Beauty and The Beast and 16 Days of Activism

Today marks the start of 16 Days of Activism for NO Violence against Women and Children.

Usually this doesn’t mean anything to me except another excuse for our government to spend our hard earned tax dollars on something that doesn’t require them to actually run the country, but I had an issue with some employees at work this week and I thought it a good time to share my experience.

We have a small company and we don’t have any admin staff so my partner and I do whatever needs to be done.  So I find myself being chief cook and bottle Washer with HR playing a huge part of my current duties.

You won’t believe how much of my time is wasted with employees sitting in front of my desk having to be disciplined or reminded that in fact they get paid to come to work and that also requires them to actually do some work.  And not to mention the petty dramas that happen between staff members themselves.  It is a sitcom all on its own.  It reminds me of when my kids were little and Son no 1 would be crying because Son no 2 would be looking out his window on a car trip. I want to pull my hair out on most days.

We made the mistake of employing 3 ladies on our site.  Why is this a mistake.  Well it shouldn’t be.  But in reality we work on a mining site so most of the work revolves around “manly duties”.  Now I don’t want to get into a debate about women being equal and able to do a man’s job as I would agree with you on most levels.  And yes, I know that 16 Days of Activism promotes exactly this.

But we have noticed a change on site since we employed these ladies.  We find it difficult to keep the men away from them and somehow there is always an excuse for them to neglect their duties and be found chatting to the ladies.  So my job becomes a little harder and more of my time is spent resolving HR issues rather than actually trying to make money.

So on Wednesday “Beauty” came to my office in tears.  She had apparently been smacked across the face by “The Beast”.  Now although she was in tears, there were no other signs of an altercation.  Her face was not marked or red or swollen.  But nevertheless there was an altercation of sorts as otherwise she would not be sitting in front of me in tears.

There were witnesses too of course so now the whole site comes to a standstill as it has become our daily episode of “Days of our Lives”.

Apparently Beauty and the Beast had an argument over something.  She told me word for word what the argument was about but quite honestly I switched off after the first 10 minutes of her reciting it.   I sat with my head in my hands thinking why me – I have work to do and really don’t have time to deal with this.  If they were both doing what they were supposed to be doing and at their posts, they would not have had the argument in the first place.  But of course let’s ignore this.  It is more important for me to deal with the “abuse” which had happened.

Apparently the Beast had compared her in some way to a whore and she apparently then accused his mother of being a whore and he then in defense of his mother smacked her.

I have no formal HR training.  I deal with issues to the best of my diplomatic ability.  We have joined an Employers Organisation who handle the more serious issues but it is a mission to get them to come out 20 times a week to deal with petty issues.  I am aware that this is a more serious issue and I need to deal with this seriously and by the book.  It could in fact mean I have to terminate the Beasts employment contract.  It means we have to now have a formal hearing.

I sent Beauty home, hoping that some time would calm her down and tomorrow we could resume the matter and have a proper discussion.  She insists she wants to go home via the police station and lay a charge.  It is her right to do so, so I tell her she needs to do what she feels is right.   I don’t want to question the Beast as yet as quite honestly I feel like I could lose my temper.  Why hit a woman,  Why hit anyone in fact.  Why call each other names.  And WHY WERE YOU BOTH NOT WORKING!!!

So on Thursday I had a few meetings which meant I didn’t get to site.  The Beast asked to see me first thing yesterday morning.  He wanted to call a meeting with Beauty, all Management and the witnesses in order for him to make a public apology to Beauty.  I asked him if he was sincere in his apology.  He said he was.  He is quite a big talker.  Always full of excuses and tails so I asked him to only give the apology if he was going to be sincere about it and not back the apology up with excuses or mitigating circumstances.  He agreed and seemed truly apologetic.

We called the meeting mid morning and he gave his apology.  Beauty was not keen on accepting it.  She said she wanted to make an example out of him, especially in light that it was the start of 16 Days of Activism and his behavior was not acceptable.  But she agreed to think about it.

Beauty and The Beast were then back in my office an hour later with her agreeing to accept his apology, not for him but because he is a married man with a child and the charges against him could see him at the least unemployed and possibly with a criminal record.  The Beast seemed relieved and was very thankful.

Later on I called the Beast back into my office as I still had to deal with him from a company perspective and he couldn’t get away Scott free.  I told him I would have to officially discipline him and he agreed to sign a Final Warning with no need for hearings to take place.

I’m not sure if I have conveyed any real message in this blog besides my irritation with having to deal with HR issues on a day to day basis.  But violence against women and children is very real and we need to address it.  It is far too easy for us to ignore.

I am pretty sure I know at least 2 or 3 women who are being abused, if not physically but emotionally.  It is easy to overlook them and whisper to ourselves that they need to do something about it themselves but in reality it isn’t that simple.   Especially when children are involved.  What women wants to find herself alone, with no home and children to support with some monster lurking in the dark ready to hit out at any convenient time.

Ladies (and Gents) look around you.  Identify possible victims and extend a hand of support.  How can you help.  Even if it’s a shoulder to cry on.


Why our Country doesn’t work

A venting post…

So today I had the task of taking Son #4 to make a booking for his Learners License.  What a #nightmare.

We started at the Marlboro (Sandton) Testing Station.  Parking was full so I had to double park and wait for an open spot.  I suggested Son #4 get out and find the right queue in the meantime and I would join him inside when I find parking.

A few minutes later he reappears back at the car – he can’t figure out where to go inside.

Luckily a parking spot opened up shortly thereafter and we both went inside.

There was a main area with about 20 seats of which about 10 were randomly filled.  In front of us were 2 large rooms, both filled with seats and all were taken.  To the right was a passage and again people were queuing along the whole passage.  No room or area was marked or had any signage beside scrappy bits of A4 paper stuck all over, most informing people that their eye-testing equipment was out of order and people were to call the main Call Center to find out when they would be operational again.

Just to the left was a counter with a window and it too had a scruffy piece of A4 paper stuck to it which said “enquiries”.  So we stood in the queue there.  Not too bad as there were 3 people in front of us.  The gentleman in front of us turned around and made conversation for a few minutes and before we knew it we were in front of the lady at the counter.

I approached her politely and asked here where we must go to apply for a Learners License?  She asked me who for?  For a few seconds I was a tempted to ask if it mattered (you know, perhaps they have pink forms for women and blue for men?), but I  managed to bite my tongue.  I politely replied that it was for my son and I turned and pointed him out.

She then snapped at me and asked me why he doesn’t speak for himself.

I was taken totally off guard by this comment.  How was I supposed to  answer that?  I lrimages1happened to get to the counter first / I’ve had experience dealing with government departments before and he hasn’t / I wasn’t shy …  I finally settled with “Because I’m his mother and he’s a minor”.

She was not impressed with my answer, tutted, shook her head in disgrace and then snarled at us and asked if we had the various documents with us. I replied yes we did and handed them all to her.  She snatched them, picked up an application form, shoved the documents in the middle, handed it all back to me and told us to go to Room A.

Room A was the second of the 2 rooms in front of us as we walked in. So we went  to room A.

Room A was filled with seats and all were taken. We  hesitated for a minute as one is  not quite sure where to queue and the start or end of the seated queue is not identifiable.  Then a young lady shouted / snarled at us that we can’t stand there, we have to join the back of the queue.  (Who knew where that was?)

At this point Son #4 whispers to me and asks me if we can go somewhere else.  Yes I said, gladly!

So we left there and headed over to the Florida Testing Station, a 45 minute drive away but hopefully much friendlier.

We found parking easily.  It was also far cleaner.

We went inside.  No queue’s.  High Five Son #4 eyes said to me.  We asked at the counter where we must go to make a booking for a learners license.  She politely points out that we need to go down the passage, first room on the left.

We found it, got a number and were asked to join the queue outside.  Our number will be called in due course for Son #4 to have his eye test done (at least they had working equipment).

It is a small building and no space inside for the number of people they deal with on a daily basis, so having to queue outside is a necessity.  Everyone randomly stood outside, chatting, mingling, walking around.  Every now and then they called a few numbers.  There was probably 50 people there.

We ended up standing outside for just over 4 hours till our number was called.

I went to sit in the reception area near the cashiers while Son #4 had his eye test done.  He messaged me from the eye test room to say he finally understands why we waited for 4 hours when the eye test only takes 2 minutes at the most.  He said that most people could not understand the concept of the eye test and they spent almost 10 minutes with most people explaining how it works and what they  should be looking for. #itsnotrocketscience!

Once his test is done, he is instructed to go to Room 2.

