I have been told I need counselling. I will accept advice from those whom I respect but to endure the ramblings of a touchy feely stranger alarms me somewhat. I come from an old school where people sorted themselves out, the kind who tried not to whine about personal issues. I realize I have mentioned my fondness for distilled grain a few times in passing but I have never really banged on about it or tried to make any excuses. There are no excuses. I may have grown up in a hard drinking environment, I may have seen and done some horrible things but it was me that poured the whisky down my throat, no one forced me. Besides, I really liked both the taste and the buzz.
Now, of course, I wish I had never started. My paternal grandfather drank himself to death, I only ever met him once in 1964, and they do say that alcoholism is a genetic trait. Chris, my younger brother has always been teetotal and Micky is a perfectly civilized social drinker and can do without the stuff for months on end. My father liked a glass of scotch of an evening but that was it.
One of Clausewitz’s principles of war was ‘concentration of effort’. It is no use going off half-cocked at an enemy who will whittle you down; hit him with everything you have. So I decided in order to deal with the alcohol issue, I needed to be not only determined, but battle fit. So I have ordered a rowing machine from UK. Being physically active reduces both the desire and opportunity to drink and increases appetite. As a heavy smoker, if I want to train without occasioning a third myocardial infarction, I had best stop smoking as well. To effect this aim, I would order E Cigarettes. Now all I needed was something to reduce the craving for alcohol. Rather like a General committing his troops to battle, I wanted Infantry, Armour and Air Support in my Battle Group.
There is a new drug on the market, available on the NHS (UK National Health Service) called Nalmafene.
It has been proven to reduce the consumption of alcoholics by an average of 60%. 60%? That’s bloody wonderful! Instead of the woeful and impossible choice of abstention or death faced by most alcoholics, here was a means to significantly reduce the desire for alcohol. I rushed out to buy it. You can buy anything on the internet.
Sadly, not Nalmafene. It is still not licensed in most countries. Not even in Australia. They’ve never heard of it. I know because I checked. Since Australia is a nation of alcoholics, I thought it would be the first place you could buy this drug off the shelf.
In UK, it can only be prescribed if the patient signs up for counselling while they are taking the drug. Well that’s a bit of a bastard for me because I live in Angola and it is jolly inconvenient to nip four thousand miles once a week to sit in some git’s office while he asks how I felt. Knackered perhaps? But the rules are really strict. No counselling, no Nalmafene. Besides, would counselling really work for me?
I recall, not entirely but one scene in particular, a film starring the late great Walther Matthau. Matthau was playing an aged and increasingly cranky old man whose son wanted to consign him to a care home. As part of the process, the old man was required to be assessed by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist sat the obviously very reluctant man in a chair and then showed him a blob of ink on a page.
‘What do you see?’ asked the shrink.
‘I see a Rorschach Inkblot Test,’ replied Matthau.
Before I could become a Bomb Disposal Officer I had to go through psychometric testing. The death rate amongst Bomb Disposal operators was truly horrific back then and there can be no question that psychometric testing of candidates along with improvements in training and equipment ultimately made an enormous difference. Back then, though, I could not take my test seriously.
I had to fill out loads of either or answers. Did I like to watch railway lines disappear into the distance. Yes or No? I don’t know, I’ve never made a habit of standing on railway lines, it is quite dangerous apparently. Do you like the feel of soft, furry slippers? Yes or No? Again, I don’t know, lend me yours and I’ll tell you. Do you like young children, Yes or No? Of course I like young children but if I answer yes, does that mean I am a pervert? Half way through the test I just gave up and randomly ticked the boxes. They had told us before we started the test that as soon as we had finished, we could leave the room for a smoke. After all that shit I definitely needed to drag on a stogie. I was the first one out but having led by example, I wasn’t alone for long.
For these psychoanalysts the written test was just a warmer into the bank. We still had the face to face interview with the Army’s top psychiatrist. We were terrified of even the simplest question. If they asked us our names we checked our dog tags. Don’t forget, even though the death rate was so high, we really wanted to be Bomb Disposal Officers. Of course we needed our heads examining.
