Kingsley Amis on The Hangover

December 24, 2011 at 1:24 am (literature, whisky, wild man, wine)

British novelist and comic writer Kingsley Amis prepares for another sip of wine

 

The Hangover by Kingsley Amis (from ‘Everyday Drinking – The Distilled Kingsley Amis,’ Bloomsbury 2008).

 

What a subject! And, in very truth, for once, a ‘strangely neglected’ one.

 

Oh, I know you can hardly open a newspaper or magazine without coming across a set of instructions – most of them unoriginal, some of them quite unhelpful and one or two of them actually harmful – on how to cure this virtually pandemic ailment.

 

But such discussions concentrate exclusively on physical manifestations, as if one were treating a mere illness. They omit the psychological, moral, emotional, spiritual aspects: all that vast, vague, awful, shimmering metaphysical superstructure that makes the hangover a (fortunately) unique route to self-knowledge and self-realisation.

 

Imaginative literature is not much better. There are poems and songs about drinking, of course, but none to speak of about getting drunk, let alone having been drunk. Novelists go into the subject more deeply and extensively, but tend to straddle the target, either polishing off the hero’s hangover in a few sentences or, so to speak, making it the whole of the novel.

 

In the latter case, the hero will almost certainly be a dipsomaniac, who is not as most men are and never less so than on the morning after. This vital difference, together with much else, is firmly brought out in Charles Jackson’s marvellous and horrifying The Lost Weekend, the best fictional account of alcoholism I have read.

 

A few writers can be taken as metaphorically illuminating the world of the hangover while ostensibly dealing with something else. Perhaps Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis, which starts with the hero waking up to find he has turned into a man-sized cockroach, is the best literary treatment of all. The central image could hardly be better chosen, and there is a telling touch in the nasty way everybody goes on at the chap. (I can find no information about Kafka’s drinking history.)

 

It is not my job, or anyway, I absolutely decline to attempt a full, direct description of the Metaphysical Hangover: no fun to write or read. But I hope something of this will emerge by implication from my list of counter-measures.

 

Before I get on to that, however, I must deal with the Physical Hangover, which is, in any case, the logical one to tackle first, and the dispersal of which will notably alleviate the other – mind and body as we have already seen, being nowhere more intimately connected than in the sphere of drink.

 

Here, then, is how to cope with:

 

THE PHYSICAL HANGOVER

 

1. Immediately on waking, start telling yourself how lucky you are to be feeling so bloody awful. This recognises the truth that if you do not feel bloody awful after a hefty night, then you are still drunk and must sober up in a waking state before hangover dawns.

 

2. If your wife or other partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good, and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your Metaphysical Hangover before you formally declare war on it.

 

WARNINGS. (i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the Metaphysical Hangover, and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occasion.

 

(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you awake by yourself.

 

3. Having of course omitted to drink all that water before retiring, drink a lot of it now, more than you need to satisfy your immediate thirst. Alcohol is a notorious dehydrant, and a considerable part of your Physical Hangover comes from the lack of water in your cells.

 

…At this point I must assume that you can devote at least a good part of the day to yourself and your condition. Those who inescapably have to get up and do something can stay in bed only as long as they dare, get up, shave, take a hot bath or shower (more of this later), breakfast off an unsweetened grapefruit (more of this later) and coffee, and clear off, with the intention of getting as drunk at lunchtime as they dare.

 

Let me just observe in passing that the reason why so many professional artists drink a lot is not necessarily very much to do with the artistic temperament, etc. It is simply that they can afford to, because they can normally take a large part of a day off to deal with the ravages. So, then:

 

4. Stay in bed until you can stand it no longer. Simple fatigue is another great constituent of the Physical Hangover

 

5. Refrain, at all costs, from taking a cold shower. It may bring temporary relief, but in my own and others’ experience it will give your Metaphysical Hangover a tremendous boost after about half an hour, in extreme cases making you feel like a creature from another planet. Perhaps this is the result of having dealt another shock to your already shocked system.

 

The ideal arrangement, very much worth the trouble and expense if you are anything of a serious drinker, is a shower fixed over the bath. Run a bath as hot as you can bear and lie in it as long as you can bear. When it becomes too much, stand up and have a hot shower, then lie down again and repeat the sequence. This is time well spent.

 

WARNING: Do not do this unless you are quite sure your heart and the rest of you will stand it. I would find it most disagreeable to be accused of precipitating your death, especially in court.

