We had a really good time. It was perhaps not the best timing being that it was right after the tour had finished and I had been drinking every day for three weeks. To say I was tired would be understating things a bit...anyway, we went there, along with my mum and sister and her boyfriend Nick. We had a great time and of course, the first night we all got pretty pissed, except mum. I went to bed that first night, in a bit of a state, having seen in my dad's birthday with him at the Molotov Bar, drinking shots and singing Happy Birthday to him. My dad was pretty choked up. It was great being there with him. Although the beer flowed for most of the following couple of days the drunkeness thankfully didn't again reach the height of that first night there.
The Beatles museum was pretty cool too.
So, after a very pleasant but pretty wet weekend in Hamburg, I came home. Since then I've been working back in the bar and spending my free days in the flat, hiding from the wretched cold of Swedish winter.
Probably time to take things a little easy for a while. The trouble with that is that I'm in a bit of a thirsty period, where a beer after work each night feels good. Well earned. It is after all, the way in which I've grown up in England. You work, you have pint afterwards and talk shit with your mates, you go home. No getting drunk, just a beer or two before you head home. I'm liking that right now.
Ironically, as a bartender, it is my responsibilty to look after the guests and see to it that they don't become intoxicated in my bar, on my watch if you like. There is a great level of seriousness about this in Stockholm. The authorities crack down hard on bars here. There have been horror stories of bartenders being fined and even thrown in the can for over-serving their guests. Extreme cases obviously, but it has happened.
It's a stark contrast to how things are back home in Corby. At the Rock, my dad's beloved local, I've seen old men passed out asleep at their table, nobody even botehering to check on them. In fact, I've seen the landlord off his tits on a regular basis. If the cops came in there and had a go at them, they'd get laughed out of the place.
Maybe it's like that in other small towns in Sweden too? It most probably is. In Stockholm though, when you're working in a bar you carry that responsibilty on your shoulders. It was worse at Debaser, a bigger club with younger punters looking to get fucked up a lot of the time. There was a always a tension about over-serving people there. It's not as bad at Snotty's where the punters are for the most part, older regulars, who are there to hang out and talk about music.
There are times, now and again, when you have to tell someone they've had enough and it's time to go home. Normally it's not an issue, they'll just take the hint and go. Some will look a bit put out by it but normally they're sensible enough to listen to you.
It is in fact, grossly ironic, that I, someone who has just been on tour getting drunk each night for three weeks, find myself standing in the bar telling some pissed punter that they've had enough and it's time to go. In my thirty one years, I have been beyond fucked on more than a few occasions. Maybe there should have been someone doing my job and stopping me before I got there, although I would have most probably found a way to drink myself stupid despite all efforts to stop me.
There was a young guy in the bar last week, who came in with some works party around midnight. He necked something like four shots in the space of ten minutes. He wasn't that drunk but he was oviously looking too be. I told him that I wasn't serving him any more, that I wasn't going to be a part of his mission to get fucked. He looked completely insulted. I had to stand there and listen to him babble on for about fifteen minutes, him explaining to me exaclty how he wasn't drunk and why I should serve him until he was. There's me, telling him that I ain't gonna serve him into the darkness and he's asking me sarcastically, if I've ever been drunk. If only he knew...
It's funny to stand on the sober side of the bar and watch the booze work it's black magic. If somebody comes in and spends the night, you get to see their entire journey. It's weird standing there sober, watching a punters' drunkeness develop. You start the night having a perfectly civil conversation with them and then by the time you close the bar they're drunk and talking shit at you. You would think it would be evidence enough to make you quit drinking...
There was a girl in the bar last week. She was sat the bar drinking, seemingly on her own at first. She's been in a couple of times in the past, I remembered that she speaks English. I think she might be Irish..anyway, she's sitting there having a couple of beers and chatting to various people. All very composed. After a while she get's hooked up with these other guys who come to the bar quite regularly. Linus seems to know them and thinks they're ok, although I think they are a bit of a pain in the ass.