In the corner of the room sat a WRAC Senior Non Commissioned Officer clearly adept at shorthand as every time I opened my mouth, she scribbled away. In front of me sat the top shrink the Army had on their ration return.
‘What do you think of your mother?’ was the first question he asked me.
Shit. This guy was a Brigadier and had definitely enjoyed a classical education, so was he trying to trap me with the old Oedipus complex ploy?
‘She’s a bloody good cook,’ I replied, ‘You really should try her Kassler with Rotkohl’
‘Do you have any brothers or sisters?’ he asked me in a manner inviting a lengthy and chatty response.
‘Yes,’ I replied.
‘When you wake up in the morning, do you leap out of bed or linger a while?’
‘Depends how much I drank the night before. If I’d had a curry as well I’d generally leap straight out of bed and sprint to the bog’
‘Do you have a drink problem?’ Man, these guys leap on everything you say.
‘Never spill a drop’
‘Can you try to give me a sensible answer?’
‘Can you try to give me a sensible question?
And so it went on.
I hope it was as hard going for him as it was for me but I obviously passed. I still have no idea what they were looking for in us. I rather suspect he was so incensed with the lack of respect I showed for his profession he deliberately passed me confident he would be reading of my early demise over breakfast. Instead I came top of the course and, interestingly enough, thirteen of us passed out on Friday the thirteenth. As far as I know, every single one of us is still alive so we can chuck superstition into the dustbin along with religion and tamp them down hard on top of the psychoanalysts. Besides, as a Catholic, it was a sin for me to be superstitious.
Boris Johnson, the eccentric but immensely likeable Mayor of London was recently ambushed by a stupid question on his live Ask Boris phone in show on LBC. Not so long ago he had rashly suggested that most of the population were thick by saying that 16% of "our species" had an IQ of less than 85 and just 2% over 130 before adding "the harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.” I really like Boris Johnson but his Nanny must have been shaking his cornflake packet really vigorously for this particular flake to end up as Mayor of London and make a comparison between IQ, success and cornflakes but his point is unarguable, the higher your IQ, the more likely you are to succeed. Some things are obvious, but better left unsaid.
They tried to ask him three questions, maybe there were more on their notepads but clearly becoming bored and irritated with his co-host, Boris stopped playing and refused to answer the third question. The first question was:
A man builds a house with four sides of rectangular construction each having a Southern exposure. A big bear walks by. What is the colour of the bear?
To the delight of the giggling school girl like co-presenter asking the question, Boris said ‘Brown’. You see, this is where word association comes in. Boris wasn’t thinking about why some lunatic would build a house on the North Pole and the likely colour of any passing bear, he was thinking about what he would like to do to his tormentor. So when Boris heard the word ‘bear’, he immediately thought ‘brown bear, brown bread, dead’. The remarkable thing for any psychiatrist is not that Boris apparently gave the wrong answer, (the correct answer being white for a polar bear, the most likely Ursidae one might, under very exceptional circumstances see rooting through the bins of a house erected on the North Pole), but that Boris subconsciously indicated a desire to murder his co-host. Shouldn’t the shrinks employed by Social Services busy themselves obtaining a restraining order and section Boris? I mean, if Boris, clearly off his rocker, suddenly gives vent to his self-confessed homicidal tendencies, surely there will be an enquiry to apportion blame? Why, with all this evidence, did nobody stop him? When it comes to accepting responsibility though, with shoulders like greased milk bottles, I am sure Social Services have that one covered.
Had I been asked the question, I would almost instantly have realized the house must be on the North Pole but would then have spent an appreciable amount of time considering why anyone would want to build a house on the North Pole. There’s no cable TV and the pizzas would be stone cold when delivered. Besides, if the chap is barking enough to build a house where he did, maybe he took his brown bear along as a pet. Or a panda. If he belonged to Green Peace, that would make the whole scenario suddenly plausible and explain why the Chinese were exporting bamboo shoots to the Arctic.
The next question was really daft.
‘If you took two apples from three apples, how many apples would you have?’
Well the answer is bloody obvious isn’t? It’s six. Any London mugger, no matter how low his IQ, knows that if you roll three grannies and score two quid each time, you come away with six quid.
