It’s a crying shame the pubs are closed here in Britain. One of my favorite pastimes is whiling away hours listening to the cider-sodden theories of affable, and perhaps mental, people.
Those who clot outside the pub as the morning breaks aren’t usual, or boring. You wouldn’t call them ordinary. Less discerning newspapers call them “problem drinkers.” Which, on the head of it, is true. They imbibe problems.
Their skin has that “borrowed” quality hewn through decades of service to the sauce, and the repeated iniquities their vocation bears. They’re far better company than anyone with LinkedIn Premium.
They have better names and better stories. Dai “The Milk.” Wayne “Brains.” Their problems are of interest. They might fix that leaking head gasket, only for their latest squeeze to have been caught working to supplement her welfare check. Their lives are dirty and real. Each day a vignette, and far deeper in substance than the contrived waffle passing for modern literature.
These problems lubricate their days. Solved only when another shuffles in sight ready to occupy the remarkable energies of its host.
I do wonder if these problems are contrived to enliven an otherwise dull life. Most of us lead lives of quiet desperation. We are hardwired for story. Perhaps, some like to live theirs out.
Here in Great Britain, we call these noble rogues “characters.” The character is the warp and weft of a fraying fabric sanitized by smoking bans and the LinkedIn guy’s sourdough.
The great British pub, “dying on its arse,” as the character would say, harbors fewer such characters with each shutter of the doors. The smoking ban did it. Guardian-types who don’t like pubs and lose their erections in worry that someone somewhere might be connected beyond the realms of missionary, deemed the character, and his pub, a curiosity.
A character is someone you like, despite his very human misgivings, his mild madness. One character of a pub I used to frequent told me that not only was the moon landing faked, he doubted there was a moon to land upon. “All bollocks, if you ask me.” He also, in the smoking area, made conversation with a pigeon named Stephen. One could sense Stephen understood the vague mutterings.
The character, by definition, is benign. The ying to this yang is that of the “nutter.” Nutters look like characters on the surface.
Both are broken. One is enlivened, enhanced by his scars. Like the Japanese art of kintsugi, in which broken ceramics are reformed, the cracks joined back together with liquid gold. Each piece of art is unique, its scars a quality to display, not regret.
The litmus test to discern a nutter comes with words like “Zionist.” My unofficial research finds that anyone uttering such a word has an 87 percent chance of being mental, souring—a nutter.
Conspiracy theories, this week, abound. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, beat his 50-50 chance of surviving the coronavirus.
This news is too much for some to bear. After hoping in public that the prime minister would not see his unborn child, those on the conspiracy Left now claim it was all a hoax.
Yes. A cranky “news” website, The Dorset Eye, published claims that two doctors treating Boris were forced to sign the Official Secrets Act after doubting he had COVID-19.
Twitter, being Twitter, detonated. That’s despite the doctors in question being named as “Shirley Knott” and “Ashleigh Pullin.” Someone is a pullin’ your leg. Surely, not?
That website, which waffles on about “Zionists” and other made-up maladies, later added a note claiming the post as satire. Not before “Official Secrets Act” trended on Twitter.
And not before Andi Fox, the chair of Labour’s powerful ruling body, the National Executive Committee, retweeted the quite obvious nonsense.
Fox, an ally of the now-defunct Jeremy Corbyn, later claimed she made the post by accident.
Perhaps, the sight of Boris thanking by name each of the doctors and nurses he accredits with saving his life, was too much to take for those convinced Tories are evil, and puppets of “Zionists.” By which, of course, they mean Jews.
The nuttery creeps across the cognitive spectrum. Marcus Ball, a professional attention seeker, and anti-Brexit campaigner, announced he’d submitted a Freedom of Information request to St. Thomas Hospital to unearth the “truth” of Boris’s recovery which he deems “too perfect.”
It seems the nutters are suffering with a bout of Boris Derangement Syndrome—an affliction the relentless symptoms of which you’ll be all too familiar in America.
Yes, the prime minister’s opponents, much like those of the president’s, allege themselves to be of the smart set. Brexit voters, Trump voters, are easily fooled and easily led.
Remember the Russia story? Yes, it did happen. Swaths of people were Salem-ed with the tale Vladimir Putin had helped President Trump hoodwink past Hillary Clinton and into the White House.
Once in place, President Trump’s agenda apparently involved boosting the best American economy for fifty years, raising the lot of the worst-off, and reasserting America’s position as world leader. This was all a Russian plot. Or something.
I guess if one believes that, (and many British and Americans did and do) then the fable of Boris faking his illness is entirely plausible. After all, they laughed at Brexit and scoffed at President Trump.
The problem for the nutters is manifest. The Conservatives, and Boris, are more popular than ever. A full 54 percent would vote Conservative tomorrow. After this settles, President Trump looks likely to enjoy another four years.
And the virus which almost killed one, and threatened to derail the presidency of another, is flattening. This week, Austria and Denmark announced a slow thawing of lockdown freeze. Spain, too.
The Swedish “experiment” in not house-arresting millions of people and shuttering the economy, might just be vindicated. They might show us how to live post-lockdown.
The Swedes have a nasty habit of getting things right. And theirs is the only place in Europe right now where one can enjoy a pint. I’d bet their characters have a few things to say about all this.