I would go to bookshops and 'research' Christianity.My amateur theology extended to attending one or two talks at the same church, as well as occasional services.Around this time I read George Orwell's Down And Out In Paris And London, in which he describes life behind the scenes of large restaurants. I bluffed my way into a job in the kitchen of The Ritz in Piccadilly. Owing to the fact that I said I was trained, everybody assumed that I was. But after a month or so, I had picked up enough to know how to give the impression of being busy.One night, at about 3am, the doorman came down to the kitchen dressed in his top hat and cloak, looking like a ghost from Victorian London, and asked if I would cook him supper.I would pace around trying to remember whether I had locked up properly or if I had even put the money in the safe.On more than one occasion I had to go all the way back to the restaurant to check that everything was in order.Sometimes, when the rest of the staff had gone home, I would keep drinking as I counted the takings.The trouble was I would get back to my flat and not be able to recall any of it.
Half an hour later he returned and slid a 50-pence piece across the counter towards me. I must have stood there for 20 minutes looking at that coin.I went regularly for six years and only stopped when I came to realise my underlying problem was not genuine alcoholism, but depression.It was to be a good many years before I tackled that problem effectively, but for the time being I abstained from alcohol and, crucially, stopped banging my head against hard objects.Every time I returned to it from showing customers to a table, the glass was full. I went back to my flat, stood in front of the bathroom mirror with my eyes closed and, when I was sure that my face was in its normal work mode, opened my eyes.Most of the staff were studying drama or art, or singing in a band, and were working at the restaurant to make ends meet. They all found it funny how I dealt with customers in such a deadpan manner and got away with it. Looking back at me was a miserable little guy who looked like he had just sucked on a lemon.I lived with the feeling that you might have if you are on the wrong train and cannot decide where to get off to change direction. I had some good friends, but now found myself shunning their company in favour of solitude.