 

6. Shave. A drag, true, and you may well cut yourself, but it is a calming exercise and will lift your morale (another sideswipe at your Metaphysical Hangover).

 

7. Whatever the state of your stomach, do not take an alkalising agent such as bicarbonate of soda. Better to take unsweetened fruit juice or a grapefruit without sugar.

 

The reasoning behind this is that your stomach, on receiving a further dose of acid, will say to itself, ‘Oh. I see: we need more alkaline,’ and proceed to neutralise itself. Bicarbonate will make it say: ‘Oh, I see: we need more acid,’ and do you further damage.

 

If you find this unconvincing, take heed of what happened one morning when, with a kingly hangover, I took bicarbonate with a vodka chaser. My companion said: ‘Let’s see what’s happening in your stomach,’ and poured the remnant of the vodka into the remnant of the bicarbonate solution. The mixture turned black and gave off smoke.

 

8. Eat nothing, or nothing else. Give your digestion the morning off. You may drink coffee, though do not expect this to do anything for you beyond making you feel more wide awake.

 

9. Try not to smoke. That nicotine has contributed to your Physical Hangover is a view held by many people, including myself.

 

10. By now you will have shot a good deal of the morning. Get through the rest of it somehow, avoiding the society of your fellows. Talk is tiring. Go for a walk or sit or lie about in the fresh air. At 11am or so, see if you fancy the idea of a Polish Bison (hot Bovril and vodka). It is still worthwhile without the vodka. You can start working on your Metaphysical Hangover any time you like.

 

11. About 12:30pm, firmly take a hair (or better, in Cyril Connolly’s phrase, a tuft) of the dog that bit you. The dog, by the way, is of no particular breed; there is no obligation to go for the same drink as the one you were mainly punishing the night before.

 

Many will favour the Bloody Mary. Others swear by the Underburg. For the ignorant, this is a highly alcoholic bitters rather resembling Fernet Branca, but in my experience more usually effective.

 

It comes in miniature bottles holding about a pub double, and should be put down in one. The effect on one’s insides after a few seconds is rather like that of throwing a cricket ball into an empty bath, and the resulting mild convulsions and cries of shock are well worth witnessing. But, thereafter, a comforting glow supervenes, and very often a marked turn for the better.

 

By now, one way or another, you will be readier to face the rest of mankind and a convivial lunchtime can well result. Eat what you like within reason, avoiding anything greasy or rich. If your Physical Hangover is still with you afterwards, go to bed.

 

Before going on to the Metaphysical Hangover, I will, for completeness’s sake, mention three supposed hangover cures, all described as infallible by those who told me about them, though I have not tried any of them. The first two are hard to come by.

 

• Go down the mine on the early-morning shift at the coal-face.

 

• Go up for half an hour in an open aeroplane (needless to say, with a non-hungover person at the controls).

 

• Known as Donald Watt’s Jolt, this consists of a tumbler of some sweet liqueur, Benedictine or Grand Marnier, taken in lieu of breakfast. Its inventor told me that with one of them inside him, he once spent three-quarters of an hour at a freezing bus-stop ‘without turning a hair’. It is true that the sugar in the drink will give you energy and the alcohol alcohol.

 

At this point, younger readers may relax the unremitting attention with which they have followed the above. They are mostly strangers to the Metaphysical Hangover. But they will grin or jeer at their peril. Let them rest assured that, as they grow older, the Metaphysical Hangover will more and more come to fill the gap left by their progressively less severe Physical Hangover. And of the two, incomparably, the more dreadful is…

 

THE METAPHYSICAL HANGOVER

 

1. Deal thoroughly with your Physical Hangover.

 

2. When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a s**t you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is and there is no use crying over spilt milk.

 

3. If necessary then, embark on either the Metaphysical Literature Course or Music Course or both in succession (not simultaneously). Going off and gazing at some painting, building or bit of statuary might do you good, too.

 

The structure of both courses, hangover reading and hangover listening, rests on the principle that you must feel worse emotionally before you start to feel better. A good cry is the initial aim.

 

HANGOVER READING:

Begin with verse, if you have any taste for it. Any really gloomy stuff that you admire will do. My own choice would tend to include the final scene of Paradise Lost. The trouble here, though, is that today of all days you do not want to be reminded of how inferior you are to the man next door, let alone to a chap like Milton. Safer to pick somebody less horribly great.

