and idiots are masters of invention and self-deception

A well-known definition of an alcoholic is somebody who drinks more than you do. Certainly, if you ask any heavy drinkers of your acquaintance for a definition of an alcoholic, you will find that they always manage to structure their definition so as to exclude themselves.

For instance, the landlord of a village pub I used to go to was tipsy at opening time in the morning, staggering by about 1pm and, frankly, incapable after 2pm. Whatever you were drinking, he would join you in having just the one. The only liquid in the pub that was safe from his attention was the barley wine.

You might remember this drink, it is still available but is out of fashion. It was a sort of prototype of today's strong lagers - a kind of Ur Special Brew. It comes in small bottles and is comparatively high in alcohol. For some reason he had taken against this one form of alcohol and, in fact, the only person who used to drink the stuff in the village was an old lady who used to come in after lunch at 1.30pm sharp and have a bottle before going back home for her afternoon nap. She looked like something out of John Major's idealised vision of village Britain in her tweedy suit, shapeless hat and sturdy English gentlewoman's brogues, but as she walked past the village green or waved at people in the shop she was gazed at with awe and scandalised whispered conversations would start as she passed, people would run out of their cottages to scoop children up out of her path and dogs would dive into ditches. You see, the most notorious drunk in the county - the landlord of the village pub - had told everyone that she was an alcoholic. Obviously, he was hard pushed to come up with a definition of an alcoholic that would not include himself - in his eyes he was a mere social drinker - so, in a triumph of self-deception, he had decided that an alcoholic was somebody who drank barley wine.

Another friend I have who really does drink a lot had a trickier problem with his definition, as nothing - not barley wine, not Malibu, not even Advocaat, for God's sake - was safe from his attentions. He is somebody who goes on long binges and over the years has built up an impressive knowledge of out-of-hours drinking clubs that enables him to drink around the clock when necessary (and it seems to be imperative surprisingly often). I was interested to hear his definition of an alcoholic: it turned out that, in his view, this was somebody who was unable to get back home in the morning before his wife had got out of bed to go to work.

The human capacity for self-deception is very impressive, often showing breath-taking flights of creativity. For instance, even the most screaming bores think they have a great sense of humour, and I have never met anyone who has admitted to being a pig ignorant, feeble-minded, dim-witted stupid idiot. Not even the people who came to my house on three separate occasions to fix my front doorbell and entry phone. Each time I waited in for them. Each time they came, then rang the doorbell and went away when they got no answer.

I've got better things to do with my time, you know, than ponder the Zen-like sound of no bell ringing. For instance, I am shortly off to Australia to do a stand-up comedy tour and this will be my last column for the Independent.

I am currently spending most of my time trying to force references in jokes originally written about Guildford into making sense and being screamingly funny when adapted for use in Fremantle. In fact, the pressures of contorting my act to fit the audiences of a continent 12,000 miles away are filling my every waking moment. Every night faxes fly between my office and that of the Australian tour promoter in Sydney, full of arcane questions on which the success of my routine hinges. "Dear H Jarley, just a few more question," the faxes read. "Do bookmakers in Australia have those little biros in? Is Australian bread delivered to the shops in plastic trays and do dogs piss on it? Do Australians know who the Pope is and does he shit in the woods?" And the next morning the replies are waiting for me when I get up. "Dear Alexei, Yes, bookies do have those little pens, dogs do not piss on bread trays, but they are sometimes chewed by wallabies. Does this affect the gag? And yes, Australians do know who the Pope is, but they don't know who you are - which could be a problem."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

    £14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

    Guru Careers: Financial Controller

    £45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

    Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager - Events

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager sought for pr...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash