If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Getting Hammered

Oh dear.

I don't handle alcohol well any more. Until I was 21, I never even had a hangover. I can remember in my first year exams at Uni, I would go out in the evening and have a few pints, get back to the digs and revise, get up early and revise, go out and do two three-hour exams, and repeat for a week. No problem (and I passed). After 21, I started to get hangovers which lasted a morning or so. Now, if I have a few sherbets it can take me three days to feel human again.

I made a promise to myself a few years ago that I would never get truly, properly drunk ever again. The game just isn't worth the candle any more. The problem with this is, that to keep the promise you have to remember you made it in the first place. And after a few drinks, the memory of such minor matters is the first thing to go. I am reminded of the Japanese proverb quoted in Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice:
The man drinks the first glass of sake. The first glass drinks the second glass. After that, it is the sake that drinks the man.
I like alcohol. I like the taste, and I like the way it makes me feel. I am a happy drunk: I get chatty and convivial, perhaps a little over-romantic, but never melancholy or violent. By nature I am reserved and a bit shy, although I hide it well. After a drink or three, I become the person that usually I have to force myself to be. So it's relaxing as well as fun. No more keeping up a 'face' - the 'face' becomes mine.

But these days I really need to keep my consumption to a modest level - a level that will let me enjoy the disinhibiting effects of the ethanol without making me feel like a rotting corpse for the next 48 hours. And I am generally successful. I haven't been truly out of my tree for years. But I need to be vigilant, and yesterday I wasn't vigilant.

I got up at 5.30 to drive to London. We checked into our hotel at midday, and had a hour to get washed and changed before getting a taxi to my brother-in-law's house, where he was celebrating his Ruby Wedding. He has the affectation of inviting people at very specific times, so it was with some pride in our organisational skills that we arrived at his house at precisely 1.14 pm, exactly as requested on the invitation.

We started with champagne cocktails, of which I had about three before my sister-in-law, bless her, put a can of beer in my hand and said "have one of these; I think you prefer them". As wine aficionados, they can scarcely believe that white wine, and especially champagne, makes me wheeze with asthma - and it does, big time - but they indulge my little foible and keep a stock of cooking lager for the occasions when I turn up. So that's two beers while talking in the garden, then we sat down to eat and the claret came out. I lost count of the number of glasses I had as someone kept refilling it when I wasn't looking, but I was drinking Bordeaux for possibly six hours solid. At least I wasn't there when they were passing round the port. That would have been fatal.

I vaguely remember sharing a taxi with some other guests back to the hotel and then nothing intil 4.50 am, when I woke with a mouth like a parrot's cage, a gut like a slurry pit, and a headache like someone was cleaving my skull with a blunt axe. I drank a lot of water and went back to bed, and then slept slightly better until 8.00 am. Oddly, I was still wearing my underpants and socks, which is and will remain a mystery.

The hotel could only offer a 'Continental' breakfast, which was a pity. A solid, fatty, warmed-over croissant with some catering blister-packs of Flora and generic marmalade was no comfort to a body that was desperately in need of a Full English. We stopped at the first opportunity to fill the car with proper anti-hangover food like nice M&S sandwiches and salty crisps and a bar of chocolate. I also bought a cup of coffee, and I can report that a hot drink purchased at Reading Services is still undrinkably hot at Leigh Delamere. I threw it away in the end and drank several litres of water instead.

By Cardiff I was feeling human again and when I collected the dog from the kennels two hours later I was good to go.

Looking back, I am not sure I should have been driving this morning. It was roughly 12 hours since my last drink and I didn't feel in any way incapable of driving, but I'm not 100% sure I would have passed a breathalyser test. But the journey was incident-free*. I'm glad I was driving Anna's car and not on the bike, though.

I keep telling myself that I won't do this again. What for next time? A set of index cards with messages like "two glasses is enough" or (to quote from Under Milk Wood) "you'll be sorry for this in the morning"? You know, sometimes it's just easier to be the driver and have an excuse not to drink at all. I never thought I would say that.