Again no signage!

So where is Room 2 one may ask?

Room 2 is the open window on the outside of the building just before the entrance.

We went there where he was given a booking date.  It took all of 2 minutes.

We then had to pay the fee at the cashier and this too only took about 2 minutes.

What a day.  At least they were a little more helpful and polite in Florida.

This is my 4th son so I have done this many times before over the last 12 years. There is honestly no improvement in the system since the first time I went.  No new furniture.  No improved signage.  No automation.  Just plain incompetence and staff (whose salary is paid by my tax money) who have not been taught how to deal with customers and be polite.

And after all this I still don’t understand why getting your learners license is not part of the school curriculum.

One asks if there is any hope?

Keeping the lights on


Naked, but Not afraid

I have looked at my header picture and often thought about whether it is appropriate or not for my blog.  Friends and family see it, including my sons – it is on public display after all.

The reality is, this is me.  This blog is me.  And the stuff I write about is the naked me – about my deepest thoughts, emotions, love, and life.  It would be inappropriate to use a naked pic of me so this is the closest I can get to showing the real naked me to you all.

This photograph is about 4 years old now and yes, it had a little help from photoshop.  I am a few years older now and have lost a little lot more weight and have a few more wrinkles – thanks to a fight with Throat Cancer in the last year.  But I fought and won and am in the clear!

Cancer was my greatest fear.  I wasn’t afraid of dying from anything besides Cancer (Okay maybe scorpions too!).  But I got cancer and survived.  So now I have no fears – I am invincible.


I have realized life is short so I intend to live life to the fullest.  Not wasting a single moment to enjoy it and take full advantage of what it has to offer!  My only hope is that you are all by my side enjoying it with me.

Keeping the lights on

Missing in translation

I had my own domain ( which is where all the content on this blog is imported from.  Luckily I kept this blog on the side but a pity I didn’t keep the imports up to date.

I forgot to renew my domain subscription to so I lost the domain.

At first I was very disappointed, extremely annoyed and very saddened by this.  Lifecherries had become part of my life and I had lost it. I am really pissed at GoDaddy and really pissed as blogspot (google) because of this.

Yes, I tried to buy it back but I found this to be impossible.  Some company had taken over the domain – not to use it but to extort money from me.  It is no more than a parked domain and they want a vast amount of money for me to buy it back.  I am not open for extortion, especially not something that I feel belongs to me.

I realise I lost it as I had not paid my annual domain fee but this domain has NO value to anyone except me.

There have been a quite a few posts in between may last post here and this one and quite a few developments in my life.  I will try to catch up on my news in my next few posts.

So I will be trying to build up followers on this site now and hopefully all my old blogger friends will re-acquaint themselves with this domain.

Keeping the lights on




Born Free

I have been doing quite a bit of driving around our beautiful country lately and I have been shocked at some of the images I have seen over the last week.  This first pic is an indication of how beautiful our country is, but is unfortunately not the pretty picture I have been seeing just recently.

We are nearing our elections in South Africa, taking place on the 7th of May and we are celebrating 20 years of democracy.  This is the first election taking place where those who are “born free” (those whose lives began after apartheid) are eligible to vote for the very first time. One would think this is a major milestone for every young adult.

However, unlike the 1994 elections which took place when we had our first democratic election and everyone went to cast their vote for the very first time, we now unfortunately have a new generation who do not want to cast their vote at all.

Our own Archbishop Desmond Tutu has welcomed the “Vote No” campaign – a campaign started by our former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and other ex-ANC members encouraging “South Africans to be aware of the value and consequences of their vote.”

This new generation has no memory of the apartheid era and have no loyalties to the ANC.  They feel they have been let down by their own government.  Most are well educated and despite this are unable to find suitable jobs.  Instead they are witness to the corruption taking place and the inability of our government to identify with its people.

They feel betrayed.

There are many protests taking place on a daily basis due to poor service delivery. I must admit there is no excuse for poor service delivery.  We have one of the most efficient tax collection departments in the world so the Goverenment has no excuse for under delievering.

I am in support of those who make the effort to protest against poor service delivery but I am shocked at the total lack of respect my fellow South Africans have for other people’s property.  Driving back from one of our mines yesterday, we were diverted and had to use an alternative route and we were witness to the destruction caused by one of these protests.

