Sunday, September 17, 2006

Decline and fall

George Melly, in his seminal work 'Owning Up' (I have a rare unsigned edition) describes a colleague from the trad jazz scene of the 1950's, trombonist Frank Parr: "He passed through the classic stages of drunkenness in record time, wild humour, self-pity, and unconsciousness, all well-seasoned with the famous Parr grimaces. His actual fall had a monumental simplicity. One moment he was perpendicular, the next horizonal. The only warning we had of his collapse was that, just before it happened, Frank announced that he was 'only fit for the human scrap heap' and this allowed us time to move any glasses, tables, chairs or instruments out of the way".

Now, that account may be accurate with regard to Mr Parr. But I have long suspected that it is a gross over-simplification with regard to myself and most of the people I know. The trouble is that it is extraordinarily difficult to keep a detailed record under what might be called 'field conditions'. But last Thursday myself, the Priest and 'Wonderslore' (who is supposed to contribute to this blog but rarely does) met up for what I shall euphamistically call a wine-tasting. As a result of that particular event, I can confidently state that the classic stages of Shiraz drunkenness are as follows:
1/ Amiable good humour.
2/ Manic laughter and anecdote-telling.
3/ Self-righteous denunciation of enemies, opponents and fools - real and imagined.
4/ Maudlin self-pity.
5/ Collapse.

I do not think I am giving away any secrets when I reveal that I observed both my colleagues passing through all five of these stages last Thursday night. Which accounts for the brief but regrettable hiatus that has occurred here between Thursday and tonight.


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