After the show last night I went back to an old friend’s for gin.
After a couple of pints I thought it was reasonable to get an uber with her from Crouch End, which is basically Finland. She lives in a lovely house in Waterloo. We sat in her kitchen reminiscing and trying to ignore the screaming from the street next door. It’s London. It’s a Friday night. There’s usually someone screaming something. Tonight it’s “get up!” which is reasonably innocuous by comparison. On the weekend everyone in this jumpy metropolis obliterates themselves with cheap hooch in an attempt to numb the pain, and some people seem to find it therapeutic to shout once they’ve had enough booze to be able to retrojustify it as drunkenness. Shouting is great therapy.
We listened to her. We tried to catch up with her with our Lidl gin. But after 5 minutes, we figured it might be worth checking if everything was ok. Her screaming was getting worse. We went out.
One woman was screaming. Another was catatonic with booze. There were already people there, politely trying to help. “Don’t you fucking touch my mum. I can handle this,” shouts the screaming daughter. She clearly can’t handle this. But I get it immediately. She’s young. Her mum is collapsed. It’s a strange shift, to have to mother your mother. She wanted to be able to handle it but she was at war with herself and ashamed about it too. And practically she couldn’t move her mum. Plus she hated that her loud panic had drawn a crowd.
The mum is semi responsive. She’s not totally unconscious but she’s very drunk. Not completely out but incapable of self motivation. There’s a lot of attention now from passers by, which is upsetting the daughter even more. “Now you’ve got something to talk about over your fucking Sunday roast,” she shouts at us. “This is how the people in the council estates live! You can sit in your big house and laugh at us.”
There’s a lot going on in this anger. I spend some time talking to her. I tell her we just want to help. There is a small group of persistent strangers who can tell she’s in distress.
She eventually lets us help her and we carry her mum in off the street. She’s messed herself. I end up with the bulk of her weight. We roll her onto a bed. I try to make sure she’s on her side. She’s not well. I don’t want her to puke and drown. I try to speak to the daughter but she has retreated into a quiet angry hopelessness. We are not welcome, but I don’t want her mum drowning. I’m trying to normalise and make sure the mum gets water and the daughter understands that this is just a moment, and stops panicking, without wanting to trigger her by mansplaining or sounding patronising.
In retrospect it’s upsetting that the bulk of her concern was social. We told her we were from the street we were from. It’s a posh street full of great big houses. She was more openly concerned about our judgement than anything else. Also in retrospect perhaps it might’ve been wiser and safer to have got an ambulance involved. I wasn’t thinking beyond the moment. I’m no stranger to carrying people who are blind drunk upstairs, and I dislike seeing people in distress, so my instinct kicked in.
Once we walked away, one of our little temporary group said “Well, that’s my first night in London.” She’s from Chicago. Staying at a hostel. Self-identifies as a travel writer. Is here for a few months. Well then, Lonely Planet. Let’s see what you say about Waterloo in your next edition…