"Civilisation is an exercise in self-restraint," intoned Senator William "I hate you, Butler" Yeats, Irish poet and statesman. Wise words, and rich ones too coming from a man who wrote marching song for Franco reject Eoin O'Duffy's Blueshirts and spent his last years having unnecessary surgery, monkeying around with young ladies and dying, predictably enough, in France.
Yeats's ghost was knocking at the door of The Tethered Goat the other day as we sat down to lunch. I offered the Dog of Decei(p)t and Hypocrisy his usual Steppenwolf measure of red wine, but he quietly declined and opted for a Diet Coke.
"That's not even a proper mixer!" complained Dazza. The K Man was lost for printable words.
The Dog mumbled something about "health concerns", also known as being a middle-aged bloke, and pledged to buy his own beverages for the duration.
We've all known the Dog for many years and have grown accustomed to his ways. Indeed, we all have our oddities:
- The K Man likes French lager;
- Dazza insists on eating at table;
- I wear "gay" shirts; and
- The Dog drives a BMW.
But none of us has ever ordered a soft drink, not even for a girl who specifically asked for one ("Here's a spritzer, love, it even sounds like Sprite."). The next couple of lunchtimes were spent debating whether there were any historical precedents for this behaviour among normal people. We found none.
The closest we came was the case of "Young Young" Magurn, an ex-colleague and epic ale-whalloper, who would switch to Diet Coke and a regime of running around a lot for a fortnight when ever he lost sight of his feet or mistook them for someone else's. Once contact with his loafer tassels was re-established, he would resume his campaign to drain all South Coast breweries by the nearest church festival.
"That wasn't giving up, that was getting in training," I explained to what we thought would be a chastened Dog. "That's what I'm doing," he countered, picking lemon from his teeth. "I need to get into shape for the International Berlin Beer Festival."
It was like that moment in American films when everything you've seen hitherto turns out to have been a pungent red herring, elaborate conspiracy or the dream of a hedgerow mammal. We rushed our apologies - apart from the K Man, who disapproves of festivals that don't involve getting monged in a field in Wiltshire while "some Fenians" try to steal your tent - and considered a new point of philosophy:
What is more manly - the Dog Trend or the Dazza-Boyo Stance? The Dog Trend is:
- To drink vats of all sorts of stuff, eat pies, climb onto the roof of your house and hurl night soil at the neighbours' dovecotes.
- To cease this activity, substituting soft drinks, omelettes (there is an option without chips, apparently) and a stroll around the garden for a few weeks.
- To visit a world shrine of booze, where adepts from all corners of the Earthly disc gather to insist that they don't really want a girlfriend anyway.
- To return home with a novelty tankard, the phone number of an ambiguous Belgian and a renewed commitment to The Drink.
The Dazza-Boyo Stance is to drink fairly large amounts of certain stuff, eat things that aren't just brown, and sit on the sofa criticising the telly.
The case for the Dog Trend is that it requires the collective willpower of the Rolling Stones (minus Bill Wyman) to refrain from this life of Neronic excess, only to plunge back in after a fixed period.
The case for the Dazza-Boyo Stance is neo-Yeatsian, in that it involves self-discipline to keep your drinking within the bounds of the just-about unacceptable.
We are genuinely unsure which is the maler, as both approaches have gods on their side:
The Dog Trend reminds me of the Nazarite cult in Judaism, wherein the devout would prepare themselves for pilgrim festivals by not cutting their hair, drinking wine or mucking about with corpses. Rather like promising God that you're not going to be a medical student.
The Dazza-Boyo Stance has elements of Zen, with a hint of Shaolin.
Now the Dog Trend God is the real, Jewish God that everyone recognizes as God. The Dazza-Boyo endorsement may be more obscure, but you get more deities for your sack of butt.
We turned to our independent arbiter, the K Man. He lowered his cigarette, nodded sagely, and pronounced "ye're aw a toosht o' girzies' gairtens". Then he pointed to his empty glass with a bony finger worthy of Knox himself.