By Ally Craig
Just recently, I have been going to a wee gathering every Wednesday night, with like-minded individuals who share a sort of common purpose.
We are all people who have experienced difficulties, to a varying degree, with alcohol and the causes and effects associated with the various problems we have experienced in our own individual ways.
The group is an extremely diverse one, ranging in age from teenage to borderline pensioner and from an equally diverse social background.
We all go there knowing we will find good food, good company and a good time, cor blimey, and ne’er a drop passing the proverbial lips.
This is something of a re-educative process for many of us, who came to associate the consumption of alcohol with all human social exchanges.
Speaking personally, it’s been quite a revelation to me to find that this is NOT NECESSARILY THE CASE!!!!????|||** Well, you live and learn.
So it’s Wednesday night at the drop-in.
The women who run the organisation set up an evening’s entertainment for the clients, who filter in one by one from their respective corners of the universe, getting coffees, teas, asking what’s for dinner.
Taste of the World
Every week an ‘International Cuisine of the Week’ is chosen and we have food approximating varying famous dishes from this country.
This week it’s China.
Various little statues of Buddha, pictures of dragons, candles, incense and a pack of “Tao” divinatory cards – like tarot, but more philosophical – brighten up the normally very functional room.
Mags, the ‘boss’, if that’s the right word, arrives with the food…one of the bonuses of this whole set-up.
Sometimes it’s a take-away – although the staff’s efforts are every bit as good as their ‘professional’ rivals.
Let’s say a little about the clientele, as it were.
Tonight we have ‘The Quiet Man,’ obvious how he got that name really, doesn’t say much at all; ‘Captain Hatstand,’ who is very voluble, maybe a bit too voluble, who has a surrealistic sense of humour which never fails to cause hilarity.
Then there is ‘The Travelling Man’, who has been all around the world and back, and would have more stories to tell if only he could remember them and ‘Sunny Jim’ a teenager just come back from a fishing trip – quite reticent, but bright enough.
Plus your intrepid reporter, a notorious bletherskite and show-off of global proportions. Various other bodies are presently being counselled in other parts of the building.
Quiz Champ Extraordinaire
With the food eaten, fags smoked, coffees replenished we are into the main event – the quiz, with major prizes to be won…The subject of the quiz is the same as the country whose food we have just put away.
Well, to cut a long story short, the quiz is quizzed, I win AGAIN, tempers flare, names are called, fights break out, blood is spilled. No, seriously, I win a box of incense sticks and everybody enjoys themselves.
As the evening winds down, some of the clients draw one of the ‘Tao’ cards, getting their meanings from the accompanying booklet.
One, drawn by Captain Hatstand, says:
“Remember to bend in the wind
Like Rushes –
For that which is too hard will break
And that which is too soft will fold.”
Captain Hatstand yields a sigh: “Well that just about sums me up.”
I, and a number of others, fall apart – it is the way he tells them, when he tries it doesn’t work, he’s a natural comedian.
Just as I’m about to leave, Mags invites the group for a day trip to Inveraray. “Hud me back,” was what I sort of replied. Total Bonus!
As I reflect on all that goes on at these wee gatherings, I feel really good that I can get along and take part with a bunch of relative strangers and feel good about it.
You never know where that first step can take you…