She's chatting away with these guys and the drinks start flowing a little quicker. After a while I notice that she's starting to look at me in that way. It gets to the point where I'm trying not to make eye contact with her. I don't always feel too comfortable with that kind of attention. After another beer or so, she calls me over and asks my name. I engage in a short conversation with her. She tells me her name is Heidi and she's from Finland and that she likes my tattoos. Cool. Then she starts telling me that she works for MTV as a translator and that she's lived all over the place. She loves England. She asks me what I'm doing living in Sweden and I tell her that my wife is from here. The conversation sort of fizzles out after that.
She carries on drinking with these guys and she starts to get louder. By the time we turn the lights up and start emptying the bar she's pretty fucking drunk.
”Gabriel! Gabriel!” She's shouting. I think she means me...”Linus! Linus!”...
Linus goes about cleaning the bar whilst I cash up the register. It takes a while to clear the bar out but most people finally slunk off. Heidi however, is in no mood to go. Before long she's actually walked in behind the bar and is trying to talk to me whilst I'm counting the cash. I can't be arsed with this. I try to guide her out of the bar and she's hugging on to me, trying to whisper in my ear. I guide her out of the bar and she turns to walk into the kitchen.
”Other way Heidi, left, not right” I tell her.
”What was that?” she says. ”What were you going to say?”.
”I wasn't going to say anything. I was telling you not to go into the kitchen. That it's time to go”.
She then comes back to me and puts her arm around my waist. She's drunk and frighteningly strong. I pull her away and tell her it's time to go.
”Don't you fucking forget who I work for!”
What. The. Fuck? What a ridiculous thing to say. As if I care who she works for. She's heard that both Linus and I play in bands and I guess she thinks that an MTV translator is probably a contact we should be grateful for. If I'd had more energy I would have explained to her that she could not be more wrong if she thought my band was the slightest bit interested in M fucking TV! But as it is, I reply ”Very good” and tell her to get out.
All this in the space of an hour. Booze is indeed an evil bastard sometimes. She went from being a perfectly pleasant person to being an absolute twat in the space of an hour. I guess her head was hurting the day after.
That I look down on her and this behaviour and shake my head patronisingly is of course, an absolute joke. I've been there and far worse so many times since I was a teenager. I've even sat around after work at Debaser in the past, drinking myself into oblivion after a long hard shift, having told people along the way that they'd ”had enough”.
Fuck, just this Monday gone, my close friend Patrik, who plays guitar in my band Battle of Santiago, was at the bar drinking. He'd had a meal there with an old friend of his and they'd sat around drinking for a while afterwards. When his friend left, Patrik stayed on at the bar. I was playing a Rapeman record at the time and he was in the mood to stay and listen to some good music. He ended up pretty pissed and I had to tell him not to drink anymore. We've been fucking boats together on more than one occasion! He just laughed at me.
As a barman in Sweden you are supposed to prevent people from getting to the point where they are drunk. This is of course impossible, unless you limit everybody to two drinks per night each. You can tell someone they've had enough and cut them off when they are at that point, but how the fuck are you supposed to gage when to say stop to someone, before they're drunk? I once heard a cop say to a bouncer at Debaser that a certain drunken individual there that night, should have been cut off about eight pints before. Eight pints? Are you joking mate? If I drink eight pints I'm fucked so if that's the measuring stick then I should not drink at all! It's just not logical.
It's good being back home and at work for a while, with no immediate plans. It's cold. It's still snowing and the temeperature is still well below zero. It's nice to be home with the family, have a bit of routine back, working, earning money and looking forward to the summer. Badminton with Frippe on Fridays, weekends free. There is a pile of lps sitting around at home that still need to be listened to before they are placed on the shelves in their correct alphabetical order. Life as I like it. I'm also enjoying the odd sip of whiskey here, a glass of wine there. Not getting drunk, just enjoying the odd drink now and then.
As my friend James Finlay once said, ”We're from Corby, it's in our genes.”
I think he is most probably right.