We were left with a picture of total destruction in our path – vehicles being stoned and trucks being burnt.    Our roads marked by black residue from burnt tires.

Are we perhaps heading for a civil war?  Do I Want to sit back and let this beautiful country be destroyed by those who should be protecting it?

Some interesting readining:

Lanthie Ransom

Are you too smart to engage?

I don’t typically talk about politics on my blog.  The main reason is that my blog is supposed to be about me and my journey in finding myself and the challenges I face.  And I have always felt that writing about politics and matters of the state make it about everyone else.  But this is where I have come to the realisation that talking about politics is very much about me too – not only does politics and legislation have a huge impact on my life, it is my opinion that counts too.  So it is time I started being a little more verbal about some of these issues.

I would like to quote Plato here and this forms the theme of this post and many more just like it:
“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by their inferiors.”

Now where to start.  Quite honestly this could turn out to be a long post but I will try to keep it short and keep to the facts as I see them and perhaps it will be the first of many such posts.

The first issue I want to address is our new toll roads – or eTolls as they are called here.  This has been a


very controversial subject here since we hosted the World Cup in 2010.  Besides the white elephant stadiums that we are left with (another legacy of the World Cup), we are also left with having to fund the upgrading of our national highways in Gauteng.

Now I know you are probably thinking why are we bitching about the upgrading of our national highways.  It is not the upgrading of our national highways that we are bitching about – we are bitching about the fact the tax payer has to pay a toll to drive on these roads.  These are roads we have always driven on at no cost (or direct costs as the case may be).  They didn’t build new ones, they merely fixed existing ones and added a new lane here and there.  We, the tax payer has already paid for the capital costs of these roads.  And it is due to neglect and the lack of maintenance that these upgrades were required in the first place.   Not to mention the fact that we pay a small fortune for petrol in our country which is loaded with various taxes and levies which are supposed to cover the cost of maintaining and improving our roads.  I’m not sure what you all pay for petrol but we currently pay over R14 a litre for ours (about US$1.5 per litre) (Refer to Worldwide Retail Prices of Gasoline  here (US cents per litre)

I have also been told that part of the agreement with FIFA was that we were required to provide highways with a minimum of 4 lanes to the stadiums and the airport and other such relevant routes if we were to host the World Cup.  They didn’t care what the cost of this was or if we actually needed more lanes.

So SANRAL (our national roads agency) put out a tender for the upgrading of these roads.  Another huge controversial issue as the tender and subsequent business plan is flawed in many ways.  The tender was awarded to a non-resident company, so much of the money raised actually finds its way out of the country.  But besides that, the installation consists of elaborate gantries and inefficient means of collecting the tolls.  I’m not going to quote facts a figures here as these are freely available on the web and I will post a few links at the end of this post for those of you who want more information.

We do not have a public transport system and there are also no viable alternative routes so we are forced to use the tolled highways now.   This has put huge financial pressure on the average tax payer who has to get to work or get around on a day to day basis.

One of the big issues for me is that you have to register to use these roads and you are offered “reduced rates” if you register and pre-pay for the usage of these roads.  I feel this is discrimination at it’s best and I am so fed up with being discriminated against in various ways (a topic for another post).  I will have to register to take advantage of special rates and I have to have a little electronic device in my vehicle.  

According to various articles I have read recently, up to 90% of people who use these tolled roads have a) not registered and b) not paid after receiving a bill in the post.  I am not quite sure how they intend to recover this money as they cannot prosecute everyone concerned.  I am currently part of the 90%.

I have not registered either and have received many bills in the mail.  I am very sensitive to my information being shared and would like to know how the administration company knows where to send the bills to if I have not registered.  I have certainly not given the licensing department permission to share my information with any third party companies and I feel strongly about my rights being compromised here.

Please read some of the articles below and share your thoughts on this issue.  I would be interested to know what you all think.

Lanthie Ransom

I Joined The Mile High Club

Just kidding!  Also not possible to do in a Cessna c172.  Well at least not comfortably anyway.

If you all read my previous post What Would I Do With R5Million, I mention that I would love to learn to fly.  I gave my list of things to do some serious thought and realised that some of these things were possible without having loads of money.  So in true Lanthie style, I decided to take up the challenge and try to do some of the things on my list.

I did some research on Saturday, reached out to some friends and then actually called a pilot training centre and made a booking to go on my first test flight.  The booking was made for today at 4pm.  I suddenly realised yesterday morning that this would conflict with my belly dance class and as we are well into rehearsing for our next show, I could not miss a class and would have to reschedule my flight.

So I called them and my flight was rescheduled for yesterday afternoon at 4pm.  They called me mid-afternoon and told me the weather was not being very accommodating and it was recommended that I postpone my flight.  So we rescheduled for Sunday at 2pm.  I was a little disappointed as I was really looking forward to my first flight.

I was on my way to the office at 7.30 this morning, stuck in traffic when my phone rang.  It was my instructor asking if I was free this morning and he could take me up at 11am.  So I made a few phone calls and rescheduled my meetings and went for my very first flying lesson.

I must admit I was a little nervous when I arrived.  I have been on loads of planes and travelled the world,

but I had never been on a small aircraft before.  I walked into the hanger and made my way up the stairs to the reception.  I was greeted by a very friendly young man behind the counter.  He introduced himself as my instructor.

I had to fill in some paperwork and then we headed downstairs to the plane.

I knew what a Cessna c172 looked like but didn’t realise how small it is.  My car is bigger – Okay I admit I drive a big 4×4 but I still expected it to be a lot bigger.

The instructor gave me a set of headphones.  He explained some safety checks to me and explained what to do in case of emergency.  Landing with the door open / unlatched being one of them – not something I want to envision doing any time soon!

I had to pretend to be a contortionist to get into the plane and finally found myself sitting in the pilot seat.  My instructor then explained various dials and switches to me while he went through his safety check.

We then taxied towards the runway and he let me take control.  It was a little tricky using my 2 feet to steer rather than my hands on a steering wheel but I quickly got the hang of it.  Apparently you only use the stick when flying.

We were parked while he went though various safety checks again and waited for the tower to give us clearance.

Eventually we were given the go ahead and finally I was in the air.  It went a lot slower than I thought and I couldn’t believe that we could fly at this speed.

We were up for about 5 minutes when the instructor handed control over to me.  WOW!  I could not believe I was in control of a plane in less than 5 minutes!  This is seriously stuff that dreams are made up of.

Alright, I must admit it is not rocket science stuff and piloting this plan is a whole load easier than driving my car.  But still – I WAS FLYING!

We headed out towards the Hartebeestpoort Dam.  The instructor was very patient with me and obliged me by answering the gazilion questions I had about the various instruments and what each one did.  I could not have wished for a more patient man.

We were up in the air for about an hour and before I knew it, we were landing.  I took over control once again when we were on the ground.

I definitely want to get my PPL license (Private Pilot Licence) and will make every effort to get it.  The only hurdle here is money to pay for it all.  So all donations are welcome – please feel free to leave me a comment if you would like to sponsor me (And Yes, I am being dead serious!)

A friend went up with me and took loads of photographs – hope you like them.  There is some amazing scenery.

Hope to be posting loads more pics of my flying in the near future.

Lanthie Ransom

What would I do with R5Million (US$500,000)

A friend recently asked me what I would do with R5million (about US$500,000), assuming I would not give up my job.  Off the top of my head I gave a fairly boring reply as follows:

I said I would like to pay off my apartment, put some into savings or investments and then risk some of it on new business venture/s.

So after being accused of being boring I decided to draw up a list of things I could do or buy that did not fall into the “boring” category.  Now this is not exactly a lot of money but it certainly is enough to have some fun with.  Some of these require quite a bit of money, others I could and should do as time allows.   In no particular order and without giving it too much thought ……

  1. Learn to fly – My brother has a helicopter license and my mother had a private pilots license.  In fact I did some research into this and I could get my license for around R100,000 (US$10,000).  So very easily attainable.
  2. Perhaps buy a small aircraft like a Cessna – something big enough for 2-4 people.  
  3. Actually fly a Spitfire or similar fighter aircraft -this would be amazing!   And yes, I’d like to fire it too!
  4. Learn to skipper a boat – Well perhaps I should just buy one and find some awesome guy (with penis pointers or perhaps just a really great looking bum to look at) to skipper it for me while we sail off into the sunset and anchor off the Mediterranean coast or something.
  5. Buy a small personal submarine – Something suitable to view marine life with. Of course I would have to buy a suitable boat / yacht to launch it from
  6. Buy a Harley Davison or Indian Motorbike and do a Cape to Cairo or route 66 run or something similar
  7. Go and live in a small beach house in Mozambique for a few years
  8. Open up a beach bar 
  9. Go on a world tour – stopping in each country, getting to know the locals and moving on as and when I choose.
  10. Buy a bright RED Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche or other sportscar.  Not sure which – will have to take a test drive in them all first
  11. Buy a lifetime supply of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs
  12. Visit the 7 wonders of the world
  13. Go Scuba diving in the great Barrier Reef
  14. Take some of my best friends on a long holiday to the Maldives or Seychelles or some other exotic island
  15. Take some of my best friends on a skiing holiday
  16. Go swim with the sharks (Yeah, Maybe I’ll stay in the cage)

