I haven't written about The Spread yet, my local pub. The Clicker was always there. Probably in his 70s, originally from Ireland, a prodigious drinker.
All my friends in this city come from that pub. That's nearly true. I have a few others now, but not many whom I know in the real world rather than on Facebook or some other social network.
I love pubs, I love them even now I'm sober. If I was self-medicating for anxiety with alcohol then the pub was my hospital ward. The Spread was a good local - all sorts of people crossed paths in there, we were (and they are) like a family, people looked out for each other.
The Spread isn't fashionable or smart, it's an old-fashioned working-man's boozer. They've occasionally done Sunday lunches, but it's not about food, it's about drinking.
I'm a bookish, solitary sort of person without alcohol. I'd never have met the people I met in The Spread if I hadn't been a problem drinker. I put my hours in. Some of them are now close friends, though of course I don't see them.
There's no doubt that a lot of The Spread's regulars would probably be classed as medically-problematic drinkers. Few of them, I think, would reckon that to be the case. I don't think any of them fall apart in the way that I do when I drink, even though I was never the biggest drinker there, not even close.
Most of them are very happy in their routine and I for one don't feel the need to criticise them. The idea of drinking the Government's 21 units a week would make them laugh; that's a day's drinking, or the start of one. In many cases it's generational, they're old men (it's an almost exclusively male environment) who believe that's what you do - you finish work and go to the pub, if you have a day off then you go to the pub.
The Clicker fitted in there beautifully, and like most of the people he made me welcome. That's what I wanted most from my drinking, I wanted to feel normal and liked.
Early last year the Clicker had a fall and had to get about in a wheelchair. He was pushed around by friends from The Spread, principally by Mustard, who I think will be very badly hit by his death.
I've heard he died asleep in his chair at home after a big night out. That's probably a peaceful and appropriate way to go.
No-one drank more than The Clicker. He was famous/notorious for it, even among The Spread's regulars, all of whom can put it away. But no-one was more encouraging to me when I went sober. "Fair play to you," he'd say when I saw him and we talked about it. One morning I was heading off to my office job, full of the joys of sobriety and a beautiful day, when I bumped into him and Mustard, probably heading into town and one of the early opening pubs there. "You look wonderful," he said, adding "look at the cunt go!" to Mustard as I bounded up the road.
Five people from The Spread have died in the last year or so. All of them old enough that it's fairly unremarkable. All of them had made me - a very different sort of person - very welcome and I'll miss a couple of them in particular. They all felt part of a surrogate family that I had and that now I've lost. Everyone I know from there would say hello to me in the street, few other people do that.
What this means for my sobriety I don't know. I loved that world - knowing who'd be there and when ("that's so-and-so's seat", "he's in late today") - and it's left a big hole. I haven't really been going in The Spread lately. It's massively cut down my social life, but I don't feel that I'll stay safely sober for too long if I go in there, it's just too tempting to want to lose an afternoon to sitting there safe and glowing, reading, chatting.
I'd love to be there now. And I'd love to be drunk there now. It's tough still, you see. While I'm pleased to be sober, I miss being drunk terribly (or terribly drunk). Of course, going to the pub on a Sunday afternoon would be fine. If I did it, I'd come back drunk. Not falling down drunk, but not a-couple-of-beers happy either - properly drunk. I'd probably go tomorrow too, to drink away the hangover, to spend the afternoon there, the place where I've had some of the calmest and happiest times of my life.
To the Clicker a fond farewell. I shall raise a non-alcoholic glass to him tonight.