I am now beginning to realise that this has to be in four or more parts, not three. The time between my second and third marriages was relevant, and very long, so deserves some explanation.
The move to Harrow was not working out as I had hoped. The travelling to work was easy enough, but the winter was harsh that year, and the flat was cold and damp. The supplied electric heating was outrageously expensive to run, and didn’t even manage to keep the flat warm anyway. My clothes were beginning to smell of damp, and the rent and running costs were consuming over half my income. Despite this, my new determination made me stick with the place, and I refused to give in, to move back to familiarity, and with that, complacency.
As the weather improved, so did my mood. There was a huge garden to sit in, no need for the useless heating, and I even got used to being alone again. I was reading, enjoying the peace, and beginning to collect things around me, like films and books. I could never say that this place felt like home, but I could at last say that I was able to regard it as where I lived. I began to shop at Waitrose, and to experiment with cooking good ingredients, and unusual flavours. When you have absolutely no-one to answer to, it is surprisingly liberating. My wife came to visit me there, with one of her friends. I was a little ashamed of the place, to be truthful, and I over-compensated by being exceptionally friendly, and very upbeat. She didn’t stay long, and I could tell that she was feeling a bit sorry for me. I was unsure about that visit then, and strangely haunted by it, to this day.
I tried my best to entertain there, and to give the impression to anyone I knew, that all was well in my new life. Behind this facade, I was beginning to drink.
I started with a few cases of wine, purchased from the excellent selection available at the local Waitrose. I soon moved on, to home delivery from the Wine Club. One of my neighbours took in a delivery for me; four cases of mixed reds, 48 bottles of wine. She remarked that this would last me ‘a few years’. In fact, it was all gone within two months. I would precede dinner with a ‘civilised’ Pastis, or two, before opening the first bottle of wine, to sample whilst cooking. That would be gone before I served my meal, so I would open the second, to drink with it. And this was only on the nights when I was not at work of course, as I was still working shifts in the Ambulance Service. I was asleep most evenings by 10pm, missing phone calls, TV programmes, and the occasional caller sometimes too. I began to feel very happy. Why wouldn’t I? I was living my life in a haze, devoid of any responsibility; as long as I could still manage to get into work, I was going to be OK.
Friends stopped coming round. I fell asleep on a couple of occasions, or became too drunk to chat coherently. Of course to me, the evening had been a great success; remembered fondly, mostly in staccato flashbacks. I said too much, spoke too much, revealed too much, and made everyone uncomfortable, sometimes deliberately. The truth is always hard to take, and the teller of that truth is never welcome at the feast. In Vino Veritas; this ancient saying applied so well in my case. One of my work colleagues could see my spiral, and was worried where it would end. He suggested I accompany him on a night out, to a ‘leaving do’, always a popular, and well-attended event. By this time, I was almost completely alone, and in a good way, or so I believed. The downside was that I was completely outspoken, very opinionated, and determined to accede nothing to anyone. I had become a well-known Union man, and my extremist political views were making others wary of association with me. I had also lost weight, acquired supreme confidence, and exhibited the attitude of someone with absolutely nothing to lose.
I was hard to like.