PC 16 Reflections and Afterthoughts

I often get comments about my electronic postcards, mostly of the “Good read!” variety. Some addressees do, in the words of that ancient quote, “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” (*) …. but nothing comes out the other end! Maybe they find them indigestible but they’re just scribbles – really! Silence may be golden, but PC16 has generated more comments than any other. Doesn’t that tell you something, of the central role alcohol and other drugs play in our lives?

A chum who’s had a particularly difficult twelve months admitted he was “back on the nicotine” and drinking recreationally! His “they (alcohol and cigarettes) are both addictive and at other times hugely destructive” I am sure rings bells; well, they do with me. Celina’s dear dear father congratulated me on ‘a beautiful confession.’! Did I really confess? Did it really come across like I was in a confessional? I had hoped simply to relate some of my experiences without attaching any guilt or other emotion! They are simply my experiences, neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad …. they just are! We can all read the same thing and get a different understanding!

Oh! And I didn’t tell you in PC16 about what happened in Marstrand on the west coast of Sweden, many years ago. I was sailing a 42ft sloop from Oslo back to its home port of Kiel, Germany and stopped at this lovely little Swedish sailing town for an overnight stay. It had been an eventful trip as the yacht’s engine was ashore back at its home port being overhauled and getting into small harbours without an engine was consequently quite tricky. We had already had a scary moment on the passage into Marstrand, sliding between rocks so close I felt I could have touched them, trying to sail along a transit, so it was with some relief that we were safely tied up alongside the harbour wall. Picturesque harbours always attract pedestrian attention and when a local carrying a bottle of schnapps asked to come aboard, how could one refuse? We had a drink, as you do on a warm summer’s evening; maybe more than one! He told me that alcohol was so expensive in Sweden that most people distilled their own schnapps. He had an old enamelled bath in a corrugated-roofed shed he used for this purpose. I asked him how he knew when it was ready to drink. “It was a bit trial and error at the beginning.” He held up a hand. “I used the finger test. I dipped my finger in; if it was too strong the tip fell off and I needed to dilute it.” He only had lost a couple of fingertips so I guessed he got more proficient quite quickly!

This from a chum in the Gulf: “ …….its the norm, as you say, to drink. A lot is almost inbuilt into our social psyche and it makes people very uncomfortable when one doesnt partake.” Rather ironic, eh?, when they are writing from somewhere where the drinking of alcohol is not part of the social and religious culture – yet people still do. A cousin sadly felt “slightly ill” having read PC 16; maybe they read it in the morning when a coffee might have helped, or in the evening when a good glass of Oyster Bay, or indeed a small measure of Famous Grouse whisky should have been to hand! Another cousin wrote my observations were “very acute but I wont show it to . for the topic is personally too close.

Those of us who love writing often look for the innuendo/pun/clever metaphor to bring one’s piece alive and I certainly acknowledge other people’s skill here too. Thanks to one reader for “Nice punch line!” (If you don’t remember the last paragraph of PC 16, reread it!)

My PCs are often shared with friends and family, but it’s good to hear …….. “I sent it onto my dad, by the way, who also enjoys your writing and for whom the last half a page was clearly recognisable.” And for some, it rekindled their own memory ….. “We all have our stories of smoking and drinking and drugs.” Don’t we just!

We went to my younger grandson’s first birthday party at the weekend – cake and all! His paternal grandmother let slip it was just a year since she had stopped drinking alcohol … and admitted feeling better ….. although still missed it! On the way home, we came over the South Downs just north of the Brighton & Hove conurbation ….. and there was the sea, shimmering in the distance, all sparkly in the early evening sunshine. Closer to home one could see more detail, numerous white horses on its surface. (**) Such a glorious sight …..  and sound.

And hot off the press, this week we’re told that the idea a daily glass of red wine prevents heart disease is deeply ingrained and often appealing. …… “But sadly its too good to be true. Youre better off walking to the green grocer than driving to your off-licence. These ‘health warnings’ come and go! “Butter’s bad …. butter’s good! Eggs are good …. eggs are bad” Everything in moderation seems to do it – including alcohol?! We had chums to supper the other night and ‘drinking and non-drinking’ inevitably came up. I sniffed someone else’s glass of cool white Villa Maria (I did ask first!); even if you don’t drink and I’m no advocate of abstinence, you can still appreciate the smell of fermented grape juice. Just a thought!

Richard Yates – richardyates24@gmail.com

*From the Book of Common Prayer

** Sorry! This is a sailing/nautical term used to describe the sea state!! As the wave breaks, the water foams and appears white, rather like a horse’s mane. The more ‘white horses’, the stronger the wind. They don’t normally appear below Force 3