At this point, nobody else knew about his addiction. There were times, when I wanted to share the burden with someone, but I kept hoping, things would change, he would see sense and get better. After all he is an intelligent man, capable of reasoning and logic - he had had a high-status media job both abroad and in London. Surely he would be able to get to grips with this problem. There was of course also the feeling of shame and the guilt that I was somehow responsible for this. Had I said or done something that had made him sink into this spiral of depression, illness and addiction? Should I have noticed sooner? If people commented on how dreadful he looked, I passed it off as being a result of his diabetes. But some people had relatives who were suffering from diabetes too and they would further cross-examine me with raised eyebrows about what medication he was on and what diet, so I guessed they were not all that convinced by my feeble excuses. It made me uncomfortable and I would try to change the subject.
In the midst of all this, there is one episode which sticks in my mind as the most embarrassing of all. We had been staying for a week in August with my mother and on one particularly hot day Greg, Kay and I had met up with some close friends who live nearby for an afternoon picnic at an Air Show. As we sat, watching the aeroplanes doing their stunts above us, we chatted, ate sandwiches and drank a little wine - we had bought a bottle and they had bought a bottle. However, three of us shared one bottle between us, but Greg had the other bottle all to himself. My daughter, as always, drank water. Granted the weather was extremely hot, but red wine is not exactly the ideal liquid to quench your thirst. Greg declined any of the food and just drank. Our friends had to get back home early, but Greg, Kay and I stayed on to wait for a spectacular firework display that was planned for 10 pm that evening. During the wait, Greg produced a bottle of whisky from his pocket and started to work his way through that too. He was getting argumentative and behaving oddly, even for him. The place meanwhile filled up with thousands of spectators who had come from far and wide just to see the fireworks alone, as the event happens every year and is renowned. It was so crowded there was hardly any space between the groups of people sitting cross-legged on the ground.
The first rocket flew into the air on schedule at 10 pm and those that followed over the next thirty minutes were truly spectacular, but I could not give them my full concentration as Greg was shouting rather loudly that it was a load of old rubbish. Then he started to throw small stones in front of him, narrowly missing a small child sitting a few feet away from us. The father turned round as if to say something and then thought better of it. Meanwhile. I was wishing the ground would open up and swallow me. As the firework display reached its closing climax to the strains of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, everyone clapped, cheered and then started to disperse. Imagine about ten thousand people all standing up at once and wanting to make for the same exit. Kay and I sprang to our feet, as we did not want to be crushed in the stampede. Greg however remained seated on the ground. He tried to get up but was obviously having difficulty. He pushed up with his arms but his bottom half seemed not to be in the slightest bit involved. He yelled at me to help him up and I took his hand and pulled him up, but there seemed to be absolutely no strength in his legs and he toppled down again. A man passing by approached him and said "Let me help you, mate" and pulled Greg to his feet once more. As soon as the man let go his hand, Greg toppled yet again to the ground. He sort of fell backwards full length like a domino, as if his feet were glued to the ground, and banged his head. By now a small crowd, originally on their way to the exit but sensing the entertainment was not quite over,was gathering and found it quite amusing to watch.
Kay was by now in tears with embarrassment. I on the other hand somehow managed to beam myself to another imaginary level where I just blanked the people out and concentrated on getting Greg to stand. He stood and toppled over twice more domino-style. A few more people offered to help but Greg shouted at them to leave him alone and at me to stop mucking about and get him upright. By now I did notice that the crowd was tittering and nudging one another. Kay was really upset by now and said she would go in search of the several ambulance crews who were situated at the exit as they normally are at that sort of crowd gathering. She was off before I could stop her. In my heart I knew we needed help, but Greg was protesting loudly that she should not go. She returned within minutes pursued by two paramedics. As soon as they smelled the alcohol on him and ascertained there was nothing else wrong with him, they were very offhand. I can't say as I blame them. In all fairness, they did offer to take him to Accident and Emergency at the local hospital, but Greg refused to go. In that case, they said they were unable to get us back to my mother's house, as they were not a taxi service. They instead notified the police, who were also well represented at this event, and said the police would come shortly to take us in a car back to my mother's house. I felt sick. What on earth would my mother think or say, when we all rolled up in a police car? My mother, bless her, has just the tiniest bit of Hyacinth Bucket about her and I could imagine that she would never live it down amongst the neighbours. I was embarrassed for her. I was embarrassed for my daughter. Hell, I was embarrassed for me. I too was having a Hyacinth-Bucket-moment.
Fortunately when the policewoman arrived, she was most adamant that the police were far too busy to take us home either and she would call for a taxi. She first helped me get Greg onto a bench and then she made a radio call, but she did warn us that nobody might turn up, as, believe it or not, taxi drivers are none too keen on ferrying drunks about either, particularly if it involves cleaning up the seats afterwards. We did wait a while.... about half an hour, I think.... by which time Greg had regained some feeling in his legs. We concluded the taxi was never going to come and we managed to walk albeit very slowly the half mile home, Kay and I supporting Greg between us. It took us an hour to walk what would normally have taken us ten minutes. We then made a charade of excuses to my mother, who had waited up for us, as to why we were over two hours late getting back to her and we carried on as if nothing were wrong. However Kay and I felt in a right state and it took ages to get off to sleep that night, replaying the scene over and over again in our heads, while Greg slept like a proverbial baby.