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
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas