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Dying for a drink

We wish all our subscribers, friends and readers a very happy Christmas and look forward to a happy New Year. While we do so may we pause to remember those who left us this year and if you wish to, raise a parting glass (moderately) to absent friends…

Two men died last month, they both lived in Arlington House though one was recuperating from a serious illness in an assessment centre. They were both Irish emigrants in their 60’s and they were both long term heavy drinkers whose bodies had suffered terribly as a result.

Each had lived in their own single room in the hostel for over twenty years with many other Irish men fond of a drink although one had recently been forced to give up alcohol due to his lack of mobility. The other ones mobility was severely limited by leg ulcers and a heart condition and he almost lost his leg on several occasions but he always managed to get out of the hostel every day particularly to Regents park where he loved to see the flowers in the summer and where he liked to drink his cans of Special Brew (the Danish super strength lager that is brewed in Copenhagen but is not available there because of the recognised danger to the health of drinkers).

In earlier years he could be seen all over London while the other one could find his way to his family home in the Angel but couldn’t find his way from Camden Town to Kentish Town. One was painfully thin and the other one was very large though neither ate very much.

One had returned to his native Dublin on several occasions with Aisling and the other never made it back to Connemara during all of his years in England. Although Aisling worked hard with him to plan a return he was always fearful of his reception back home afraid for one thing that the police may have still been looking for him after he assaulted a police officer years ago and he got off with the charge thanks to his father spending a fortune on a very expensive lawyer.

This man’s father died 30 years ago but he was still a huge influence on his son, still dominating his life so many years later. The other man’s father died earlier this year but his brothers decided not to tell him and asked us not to either while he was ill. We suspect he knew anyway as he kept asking if his father was alive and we told him he would have to ask his brothers.

One of them had been a warehouse manager and the other travelled the country working on various building sites and was once a gardener in the House of Lords.

Both came from large families and one was married but long time separated from his wife with a son and daughter who he saw occasionally and the other had a son in Birmingham he talked of often but had never seen. Two lives, two very different stories of emigration yet both ending in the same sad place of exile.