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21st May 2005

Alone for the week, the wife in Canada, I do the first thing I can think of and find myself in the lounge drinking Stella Artois, naked, playing video games. Well, I am only human.

I enjoy this greatly.

Without the structure that a couple-life imposes upon you, my routine quickly reverts to bachelordom, illustrated well by a breakfast made from left over curry, chips, rice, chilli and egg, mashed up, fried and eaten with Brown Sauce (fairly stodgy and not to be repeated incidentally).

I spend the morning in Stereo, Games, computer shops and Matalan (which is a shop ever full of men without their girlfriends), take a pint and then head home for an oven-baked meal washed down with cans of lager whilst playing Playstation games.

Bored of my day now, I embark on a pub crawl (after a few glasses of wine and watching Dr Who).

On the street I find I'm already quite tipsy after all the lager and wine. My stomach grumbles portentously, offended by the new diet it has been given.

My pub-crawl plan is to drink in pubs that I've never been in before, and where I can get a seat. It is Saturday night, so this means that I end of walking a while before I find one, which sobers me up slightly.

First stop: The Prince of Wales, an unassuming, tiny pub. I order a pint of tasty Spitfire and sit alone, staring out of the window at girls dressed in mini-skirts and cleavage, laughing and staggering about in large groups.

Depression falls over me and I sit in quiet desperation, mulling over the nature of mankind, the ills of society, my own failings in life, the peeling paintwork of the skirting boards, the cobweb on the lamp.

Then a jolly red-faced man asks me for a light, which I supply, and he thanks me heartily and give me a big cheeky grin before returning to his table. I watch them for a while, he sits with two girls, both chubby and extremely happy. They talk about crap in an unintelligent manner, and laugh like hell. They seem very content.

All at once my spirits lift and I unaccountably decide that the world is, in fact, good.

My god, I think, the world is actually more good than bad! This seems like a revelation in a way that only drunks experience. (In fact, when I get home that night I make a point of writing it on the front page of Ralpharama - it is still there.)

As I look around I see furious life, laughing faces, emotional scenes, the vigour of it all fills me up and makes me gulp down my pint in happiness.

(I just re-read Candide, which I blame for all this up-and-down nonsense])

Feeling better I walk on the next pub. I move through the throngs of summer-clad idiots with a grin on my face. They accept me as one of their own and smile and shout as I walk by.

I walk down streets, alleys, roads and lanes until I come across a pub I never before saw.

It seems to be full of terribly camp people, all mincing around and listening to the Eurovision Song Contest on the radio. Terry Wogan at full volume in a pub is somewhat unexpected.

I order a generic bitter and retire to a distant stool to scribble more thoughts of mankind in my black book in a doctor-like scrawl. As I write, and sip, I look around at the pictures of old film stars and Queen (not the Queen mind). It's very quiet for a Saturday night.

I drink up and am heading out of the door when a strange urge pulls me to the bar and I find myself ordering another beer, and sitting on a stool there..

Czech singers yodel enthusiastically as I drink another pissy pint of Youngs bitter.

The barman does his best to cheer me up by flirting with me and rubbing my hand, but it can't be helped - I'm sliding back into a down.

'What the hell am I doing alone in this crap pub at 10pm on a Saturday?' I ask myself, and have no answers. I go to the bathroom and upon my return there's a man reading a soft-core gay porn mag at the bar. I feel sad and leave.

The pub? I asked before I left - The Aquarium.

I walk the streets, and actually enter, walk through, and leave a couple of pubs, which are both heaving with people in the later stages of drunkenness, which repels me now, as I myself stagger homewards.

I have a last pint in the Eddy, where I watch a barmaid do magic tricks for intoxicated young men. I have to seriously bite my tongue to stop myself becoming involved. I feel uncomfortable in the pub, though it's nice enough. I just want to get home I suppose.

The next morning I'm surprised to find the toasted sandwich maker all greasy (and thankfully turned off). Yet more evidence of my descent of man. The wife returns on Sunday, hopefully I won't be too ape-like by then.