 

Switch to prose with the same principles of selection. I suggest Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. Its picture of life in a Russian labour camp will tell you that there are plenty of people who have a bloody sight more to put up with than you (or I) have or ever will have, and who put up with it, if not cheerfully, at any rate in no mood of self-pity.

 

Turn now to stuff that suggests there may be some point to living after all. Battle poems come in rather well here. By this time you could well be finding it conceivable that you might smile again some day. However, defer funny stuff for the moment. Try a good thriller or action story, which will start to wean you from self-observation and the darker emotions. Turn to comedy only after that; but it must be white – i.e. not black – comedy: P.G. Wodehouse, Stephen Leacock, Captain Marryat, Anthony Powell (not Evelyn Waugh), Peter De Vries (not The Blood of the Lamb, which, though very funny, has its real place in the tearful catagory, and a distinguished one). I am not suggesting that these writings are comparable in other ways than that they make unwillingness to laugh seem a little pompous and absurd.

HANGOVER LISTENING:

Here, the trap is to set your sights too high. On the argument tentatively advanced against unduly great literature, give a wide berth to anyone like Mozart. Go for someone who is merely a towering genius. Tchaikovsky would be my best buy, and his Sixth Symphony (the Pathetique) my individual selection. After various false consolations have been set aside, its last movement really does what the composer intended and, in an amazingly non-dreary way, evokes total despair: sonic Metaphysical Hangover if ever I heard it.
If you can stand vocal music, I strongly recommend Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody – not an alto sax, you peasant, but a contralto voice, with men’s choir and full orchestra.

 

By what must be pure chance, the words sung, from a – between you and me, rather crappy – poem of Goethe’s, Harzreise im Winter, sound like an only slightly metaphorical account of a hangover.

 

They begin: ‘But who is that (standing) apart?/His path is lost in the undergrowth,’ and end with an appeal to God to ‘open the clouded vista over the thousand springs beside the thirsty one in the desert’. This is a piece that would fetch tears from a stone, especially a half-stoned stone.

 

Turn now to something lively and extrovert, but be careful. Quite a lot of stuff that appears to be so at first inspection has a nasty habit of sneaking in odd blows to the emotional solar plexus. Jazz is not much good for your M.H., and pop will probably worsen your P.H.

 

But if you really feel that life could not possibly be gloomier, try any slow Miles Davis track. It will suggest to you that, however gloomy life may be, it cannot possibly be as gloomy as Davis makes it out to be. There is also the likely bonus to be gained from hearing some bystander refer to Davis as Miles instead of Davis. The surge of adrenalin at this piece of trendy pseudo-familiarity will buck up your system, and striking the offender to the ground will restore your belief in your own masculinity, rugged force, etc.

 

WARNING: Make quite sure that Davis’s sometime partner, John Coltrane, is not “playing” his saxophone on any track you choose. He will suggest to you, in the strongest terms, that life is exactly what you are at present taking it to be: cheap, futile and meaningless.

 

* Wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things — ECCLESIASTES

 

Drinkers

 

I never tasted [whisky], except once for experiment at the inn at Inverary…It was strong but not pungent…What was the process I had no opportunity of inquiring, nor do I wish to improve the art of making poison pleasant — SAMUEL JOHNSON

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Desert Island Doppelganger

May 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm (BBC, jazz, Jim D, music, whisky, wireless)

You can now visit  the BBC Radio 4 / Home Service ‘Desert Island Discs’ archive, and have a look at the choices of every guest on the programme since Roy Plomley began it in 1942. I was somewhat taken aback to find that one guest (guess who) had made almost exactly the choices (including the “luxury item” and “book”) that I would. My only difference would be the inclusion of Louis Armstrong (probably ‘West End Blues’) in place of Johann Strauss II.
.
Johann Strauss II

1.

Johann Strauss II

Tales from the Vienna Woods

Orchestra: J. Strauss Orchestra of Vienna Conductor: Leopold Stokowski

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Magic Flute Act 2

Soloist: Irma Beilke, Carla Spletter, Rut Berglund Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

.Click to show "Bix Beiderbecke" result 2

3.

Bix Beiderbecke

I’m Coming Virginia

Artist: Frank Trumbauer & His Orchestra

Antonin Dvorak

4.

Antonin Dvorak

Symphony No. 9 in E minor ‘From the New World’

Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra

Jimmy Rushing

5.

