I miss a good, happy hangover
I’m not drinking alcohol Monday through Thursday. I drink on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not all day long; come the weekend I don’t roll out of the pit and into a gin bath, but you get the picture.
This somewhat fey abstinence is not really born from any New Year resolution; it’s more a lifelong bid for sanity and an acknowledgement that I don’t function terribly well the morning after I’ve poured even the most paltry amount of plonk down my gullet.
And January – man alive, there is something about lying there in the pitch dark, waiting for the clock to go off, listening to straight-down needle-sharp rain pierce the window pane, and garnering your resolve to shape another day that is just too damn difficult with the whisper of a hangover behind the eyes.
I miss good hangovers though, inspiring hangovers, the kind allowed to youth, when you could tackle the vertiginous heights of your drink-fuelled distress with an oleaginous breakfast, a pot of coffee, an urgent telephone call and three untipped cigarettes.
God be with the days, eh? Hell, I’ve become so clean-living I could probably donate a couple of organs without finishing off the recipient.
Sure there are advantages to being a little older and wiser and no longer vaguely bloodshot: life is often pleasant and you don’t usually wake up wondering where your shoes/keys/boyfriend/raison d’être have disappeared to.
On a good sober morning you have the mental clarity to seriously consider and reject veganism and sporadic fasting before you put the kettle on. You can find your walking shoes quicker.
These winter-snap mornings I can get irrationally excited when the sun comes out; occasionally I even stop to look at the squadrons of Brent geese that fly over the mudflats. I nod to other ladies in thermal hats marching up and down the seafront. I breathe cleanly.
They say (and in this instance I suspect the “they” are creatively failed men) that the perambulator in the hallway kills the muse, that domesticity smothers the imagination. I don’t agree; I think having children focuses the mind. You get so little time to think and write, you just get down to it when you can, when they are sleeping or sticking your credit card into the CD slot or singing along with the Morbegs. (I know one Irish writer who thanks his children’s obsession with Bosco for getting his first novel out.)
I have a feeling, though, that the deal you strike with maturity is far more insidious than any compromises you need to make around having a family. Dear Carcass, I won’t drink anything stronger than a tumbler of MiWadi, I won’t eat cheese or chocolate or small children, I’ll pull nothing more into my lungs than rain-sodden air, and, in return you give me mental clarity, working knees and a three-volume novel. Yadda yadda. Maybe it’s not too terrible to break out every now and again, even if recovery is akin to bone-setting.
I was deeply, happily hung-over in London recently. It was glorious and entirely unprecedented.
I probably shouldn’t even have been there. By jagged luck rather than design, we ended up staying in a club. The narrow wooden beds were lumpen with secrets, the cavernous shared bath was elegantly stained with mildew, the walls were grazed on by framed drawings, cartoons and paintings. The bar refused admittance if you had the temerity to carry a mobile telephone or any other new-fangled electronic device. There was a piano there and, in the garden, a Bedouin-like tent where smokers gathered under a draping roof.
There is something in my blood that is instantly seduced by a yellow-lit bar room on a darkened December night, especially when all resolutions are as yet unformed and all domestic routines and responsibilities are on the other side of a slender sea, and the company is warm, and the glass is full, and blue smoke circles like a dangerous, well-remembered sprite.
The next morning at the communal breakfast table I sat next to a plate of smoked kippers and the grandson of a famous British novelist. The kippers were flat and leathery and malodorous; I empathised, but I wasn’t sorry. As
PG Wodehouse wrote: “What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them?”
Oh January, you great big uncompromising beast. Time to quit the reminiscing and join the army of busy geese.