It was a warm night and I was awake by 5.30 – rather reluctantly, it must be said, as that seems a bit unnecessary for a Sunday. I lay there dreamily for nearly an hour and was just drifting off again when my eyes slid sideways to the clock, which read 6.25. Since the alarm was set for 6.30 anyway, I got up. I felt remarkably chipper, considering that Peter and I drank a bottle of wine between us before dinner last night (I should remember not to drink alcohol when I’m hot and thirsty) as well as nearly another bottle between four at dinner. That’s not much each though. There will be a glassful left to go with dinner tonight, which is so abstemious as to nearly count as abstinence.
Back and forth to church as usual on the second Sunday (as I’m sidesman at the monthly 8am service, as well as organist at the 11am one – and anyway, the Fellow is on holiday), but I did have time for bacon, eggs and tomato for breakfast in between times. I didn’t have much lunch.
I heard that Brewster has died. He lived in the village for many years, until he had a stroke some time ago and needed nursing home care. He was an interesting, educated man, very knowledgeable about wildlife and books and, apparently, very good at his job. He had worked in the oil industry, in the Middle East and on the oil rigs. In these places, complete abstinence was required but, very sadly, he made up for it when he was home.
He took full responsibility and made no excuse for himself. Drinking, he said, cost him his marriage, his children, his health. The pity was, he told me, that he never suffered a hangover in his life. He could drink to oblivion but wake up a few hours later without a care in the world. Then he’d go off to apologise for his behaviour the night before.
You used to see him, cycling home from Yagnub, eyes glazed and fixed straight ahead. Sometimes he’d fall off and crawl for a bit. People used to stop to help, and the braver ones offered him a lift – not that he was aggressive, but sometimes he wet himself.
Once, I was in the greenhouse when I saw someone in the field. I didn’t have my glasses on, so I went and peered across the stream to see if I knew who it was, and he came through the ford to greet me. His speech was slurred and his gait shambling and Chester, my dog, was suspicious. He stood close in front of me, his hackles up, growling with soft menace. Actually, I was awfully gratified. I’d never seen him in a situation when he thought I was in danger before and he was ready to protect me (he was friendly and soft normally). I said nothing to suggest his reaction was wrong, but spoke in a friendly way to Brewster and stroked Chester gently,who relaxed – though was still wary – after a while.
We walked round the garden, and he certainly knew his plants. He had been on the field to gather mushrooms. He was a pleasure to talk to and I feel such regret that he suffered from such an addiction. He was all right when he was away and could not drink – but he could never stop.
He was on his bike when he had the stroke, and fell into the road. People stopped to help and he went off in an ambulance and never came home, although he lived for seven or eight more years. His house was, finally, sold a couple of months ago, and the Sage and I were only talking about him a few days ago. Must have been about the time he died.
I do feel such regret for him. He was a lovely man and could have had a good life if he hadn’t been an alcoholic. I know I tell you blithely how much I drink, but believe me, I would give it up tomorrow rather than go the way he and my grandmother went.
Most people called him Brewster. The Sage and I didn’t. We called him Brian, because that was his name.