So how would you spend half a million dollars – just for the fun of it?

Lanthie Ransom

Big Brother is sharing my information!

A friend if mine recently returned form Dubai after being out of the country for the last 4 years, so she had to re activate all her banking profiles again.

Things are a little simpler nowadays in as much as you can open a bank account online, which she did.

 However, they could not authenticate her online and she had to go into the bank itself.  At the bank, they scanned her fingerprints ( a very new concept to me as I have ever been asked for my fingerprint scan at the bank – but then I avoid banks like the plague).  Only to find that her fingerprints do not match those on the Home Affairs database of our country (South Africa).

As a result she had to go to the Home Affairs department with a letter from the bank and they had to take new finger prints and issue her with a new ID document.

At first I thought how clever.  But then on second thoughts I was a little pissed off.
What gives Home Affairs the right to share my information with banks or any other institution?  I understand the necessity of being on a national database from an identification point if view.  They issue me with an ID document which I present when required to the relevant institution.
I have serious issues with these institutions accessing my information without my permission though.
My ex said he thought that perhaps we gave blanket permission for the government database to be shared and perhaps when we opened a bank account we agreed for them to be able to verify our identity with the national government database.  But quite honestly I have a real problem with this.  How can  I give the government blanket permission to share my information?  And what right does the bank have to access this information when I have a government issued ID document which I present on request to those I choose to show it to.
I can understand having my information available to certain government institutions  where my safety is concerned.  But sharing my information with third party institutions certainly does not have my blessing.

Yes one could argue that it makes life simpler.  With all this information being shared and easily available, it is easier to verify or authenticate your identity, especially when opening up accounts etc.  But I want to choose when and how and with who my information is shared – and not blanket approval either.

As far as I am concerned, this also makes identity theft so much easier if non-government institutions can access my information.  The other question that comes to mind is how does the government actually verify that the bank has my approval to access the information in the first place – do they ask for signed proof perhaps?  It is all a little dodgy to me and does not have my blessing.

Let me know your thoughts on this.  The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am.