Jimmy Rushing

Exactly Like You

Artist: Count Basie and Orchestra

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

7.

Pee Wee Russell

Strut Miss Lizzie

Artist: Eddie Condon + Band

Wild Bill Davison

8.

Castaway’s favourite

Wild Bill Davison

Runnin’ Wild

Artist: Sidney Bechet

Book

Oxford English Dictionary

Luxury item

Scotch whisky

This programme is not currently available to listen. Why?

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Burns, the rebel

January 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm (Jim D, literature, scotland, whisky)

The Victorian mythologisers presented Burns as a heaven-taught ploughman who quickly gave up dissenting work when the going got tough. This is wrong. Poems and songs such as Scots What Hae were coded attacks on the ongoing repression of the Pitt government. Ostensibly this song was about the Bruce and Wallace of centuries ago but was full of veiled references to the French Revolution. Its last line “let us do or die” came from the famous Tennis Court Oath made during the French Revolution.

A wee dram of single malt whisky

By Oppression’s woes and pains!

By your Sons in servile chains!

We will drain our dearest veins,

But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty’s in every blow!-

Let us Do or Die!

Burns had written political poetry all his life. In Holy Willie’s Prayer he attacked the idiocy of the ideas of the “salvation of the elect” that Calvinism stood for — again circulating the poem privately amongst friends.

In a fantastic piece entitled Address to Beelzebub, Burns combined support for the ideas of the American and French revolutions with reference to the Highland Clearances and the escape by the poor to the colonies. It is a dramatic monologue in form, addressed from hell, and one of Burns best, if lesser known poems.

Address Of Beelzebub

To the Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane, President of the Right Honourable the Highland Society, which met on the 23rd of May last at the Shakespeare, Covent Garden, to concert ways and means to frustrate the designs of five hundred Highlanders, who, as the Society were informed by Mr. M’Kenzie of Applecross, were so audacious as to attempt an escape from their lawful lords and masters whose property they were, by emigrating from the lands of Mr Macdonald of Glengary to the wilds of Canada, in search of that fantastic thing — Liberty.

Long life, my Lord, an’ health be yours,

Unskaithed by hunger’d Highland boors

Lord grant me nae duddie, desperate beggar,

Wi’ dirk, claymore, and rusty trigger,

May twin auld Scotland o’ a life

She likes-as butchers like a knife.

Faith you and Applecross were right

To keep the Highland hounds in sight:

I doubt na! they wad bid nae better,

Than let them ance out owre the water,

Then up among thae lakes and seas,

They’ll mak what rules and laws they please:…

Nae sage North now, nor sager Sackville,

To watch and premier o’er the pack vile, —

An’ whare will ye get Howes and Clintons

To bring them to a right repentance —

To cowe the rebel generation,

An’ save the honour o’ the nation?

They, an’ be d-d! what right hae they

To meat, or sleep, or light o’ day?

Far less-to riches, pow’r, or freedom,

But what your lordship likes to gie them? __

But hear, my lord! Glengarry, hear!

Your hand’s owre light to them, I fear;

Your factors, grieves, trustees, and bailies,

I canna say but they do gaylies;

They lay aside a’ tender mercies,

An’ tirl the hallions to the birses;

Yet while they’re only poind’t and herriet,

They’ll keep their stubborn Highland spirit:

But smash them! crash them a’ to spails,

An’ rot the dyvors i’ the jails!

The young dogs, swinge them to the labour;

Let wark an’ hunger mak them sober!

The hizzies, if they’re aughtlins fawsont,

Let them in Drury-lane be lesson’d!

An’ if the wives an’ dirty brats

Come thiggin at your doors an’ yetts,

Flaffin wi’ duds, an’ grey wi’ beas’,

Frightin away your ducks an’ geese;

Get out a horsewhip or a jowler,

The langest thong, the fiercest growler,

An’ gar the tatter’d gypsies pack

Wi’ a’ their bastards on their back!

Go on, my Lord! I lang to meet you,

An’ in my house at hame to greet you;

Wi’ common lords ye shanna mingle,

The benmost neuk beside the ingle,

At my right han’ assigned your seat,

‘Tween Herod’s hip an’ Polycrate:

Or if you on your station tarrow,

Between Almagro and Pizarro,

A seat, I’m sure ye’re well deservin’t;

An’ till ye come-your humble servant,

Beelzebub.