*I'm lying. There was one incident. There were a lot of bikes out on what was probably the last sunny day of the season. We were passing a group of slow-moving Harleys (but I repeat myself) when they all decided to move from lane 1 to lane 2 to anticipate a junction a mile or so ahead. The guy just ahead of me moved right in front of me, causing me to brake sharply. No signal, and no shoulder-check or 'lifesaver'. As we passed him, we also saw - no mirrors either. He had moved straight into a faster-moving lane without having the first clue about what was behind him. Of course I was looking at him, checking out the bikes even if they were not my type of thing, so as soon as he made his move I was ready. If I had been a sales rep late for an appointment, or looking the other way, I'd probably still be talking to the Police.


  1. "I keep telling myself that I won't do this again. "

    Of course not. All your beer-tokens were spent on the latest trumpet - the major reason for purchase being that it meant you couldn't afford to get plastered.

    The problem & temptation of the Ruby Celebration was that it was a free-loader's paradise!

  2. So I should avoid getting pissed by just buying more motorbikes? What a simply splendid suggestion. The more I think about it, the better it sounds.

    I have had my differences with B-in-L over the years, but I can't fault his hospitality. And he leads from the front, as it were. He won First To Fall Asleep At The Table last night. Top man.

  3. He had moved straight into a faster-moving lane without having the first clue about what was behind him.

    Can I be the first to say.... he'd have been fine if he'd been wearing hi-vis!

    (ba-dum-tish thank you thank you I'm here all week...)

  4. His constituent parts would have been much easier to bag and tag. Fluoro yellow shows up so much better against tarmac, I find.

    Yes, your comment was worthy of a ba-dum-tish. :)


  5. All this ba-dum-tishing and 'Aythengyow'ing is bad for the nostalgia. Perhaps you could host a text based virtual variety club - after all Big Ben is on Twitter and unerring texts the right number of 'Bong's on the hour, every hour. It's a funny old World.

  6. I still remember my first major hangover, bedroom spinning around, massive headache, washing up bowl on the floor between my legs (h/t Mum)...

    Some while later I had another hangover headache but, without any belief in Buddha or Karma, I "thought" it away and have never had another headache of any kind since.

    Great thinks me, I can drink like a twat and with no consequences but that ultimatly led to a couple of decades of active alcoholism the consequences of which I won't bore you with.

    These days I usually only drink at home and decide how much by buying that amount before I get there. On the very rare occaisions that I do go to a pub I take only enough cash to cover 3-4 pints and leave my cards at home.

    It took me many years to realise that the cure for a serious "I feel like sh*t and need a whisky" mood is not whisky but TIME together with water, like youself and food as soon as it can be managed.

    My moto for those wishing to avoid drink driving (which I somehow avoided post teenage) is that "two pints are too many while one pint is neither here nor there", might as well walk.

  7. I think I have been lucky, or perhaps not got as far down the road as you. If I get a 'feel like shit' mood, a drink is the last thing I want. The body still rejects, rather than welcomes, the poison. I couldn't even face a glass of wine last night. If I ever see the booze as the cure for the hangover, I will know it's time to stop.

    You are right, though - plenty of water and a bit of time, and all will be well. Short-term, at least.

  8. "I made a promise to myself a few years ago that I would never get truly, properly drunk ever again. The game just isn't worth the candle any more. "

    Was it ever?I could never see the appeal of drinking to get drunk...

  9. "We started with champagne cocktails, of which I had about three before my sister-in-law, bless her, put a can of beer in my hand and said "have one of these; I think you prefer them"."

    Always remember:

    'Beer before wine, you'll be fine,
    Wine before beer, you'll feel queer..'

  10. I don't think I have ever imbibed for the sole purpose of becoming drunk. But I have certainly drunk beyond what our Lords and Masters consider to be an 'appropriate' amount, simply because it's enjoyable. Unfortunately, the fun/suffering balance has now tipped against that kind of hedonism.

  11. 'Beer before wine, you'll be fine,
    Wine before beer, you'll feel queer..'

    Ah yes. And ...

    'Champagne before beer before Bordeaux
    You won't feel human for a week or so.'

    Feeling fine now. Surprisingly quick recovery for an old git.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...