A Better Class of Drunks

The English have a great many colourful expressions for “very drunk indeed” – legless, rat-arsed, drunk as a skunk, pissed as a newt, Brahms and Lizt. The Spanish only have one that I know of, but they have at least five words for “party”, which is one reason why I live in Spain.

Although they must consume much more alcohol per person, they seem to get drunk less often. Maybe it’s just that I’m older now, and my habits and friends are different, but whereas many Brits drink to get rip-roaring drunk, the Spanish seem to drink to get relaxed and talkative.

They have perfected the art of getting just drunk enough, in spite of the portions they serve. In the UK, spirits are heavily taxed and served in precise thimble-fulls. One friend, visiting La Palma, was disappointed to see spirits were the same price as the UK, but decided to treat himself anyway. The barman plonked down a brandy balloon-glass and sloshed away. My friend gawped at this giant drink – three times the size of a British pub measure. Whereupon the barman looked sheepish and added an extra glug. One glass of spirits here will put you over the legal limit for driving.

Of course many teenagers go through a stage of drinking too much, but they seem to grow out of it sooner. This seems odd, because alcohol is so pervasive. Or maybe that’s precisely the reason. It must be hard to feel excited and rebellious about drinking wine when it’s a normal part of the groceries.

Naturally there are exceptions, but you very rarely see a bar brawl, or even bad temper. My favourite was the drunk I met in a backstreet one lunchtime. He staggered up to me, a little old man, unshaven and smelling strongly of rum.

“Oh no!” I thought.

“Leonardo Da Vinci …” he slurred. “Leonardo da Vinci said …” He waved an admonishing finger at me and continued,. “said … that if you wear red, it makes you look pale; it washes you out. Hic!”

He swayed, and had to step backwards not to fall. “But if you wear orange, it puts colour in your fashe. Makes you beautiful.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. He evidently thought I didn’t believe the content, rather than the messenger. He pulled himself up to his full, unimpressive height “I’m an artist. Hic! I know these things.” He swayed like seaweed in a current, trying to pick up the thread of his thoughts.

“And I just wanted to say… Just wanted to say…” He stood in thought for a bit, then abruptly beamed, “…how very nice you look in that orange dress.”

I stood there with my mouth open.

“You understand me?”

I nodded, speechless and delighted.

“Good.” Then he blew me a kiss and zigzagged away up the street.

Yes. They definitely have a better class of drunks in the Canaries.

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