Hangovers get a bad press – but a moderate one can be quite nice
‘To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems’
I write this with a low-level hangover. Yesterday I travelled long haul, on a half-empty flight, with a very friendly cabin crew member who handed out the drinks with impunity.
As I woke up, with a throat like the bottom of a snake’s carpet slipper, I smiled to myself, recalling watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding while sinking gin.
Hangovers get a bad press.
Of course, the ones that involve vomiting, holding your pounding head, and being unable to function properly are no fun at all. If that’s how you’re greeting the new year, you have my heartfelt sympathy. But let’s hear it for the mid-sized hangover, easily cured by a couple of Diet Cokes and a hearty fry-up. Yes, it is certainly more pleasant to wake up totally clearheaded, having gone to bed with a cup of herbal tea. But the moderate hangover can be quite nice in a way, because once it starts to lift, you can look forward to a hair of the dog once the sun is over the yardarm.
The feeling of that bloody mary, cold beer or gin martini doing its work when you have spent all day feeling below par is nothing short of magic. When I am off the sauce, and wake up fresh as a daisy, I am only too aware that this is the best I’m going to feel all day. The opposite is true when you’ve had that little bit too much the night before.
I have had some legendary hangovers, none of them enjoyable.
Thankfully, they are rare these days, because I, like most people, grew out of the drinking-till-4am routine in middle age. But every now and again, usually unexpectedly, there is the hangover that stays with you for ever. The last monumental one I experienced was eight years ago. I had gone to a birthday party at which there was very little food but lots of excellent free cocktails. I don’t mean the tall ones with loads of fruit juice and plastic palm trees hanging off the side of the glass, I mean those lethal ones in small glasses containing more or less nothing but pure spirit. I usually go by the rule of no more than two cocktails, and take Dorothy Parker’s warning – “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host” – extremely seriously.
But this night I was with a load of other journalists, and pack mentality set in. I couldn’t tell you how many martinis I had, but I woke up the next day wishing I was dead.
I had an important meeting later that morning, and had to go via Greggs to buy one of its legendary sausage rolls and a bottle of Lucozade – the only possible cure for a hangover of that magnitude. There are always at least two other people in Greggs early in the morning doing exactly the same thing.
Who eats a sausage roll for breakfast except the grotesquely hungover?
At the meeting, looking green and close to death, I pretended that I had food poisoning. It’s not that I was ashamed, but women tend to be stigmatised for drunkenness and all-round debauchery.
I won’t be starting 2018 with a throbbing head. I’m always in bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve, with nothing more than a stiff brandy inside me. But nor will I be giving up booze for January. There is nothing I like more than having too much to drink on my own or with a couple of friends mid-week, when others are restricting themselves to a glass of pinot grigio.
Getting on the tube among clean-living adults looking fresh and ready to face the day never makes me feel envious, however grotty I feel. I simply recall this very true tribute to booze: “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”