Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 7 January 2012

‘Come with me,’ said the barmaid, ‘to a party.’ It was around three and she was trying to close the pub and get everyone out. She seemed to be the one person in a hundred who was maintaining a degree of sanity. The other barmaid, for example, could hardly stand up. The sensible barmaid organised a carry-out of bottled lager for me — she’d had enough for one night and couldn’t get out of there quickly enough — and we went to the party.

I’d spent most of the evening in a pub down the road where everyone was partying on drugs as well as being alcohol drunk. You could tell by the way the pandemonium had a soft edge. Partying druggies can be almost Unitarian in their prevailing spirit of disinterested benevolence, affability, complaisance and candour. Two separate people said to me, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ But I think they were referring light-heartedly to the fact that I was at least twice as old as everybody else and wearing a suit.

In this pub’s beer garden I’d encountered Tom by chance. It must have been around midnight during what was starting to feel like a New Year’s Eve riot. Tom was on coke, which had had a noticeably sedative effect on him. People were dancing frenetically all around us to music coming from the outdoor speakers. Tom then introduced me to his partner’s brother, who now also materialised in the midst of the bouncing crowd.

This guy, a Scot, was calmness itself. It struck you. It was in the eyes that you saw it first. They weren’t darting about like a fool’s. They were wonderfully unperturbed. Next you clocked the unafraid body language. Impressed, I asked him what drugs he was on.

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