I'm now in my late forties, and in all my working life there have only been four people I've regarded as not just workmates, but as friends. H kept me on the straight and narrow in many ways; he'd been through the drinking life himself, and he came out the other side, so he knew the score. I owed him big time, and I tried to repay him when he needed it (more on that later). H was my main man.
One of my other friends was C who was, shall we say, a unique character. The man didn't care about anything except enjoying his own life to the full, and he had some great stories to tell. When you were working with C, you always knew you were going to have a good night.
G was liked by everyone but I had worked with him longer than anyone else, and we had some great laughs together over the years. We did some good work together too. He wasn't just liked, he was respected because when the pressure was on he could deliver the goods. A very capable, kind hearted man.
I knew M years ago, when I was newly sober, and was trying to straighten my life out after a hugely destructive past. A fantastic quine, funny and lighthearted, and smart too. I thought the world of her, I really did. We enjoyed working together, and we saw one another outside work as well. One evening she came in and without preamble, or a prior mention, announced that she was getting married to some gadgie from up the coast. I let myself feel that for a moment, then I stopped myself from feeling anything. I still knew how to do that. In due course, M left the firm I worked for, and although I thought about her sometimes, at this point in my story, M hadn't been part of my life for several years.
Returning to the narrative then: I was working with G one Saturday, and he asked if I wanted to go on a trip to London to see Deep Purple play at Hammersmith. Before I knew it, he'd booked tickets, and we were good to go. We met up at Dyce Airport one morning not long after, and flew down to Gatwick. G had booked a couple of rooms at a Premier Inn just along the road from the venue. In the middle of my alcoholic craziness, anything would have been possible on a trip like this, and once under way, I could have ended up anywhere from Edinburgh to Stavanger. I thought about that as we rode the tube into the city, but I couldn't muster any enthusiasm at all. Although that kind of craziness had left me, a new kind of problem had arisen in my mind. As Jack Bauer used to say, I had gone dark. I needed solitude, and tried to separate myself from the world as much as I could. I hardly spoke, apart from the bare essentials with G, who was worried about me. One of the reasons I agreed to fly to London was because I knew what I'd been doing was no good, and music usually managed to connect me to the world again.
The gig was at one of the oldest established venues in the country, and the band were a right bunch of grey hairs as well. They knew how to play real music though. There's nothing like a live gig, with actual musicians practicing their craft. They went through their repertoire, even playing Space Truckin' which was a real highlight, and the concert had the desired effect; I came out of there feeling okay.
The London trip wasn't over yet though. We had another day down there; our flight didn't leave Gatwick till evening. So there was a day in the city to look forward to. I didn't know it yet, but I was approaching my fulcrum, the philosophical turning point in my life.
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