I've done some other writing - a secret project that may or may not get published under my name - and I've done some reading. I haven't missed the blogging. That surprises me. I thought I would. At one time it was like heroin. It gave me an initial buzz and then for a long while I had to carry on doing it to feel normal.
It's nice to know that I can feel normal without it. Look, however, is a different matter. So does this mean I'm going to stop blogging? No. And I don't see why that should be a natural conclusion to jump to. It does mean, however, that perhaps I have a more sane approach to the whole blogging platform now. I have lowered my expectations of it enormously and the reward for this is a curious sense of freedom.
But that isn't what I want to write about today; that is just an apology for my recent absence.
One of the books I read over my Easter break was "What Fresh Lunacy Is This?" - the authorized biography of Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers.
I grew up with Oliver Reed's films. It was pretty hard not to as he was a big name in the 60s and 70s. He was undeniably, unmistakably, that rarest of creatures - an actor with true presence; an actor who didn't need to speak to make his presence felt on screen. Whatever John Wayne or Lee Marvin had; Oliver had it too. In spades. Despite his acting world heritage (his grandfather was Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree) Ollie shunned acting school and all attempts to get him to 'tread the boards'.
He disliked other actors. He disliked intellectuals and he disliked toffs - although, by all accounts, he was an exceedingly clever man and rather well brought up.
He liked pubs. He liked the ordinary man on the street. He liked larks and having fun and encouraging spontaneous 'happenings' to occur. His greatest anathema was boredom.
And his own legend.
It's hard to read an account of Ollie Reed's life without feeling your moral faculties forcibly bending towards the view that he wasted himself. That he destroyed his gifts - his looks, his voice, his potential to have become a huge megastar in Hollywood - that he wasted his entire life by giving it so willingly to the demon drink.
And yet that is to miss the point.
Ollie Reed was that rare thing. He was, despite his many inebriated chat show appearances to the contrary, totally in control of himself. He drank when he wanted to. When he was working he largely didn't. He could drop the booze with no ill effects whatsoever and remain dry for months. When he chose not to, he could drink every man under the table during the evening and then be on set the next day at 6am and will himself into complete sobriety. Every single director reports that he was always on time, always knew his and everybody else's lines, hit every mark and always put in a commanding performance.
Oliver Reed did what he wanted, when he wanted and went where he wanted with who he wanted. He couldn't be pushed or bullied. He had his own views and opinions - and although many of those fast became outdated and outmoded - he chose to stick with them. He chose to ignore the censure of the world and the press and carry on living his life exactly how he wanted to live it. Right up the end. One can't help but feel an admiration for that strength of spirit - because a strength is what it is. To have a complete conviction in oneself in the face of every naysayer on the planet and to always retain it unshaken.
And most important of all, he always knew what he was about; he knew what he was doing and what his choices would lead to. He was always open and honest and fully compos mentis about it all and never denied a damned thing. He never lied to himself. How many of us can ever say that?
Ollie didn't waste a single minute of his life; he merely did what he wished to do rather than what others would have wished him to do. The only people who wasted time were those trying to get him to change his ways.
I'm not saying that the boozing, the carousing, the falling over on TV and the abuse he meted out to some chat show hosts and guests isn't cringe worthy, embarrassing and ultimately, depressingly frustrating. It is. There is genuinely a tragedy to it.
And whether it's a conscious choice or not, whether it can be turned on and off at will, alcoholism is still alcoholism. It exhibits itself in behaviour that is always regretted the day after. It expresses itself in ill health. It is dealt with by society and the press via sanctimonious, morally superior ridicule and an incredible lack of understanding.
All to easy to dismiss the drunk. To write off the alcoholic. To forget that, actually, there is still a fully functioning, living, breathing, feeling, thinking, complete person still in there. Someone who is just as valid as a human being as you or I and still deserving of respect. The drink is not 100% of them. Not even close. The booze is, even at it's fullest manifestation, just a surface.
When Oliver Reed died he was in the process of making Gladiator and was putting in a powerhouse performance. He was largely off the booze. He had quietened down. He was on the brink of an almighty come-back. But fate, hubris, intervened. When a shipload of sailors arrived in Malta the old Ollie - the Ollie who, throughout his life, loved the armed services and loved testing his strength and stamina against them - couldn't resist. Despite having confided to close friends that he'd been experiencing chest pains for the past few weeks, he challenged all the sailors to arm wrestling matches and the booze began to flow.
I daresay he won every single match.
But when he collapsed a couple of hours later from an undoubted heart attack, we all lost.
Even now people still make a pilgrimage to his grave in Ireland and buy him a drink - the locals are amazed that the grass manages to grow on his grave. If anyone ever dropped a match I daresay the topsoil would burn for a month.
But it shows the weird dichotomy in which society as a whole holds booze.
If Ollie Reed was a victim of anything, it was that.