GEORGE CONOLEY IS a functioning alcoholic—with the emphasis on functioning. And he insists—not always an alcoholic. Being brought up on the school of hard knocks principle has not done George any favours. Now he is a perfectly honed example of a middle-aged, lonely, unlovely, and unlovable human being. He swears like a drunken trooper (genetic he says) with his favourite expression by far being that life’s not worth a crock of shit.
Twice married and twice divorced and with no current significant other or fixed abode, things are not looking too good for the lad off the Langford Estate. When the story begins, George is travelling from his hometown in Eastbourne on the South Coast to Chavsville in the North of England. He never wanted to do the damn trip anyway, but with redundancy staring him in the face what choice did he have?
Chavsville is a place best driven through quickly with the windows up, the doors locked tight, and no valuables on display.
Everything not already boarded-up appears to be heading that way. Closing-Down - Everything Must Go - and 90% Discount signs are everywhere; it’s depressing and despairing with an all-over sense of nothing good happening here.
It’s a hard, miserable place, overpopulated with tattooed Toughs and barely-legal females vying for the attention of the Toughs, both sexes ready to fight to the death should mating be off the menu—charming. The Chavsville Tourist & Information Bureau has a job on its hands, and no mistake.
Then there is Stan Mellie, and about as far removed from functioning as it’s possible to get. Smelly, thanks to that unfortunate coupling of ‘S’ with Mellie, is either emphatically ignored or just ridiculed in Chavsville. Once married and once divorced and out of work for the past three years. Like George, things are not going well for him. Smelly meets his fellow protagonist in The Yelping Whelp public house on the eve of his upcoming big Four-O birthday.
During this match made in heaven, drink-sozzled session, some common ground is discovered and nurtured, and Smelly and George get on like a house on fire. At first, their bond is based on nothing more substantial than both being near-hopeless drunkards. Setting aside the economic and cultural line separating the grimy North from the affluent South, they realise they have much in common and a friendship looks set to blossom.
Alas, like almost all one-night stands (regardless of gender or location), when George’s job interview and hoped-for lifeline falls flat, the friendship ends before it’s begun and George heads back south. The embryonic friendship quickly forgotten, and life for George Conoley (even more sure now that life is indeed not worth a crock of shit) goes on. For Smelly, a badly bungled attempt at suicide, and a near-death experience followed by almost the real thing, brings remarkable, even miraculous, changes.
Stan, the lucky recipient of the makeover to end all makeovers, arises from the ashes a new man. Who can say where or when luck and good fortune will strike? Or was it just an off-duty angel who happened to be passing the Chavsville Accident & Emergency Unit that day?
Whatever it was, Stan began to realise that little piece of South Yorkshire was not for him.
Close to eight years were under the bridge before their paths crossed again. For one, everything different; for the other, nothing different. Stan is a changed man. His clothes, his mannerisms, his view on life.
Everything about him—changed. George, on the other hand, hasn’t changed one iota. He is a changeless man. His views remain the same and if there is change at all its best described as increase—an increased alcohol intake, increased loneliness, and increased bitterness. Not to mention an increased waistband.
Peering down his tunnel of life, which by the way he rarely dare risk, there appears only more of the same. Consequently, there’s been no reason to change his opinion about life or his skewwhiff philosophy.
It would be easier to say it was just coincidence that their paths crossed again. Coincidence or not, beneath the surface there’s a ripple of something afoot, something other than chance or common-day coincidence. Perhaps serendipity is a better explanation?
Serendipity—the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. That sounds like it could be closer to the truth
‘A fortunate stroke of serendipity.’
After all, coincidences, chance meetings, and ‘Would you believe it?’ moments are everywhere. They are not exclusive to the young and beautiful. Even the likes of George and Stan are entitled to a ‘Well, I’ll be damned!’ moment occasionally, seems all you need do is take your foot off the gas, look around, and there they are for all to see. Serendipities by the score.
Then we have Geoffrey Carter. Geoffrey had a wild child tag long before the expression became popular. Born into privileged surroundings at a time when privileged meant: One, having several generations worth of money under your belt, surrounded by a substantial pile of bricks and a minimum of a hundred fenced in acres: Two, having total disregard to the plight of the hoi polloi: And Three, being given every chance to be ‘something of worth in life’ and so ensuring that the family will never have the misfortune to lose One or endure the plight of Two.
What a let-down he must have been. All the public-schooling and hobnobbing was never going to be Geoffrey’s way. Rustication and disownment saw him sailing into the sunset in the 1950s, reappearing in later life to set two unlikely lads on the right path. Our George and Stan, who had always managed to piddle on the fairy, no matter what size rhubarb leaf she sheltered under.
Eventually, there begins another journey to something offering a better way out. If, perhaps for some – Too way-out. Totally irreverent, with more than a few gentle nudges and hints on what the fuck is happening in most of our lives today.
This book is about self-awareness, new beginnings, and about actually having the balls to step out of the way and see exactly how life can be lived without the ‘neediness’ of wanting constant approval. Perhaps most of all, it is about being aware that it’s not ‘you’ in charge of the show, it’s ‘You.’
There is a glimmer of a chance that the Saint for Hopeless Causes may still be alive and well and doing his bit to help-out.
And, if these two can do it, anyone can do it, simply because – There is actually, nothing to do. Can it be mumbo jumbo?
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