Thursday, 16 December 2010

Drunks I have known: Mr & Mrs B
I experienced the joy that was Mr and Mrs B on half a dozen occasions during my teens. It was always at one of mum's braais. (Braai is South African for BBQ.) Mr and Mrs B were Scots. From Glasgow apparently and perfectly nice people to boot.

Until the booze set in.

Mr B would be the first. He was normally very quiet. Reserved to the point of the standing dead. A Weltschmerz of pauses to talk to. Agonisingly shy. Even with me. A mere teenager to his adult.

An hour or two into the braai, we'd be sat among the debris - paper plates, empty lager cans, the odd body - and Mr B's right leg – always his right – would begin to dither. Only slightly at first. Then growing in intensity until it shook like a loose branch in a hurricane.

No one would show any concern, they knew the drill and stopped talking or dancing or whatever, and turned to face him.

What do you think he did, dear reader? He told jokes. Lots of jokes. On and on, joke after joke in his sandpaper Glaswegian accent. And not one of those jokes wrung so much as a titter from his audience.

After five minutes or so he'd run down. His leg would stop dithering and he'd be back to his normal, quiet – though clearly inebriated – self, graciously and unsteadily accepting a smattering of applause.

This was Mrs B's cue. At the top of her voice she'd describe life with Mr B as a complete farce paying careful attention to his extreme lack of prowess in the bedroom. She'd then turn to the nearest teenage boy – yes, me on occasion – and proceed to lavish on him her most unwanted attentions in a voice impossibly louder. “Run away with me, young-un,” she'd plea. “Run away with me and I'll take you places you've only ever - hic – dreamed o.” Thankfully, it was usually at this point her head slumped forward and she started to snore, a glass of whiskey in her hand magically refusing to spill. Mr B would take up a silent position alongside and wait for her to rouse and demand to be taken home.

Seeing the two there - her asleep and him standing guard, while all around them partied – was a touching sight which, even now, brings a moist glaze to my eye.

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