Bill Lawless column

Bill Lawless
Bill Lawless

Did I ever tell you about the Australian lorry driver who piloted one of those enormous road trains for zillions of miles around his huge country?

Naturally he was away from home for weeks at a time and lived mainly in his cab.

One weekend he had a stopover in Alice Springs and his first job was to drink a gallon or two of Fosters finest. Then he went to a house of ill-repute, gave madame 500 dollars and said he wanted the roughest, toughest lady in the establishment followed by a meal of burnt pork chops and mushy veg.

‘Listen sport,’ said madame. ‘For 500 dollars you can have the fairest maiden in the house and then a five-course meal with champagne.’

‘Nah lady, you’ve got it wrong,’ said the driver. ‘I’m just homesick.’ I heard that joke from my mate Charlie on new year’s eve and the fact that I remembered it sadly illustrates my decline in performance.

The better the celebration the less you can recall and the really good ones are complete blanks as the memory banks throw a wobbly and say ‘sod this, I’m withdrawing my labour.’

What usually follows is that normal service is resumed about lunchtime on January 3 except in Charlie’s case when if he tries really hard he’ll remain gone with the angels until the morning after twelfth night. Every now and again, though, an event occurs of such significance that it remains locked in the memory, despite the ravages of dementia.

The first stirrings of 1956 saw just such a happening when a deeply drunken Scot set fire to the kitchen of the Glasgow flat in which Hogmanay was being celebrated.

A brief fist fight was taking place because the arsonist tried to put it out with whisky and a saner man was resisting this tactic. Then the host staggered in and lit an enormous spliff from the blazing curtains.

To this day I consider that this was the very essence of cool. Seriously, it made Cool Hand Luke look like an amateur. Exhausted members of the Glasgow Fire Brigade put things out and while I wouldn’t dream of libelling that fine body of men some did appear to be somewhat distressed.

It was probably fatigue – Hogmanay has to be a busy time for Glaswegian firefighters but one or two of the boys did accept large slugs of highland dew and sank them like professionals.

Anyway, I can’t say I will look back on 2013 with any degree of nostalgia. Not only can I remember the birth of 2014 but was tucked up in bed, sober as a newt, before the year was an hour old. I hope the new year will see a non-surgical cure for piles and for the regeneration of my liver and various other lights.