It was on a visit to my mothers 'friend' Fergie when I was probably fourteen years old, that I took my first drink of whisky. I recall the experience as fiery, and that it burned my throat. The glowing after effect however, was very pleasant indeed. I don't think I realised then that if I continued to drink, the glow would become drunkenness. But I quickly discovered that was the case. It was Fergies fault. That's my excuse.
I enjoyed being drunk. Or perhaps I ought to say, I enjoyed the lack of responsibility that being drunk gave me. Hell, you can act like a complete idiot when you are drunk. It doesn't matter. You can do what you like when you are drunk. You are invincible.
|Craiginches prison. Aberdeen.|
When my stepfather Jimmy died from cancer in 1964 it hit me badly. I don't know why. I wasn't aware that he was that important to me. We had our ups and downs him and I. Mostly downs, I thought. Perhaps, and I am only surmising here, I saw his death as one more giant disappointment on the road to normality. Mum would have to leave the house, she had tried to make a home. Another safe haven gone for me. Or maybe he was more of a father figure to me than I realised. Whatever was going on in my head, and to this day I don't know the answer, I was terribly sad and upset, that he was no longer there. That's my excuse for what happened next.
A few days after the funeral, I found a bottle of whisky in the sideboard. I drank a lot of it. I got very drunk. I got loud mouthed, arsy little b*****d drunk. I upset a lot of people. The police were upset too. They arrested me. The procurator fiscal was upset. He told the Sheriff that I had been given enough chances. The Sheriff agreed with him and remanded me in custody. So unfair! After all, the thing is, I was drunk. That's my excuse.
Craiginches prison, Aberdeen, was a dark dismal and frightening place. I was not so tough now, but these convicts around me were. Seven days I spent in that place on remand. Seven days of worrying that I might be sentenced to a longer term there. Seven days of praying to God that He would make the Sheriff treat me leniently. Amazing how religious I would become in times of trouble. Seven days of feeling sorry for myself. Seven days thinking of excuses.
My sentence was a years probation. My probation officer was a really, genuinely nice man. Tough when necessary, but also fair. I don't think he saw me as a criminal, more as a youngster with a troubled mind. We talked a lot and I used to actually look forward to seeing him. I even spent time with him and his family. I was lucky to have him as my probation officer. I was getting on to the straight and narrow. But I was no paragon of virtue.
There were still a few lapses to come from me. Even, I'm sad to say, more prison time. Always the drink was involved. Another excuse. Crikey, I must have been a slow learner! Either that or incredibly stubborn. I was not unintelligent, but it did take me a long time to cotton on to the fact, that nobody was forcing me to get drunk. That's my excuse.