One thing I’ve got back since I stopped drinking alcohol (apart from a myriad of different elements of the normal human physical and mental condition, of which I was never aware were missing when I drank but now prize so highly) is logical thinking.
In the old days I used to be, on occasion, slightly nuts. I hesitate to spill the beans about this following revelation, as when I recall the night’s events I cannot quite believe that I am one and the same person, and it makes me sound somewhat, well, mad.
One Sunday evening, incredibly hungover from the night before and fuzzily drunk after sinking several glasses of hair-of-the-dog wine during the course of the afternoon and early evening, I found myself alone at home and fancying a cigarette. It was autumn and already dark by about 8pm when I stepped onto the threshold of my kitchen door and lit up. At the time, I lived in a tiny terraced house which had no garden, front or back, but a miniscule yard that backed onto a dark alleyway. This concrete space was encased with high brick walls, one of which featured a solid wooden gate which opened into the passage that run the breadth of the terraced row. The only way into the yard (other than through the gate which was kept locked) was via the kitchen door.
As I stood huddled in pyjamas and woolly cardigan puffing long trails of smoke into the chilly air, my gaze came to rest on a mysterious hump in the corner of the backyard. The low light that span out through the kitchen window blinds did not reveal much, but enough to make me arrive at the conclusion that this strange huddle, barely concealed behind a few straggly fronds of ivy, was a capybara.
Yes, you read correctly – I actually imagined that the world’s largest rodent, native to South America and relative of the chinchilla and guinea pig, was having a little sit down in the corner of my backyard a few miles out of Sheffield city centre.
Alarmed and (incredibly, I know) frightened, I slowly retreated into the house, closing the door softly so as not to disturb the beast, and called my brave friend in order that he might pop round to sort my little problem out.
When he arrived half an hour later, I hustled him through the house, pushed him urgently through the back door and pointed him in the direction of the capybara. Unsurprisingly, he was laughing quite a lot by this stage, and for want of a better phrase, completely ridiculing me. Torch in hand, he flicked the switch and the shady yard was suddenly flooded with a glaring light.
In the corner, semi-hidden by the ivy, was a large rock which I had apparently never noticed in the few months that I had lived there.