Boris, being a politician looked at it the other way. His answer was one apple. From his perspective, he was perfectly correct. Once you take those two apples, they are consumed, off the books, they are gone. All that is left is one apple. The lonely apple may not exactly belong to him but since when has such a minor technicality prevented a government from digging ever deeper into the pockets of their electorate? Boris clearly has a very high IQ, he’s looking outside the box.
If you have absolutely no imagination whatsoever and consider the ‘correct’ answer to that question as two, you are by clinical definition ideally suited to a repetitive job on a production line.
The third question, the one Boris, by now so frantic his eyes were hunting for any object in the studio sharp enough to slash his own wrists, refused to answer, really demonstrates how far behind reality the people are who set these questions and how low the IQ’s of the people who think they are clever by asking them.
‘I went to bed at eight o’clock in the evening and wound my clock to set the alarm for nine o’clock in the morning. How many hours sleep did I get?’
Asked this I would stare at my interlocutor firmly convinced I was sitting in front of one of Boris’ 16% of the population who he considers morons. The answer these blithering idiots are looking for as a sign of the intelligence that clearly escaped them all their lives is, one hour.
(Dammit, I have just been stung by a bee! Magic. Where there’s bees, there’s wild honey. I’ll get my own back tomorrow)
Who nowadays has even seen an old mechanical 12 hour alarm clock let alone owns one? Anyone clinging to such nostalgia will have done so for some considerable time so would know there would be no sense setting the alarm if one wanted more than twelve hours sleep. I have just checked my alarm clock. I can set it to go off at nine on the morning of the dawn of the next century. It would be really nice if it also had the power to wake me so far into the future. I was born in the fifties but I am techno-savvy enough to know that if I set my digital alarm at eight in the evening for nine the following morning, I will get thirteen hours sleep but anyone who has children will know that thirteen hours sleep, unless you are in a coma, is impossible anyway making the original question irrelevant.
Only a young and very stupid man could have asked that question. Most of us middle aged and beyond have a built in alarm clock. It’s called a dodgy prostrate linked to a full bladder. Thirteen hours uninterrupted sleep, I wish.
No wonder Boris was irritated.
I am irritated. There is a new drug out there that just could help me crack the alcohol problem but because some git with a Doctorate in the Conditioned Behavioural Reflexes of Hamsters Under Stress has decided that we can only have this drug if we spend hours of time and money lying on a blasted couch answering stupid bloody questions or being forced to happy clap and hug complete strangers having spent hours learning how to knit yoghurt, I can’t get my hands on it.
I can’t believe how the State prevents individuals from just sorting themselves out. Why should I end up a burden on the NHS? How could anyone with an IQ vastly inferior to mine (I come in Boris’ top 2% yet still managed to make an enormous fuck up of my life) counsel me?
It’s the doctors who get me. They say if I don’t stop drinking, I will die. Fair enough. If I just stopped, however, they say I would die sooner scrabbling under the bed chasing little green monsters unless I had counselling and loads of drugs. But unless I abandon my business and my family to their then uncertain future and consign myself to dependency on the state, I can’t get counselling.
So how about letting me have a crack at it by myself? I would rather my family witnessed me die trying hard to resolve a problem than see me die miserably because of it.
I close with this:
Q is to O as Cat is to?
This was one of the questions on the IQ test given to potential officer candidates at the Regular Commissions Board in 1983. Einstein would not have been able to answer this. No American could. Asians are brilliant mathematicians but they’d have been stumped as well. I was the only candidate who answered this question correctly but I ask you, is the fact I raced motorcycles on this island and therefore had picked up enough local knowledge in the pub to divine the answer any measure of my intelligence, or suitability to lead men into battle for that matter?
I can understand the reluctance of Doctors to break the rules, fearful as they are of today’s litigious society but if there is an honest bloke, intelligent enough to realize what he is up against, surely an exception could be made? After all, I’m going to die anyway.
I would be forever grateful to anyone who could find me a source of Nalmafene and, as I row away on my rowing machine puffing on my E-Cigarettes thinking more about dinner than alcohol, I would be singing their praises.