Lanthie Ransom

A sobering thought…

Hi there, Dale from Diary of an Internet Nobody here again.
Just thought I’d share my latest post with Lanthie’s lovely readers.
It’s a subject that’s currently close to my heart and one that I’m sure many of you have experience of.
My dad told me once about a bloke he used to work with who was a serious alcoholic.
He was apparently unable to get out of bed in the morning without first having a quick couple of shots from the bottle of vodka pick-me-up in his bedside drinks cabinet.
He then drove to work, refreshing himself occasionally from a handy second bottle he had stashed in the glove compartment and for the rest of his working day in the office he functioned perfectly well, providing he kept himself topped-up from bottle number three, hidden in the drawer of his desk.
I remember thinking about this, doing some brief calculations and coming to the conclusion that it had to be an exaggeration. Even over the space of one day this guy had to be putting away a bottle and a half of vodka. Surely nobody could function with anything like normality with that much alcohol in their bloodstream, could they?
Over the years I’ve known some folks who “liked a drink”, but my experience of them has been almost exclusively in situations (pubs, clubs, parties, etc) where the rest of us were also in some way intoxicated, so their conspicuous consumption was always less, well, conspicuous.
In other words, I’ve never consciously thought about the normal daily routine of the bench-or-ditch common-or-garden alcoholic.
Until recently, that is.
An old friend I hadn’t seen for a long time had been in touch and, having cheerfully informed me on the phone that since we’d last met, he’d “turned into a right old alchy”, told me (with what I thought was considerable hyperbole) several stories about waking up on public benches after consuming superhuman quantities of vodka, once even attracting the attention of a passing group of local church-going musicians who took pity on the insensible stranger and installed him in a pew to sleep it off, where he later awoke to the strains of a religious sing-song.
Enough to sober anyone up, you would have thought.
Now, I’m not prone to unwarranted sympathy (possibly an understatement) and although I accept that alcoholism is an illness that nobody would choose, I don’t have much patience with the “Oh poor me, feel sorry for me, I can’t help myself” attitude in any situation, let alone one that has such a devastating effect on anyone that suffers from it, not to mention the pain and anxiety it causes those around them.
So if my newly-pickled old friend was expecting me to reinforce any notion that this was all just boozy high-jinx, he was going to be disappointed.
After expressing suitable (and genuine) sympathy for the situation that had brought him to the brink on which he now teetered, I proceeded to give him a bloody good talking to, mainly on the theme of “Stop being such a fucking idiot, if you carry on like that you’re going to kill yourself” with a side order of “I shall be really pissed off with you if you die after finally getting back in touch”, all of which seemed to gratify him in some way, if only because he’d forgotten that I’d tell him what I thought, without sugar coating it.
Since then we have stayed in touch and he has visited on several occasions, each time looking more like his old self, only now he has a new topic of conversation; how he’s doing at his alcohol meetings and which of the various “managed recovery” programmes is the most effective.
However, things are not always what they seem to the uninitiated and, while it’s true to say that a casual observer would have noticed a marked difference in his appearance over the last few months, they probably wouldn’t have been aware that he was still needing to consume a few restorative drinks to regain his equilibrium for the day.
So I was treated to the frankly alarming sight of him transforming, Jekyll and Hyde-like, from a rather shaky, pale and irritable shade of his former, fun-loving and mischievous self, back into the old friend I know and love over the period of about an hour or so, during which time he drank a 25cl bottle of anonymous Co-op vodka, each barely-diluted slug visibly reviving his good spirits. (no pun intended).
Always present though, is the self-knowledge of his situation.
Our son asked if anyone could give him a lift to work and we had to say no as my car was out of action my friend had to refuse on legal grounds, later saying;
“That’s really bad isn’t it, saying I can’t drive because I’ve had too much to drink, by”,…glancing at the clock,…”1.30 in the afternoon”
Well, quite.
After having given him yet another unsympathetic lecture later that weekend, he said it would be great if I would go along to one of his meetings with him.
Almost before the sentence was out of his mouth I said “No! Definitely not. No no no no no.”
“But why not?” he asked, “My dad wouldn’t come with me either”
“Because I wouldn’t be able to maintain the correct level of politely diplomatic sympathy” I said.
“Oh but they’d love that”, he said, enthusiastically “they like it when people don’t take any bullshit from them”
I declined nonetheless, I’m not really designed for support groups, although I’m impressed with the help and support this particular group has given my friend. It’s now down to him to find the inner strength to follow the advice they share, often gained through bitter experience, when there isn’t anyone around to save him from his own demons.
As he recently told me, after encouraging me to write this post;
“The worst of it is this little man who sits on your shoulder. He’s called The Trickster and he says things like ‘Go on, have a drink it’s not really bad for you’ and ‘Go on, you need another drink NOW’ I hate him”
I can only hope he realises how serious his position is, because the threat to his health is very real and if he doesn’t follow the advice of those of us who do give a shit about him, even if he doesn’t give a shit about himself at the moment, then there is a very real chance he won’t be around to listen to me lecture him, and that would really piss me off.
It would be a very great shame indeed and a terrible waste too, to throw away so much for the sake of so little.
So if you are reading this, and I know you are, stick to your plan mate, we’re always here if you feel you might stumble.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d be hugely irritated by the whole self-indulgent experience, I’d set up my own version of a support group.
I can just picture the scene now;
In a community hall somewhere, a diverse selection of ordinary people slowly assembles, quietly taking their seats, arranged in the ubiquitous, non-hierarchical circle, they carefully avoid each other’s eyes, as if, although having been drawn here by a common bond they are nevertheless not comfortable with the fact.
A member of the group with a more confident air about them than the rest says brightly, “Right, who wants to start?”
There is a pause, then one of the other members of the circle silently nods, closes his eyes briefly as if to prepare for a distasteful ordeal, slowly stands up and says;
“Hello, my name’s Dale, and I have a friend who is an alcoholic”