My mother, the alcoholic
Watching her mother grow up a hopeless drunk was not enough to stop Rachel Trezise nearly tipping over the edge herself...
At the age of four I began to resent my mother's evening shift at a nearby nightclub, my umbrage manifested in raucous crying fits coinciding with the arrival of the babysitter. My mother pacified me with gulps of her sweet sherry. There was nothing unusual about that, it seemed. Her affection for alcohol was a delinquent chromosome afloat in the gene pool, something everybody in the valleys inherited.
My grandfather was a drinker, too. Some of my earliest memories are of the short walk from my grandparents' cottage to the pub on the high street, when at sunset I'd help my nana carry his dinner down the hill, the pair of us struggling with heaped plates wrapped in tinfoil, Tupperware jugs heavy with viscous gravy. When she spotted him sat at the bar, eyes blunted with drunkenness, she'd sneak up and scrape the food in his lap.
The other customers would applaud. It was a ritual on which they had come to depend, a glimmer of slapstick comedy. During the Welsh coal boom miners drank beer because the water was infected by cholera. Booze was a precaution that turned into a coping mechanism. This was simply what life was like, tricky and supported by crutches.
It was later that I realised my mother was an alcoholic, addicted to alcohol rather than fond of it. A month before my ninth birthday she came to a parents' evening at my school, wearing her rabbit-fur coat, her peroxide hair brittle with lacquer.
Interpreting my twentysomething teacher's encouraging remarks about my reading as compliments aimed at her appearance, she joined him behind his table, sitting on his lap. She was stroking his face when my headmaster came over to ask us to leave. Offended, my mother stood up, addressing the crowd. 'What are you looking at?' she said. 'It's not as if I ask you to buy my drinks.'