Against a background of a national seamen’s strike Burns wrote a satirical political song Why Shouldna Poor Folk Mo. It was one of many bawdy songs that Burns used to undermine the repression of the state and church authorities with their Calvinist ideas on sex and the pre-destination of the elect and to demonstrate their impotence!

When Princes and Prilates and het[hot]

-headed zealots

All Europe hae set in a lowe [flame],

The poor man lies down, nor envies a crown,

And comforts himself with a mowe [fuck].

The poem goes on to express solidarity with the Poles who were being oppressed by the Russia of Catherine the Great, each stanza undermining the pretensions and authority of those in power everywhere.

There were countless other satirical poems and songs such as A Good Mowe and Nine Inch Will Please a Lady. Burns always points up the hubris of totalitarian pretensions and their futile attempts to suppress sex by edicts. While other writers talked of the democracy of death, Burns preferred to contemplate the democracy of sex — sex ran”frae the queen to the tinkler” (Bonie Mary).

The Kirk and State may join and tell;

To do sic things I manna:

The Kirk and State may gae to h-ll,

An’ I shall gae to Anna

Burlesque anti-official language and popular culture were utilised by Burns to subvert authority and itsmethods of control.

First you John Brown, there’s witness borne,

And affidavit made and sworn,

That ye hae bred a hurly-burly

‘Bout Jeany Mitchell’s tirlie –whirlie,

And blooster’d at her regulator

‘Till a’her wheels gang clitter-clatter.

Burns’ satire went as far as setting up a ‘court’ to penalise those who were not good at fornicating amongst Edinburgh society, “The Crochallian Fencibles”. They used the same legal language as the authorities in their poems and songs. Burns was, of course, its President.

At the heart of all Burns political satires and poems lay a deep desire to expose and defeat an absolute political power, shored up by a reactionary institutional Christianity that presented hierarchy, class, rank, status and power as natural givens.

This was an ambition shared by Burn’s contemporary William Blake though the two men seemed not to know of each other.

Victorian Scotland turned Burns into an iconic national figure of whiskey, shortbread and haggis at Burns Suppers, in opposition to the political values he passionately stood for. The first attempt to place Burns in historical context, Catherine Carswell’s 1930s biography led to her receiving a bullet through the post — but the arguments rage on.

His influence are wide and various. The most intelligent and committed of Burns’ admirers were the Ulster poets, Burns ideas influencing the intellectuals of the 1798 rebellion. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley were hugely influenced. Others followed — from Emerson and Whitman to Maya Angelou. Burns translation into Russian by Marshak led to his celebration as the working-class embodiment of the soviet ideal. In Scotland he was used by Gladstone in his Midlothian campaign, at the opening of the Scottish parliament and, of course, in the current nationalist campaign for independence. That can only be answered by A Man’s A Man for A’that:

The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,

Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,

Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;

Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,

He’s but a cuif for a’ that:

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:

The man o’ independent mind

He looks an’ laughs at a’ that…

Then let us pray that come it may,

(As come it will for a’ that,)

That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Reading

The Canongate Burns

The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, Patrick Scott Hogg and Andrew Noble.

Robert Burns – The Patriot Bard, Patrick Scott Hogg

Burns the Radical, Liam McIlvanney

Robert Burns — The Lost Poems, Patrick Scott Hogg

H/t: Peter Burden @ the Workers Liberty website.

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Amis on Drink: Mean Sod’s Guide

December 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm (beer, Christmas, expenses, food, Jim D, whisky, wine)

[At this time of austerity many of us neverthless feel obliged to hold a party. So here are some useful tips from Kingsley Amis, the master of mean-spirited parsimony and calculated vindictiveness at party-time]:

The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existence of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10 p.m. – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between each husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk. Points contributing to this end are marked *.

* 1. Strike at once by, on their arrival, presenting each lady with a rose and each gent with bugger-all. Rub this in by complimenting each lady on her appearance and saying in a stentorian undertone to the odd gent, “I heard you hadn’t been so well” (=pissed as a lizard every day) or “You’re looking much better than when I saw you last” (ie with that emperor-sized hangover).

2. Vital requirement: prepare pre- and post-dinner drinks in some undiscoverable pantry or broom-cupboard well away from the main scene. This will not only screen your niggardliness; it will also make the fetching of each successive round look like a slight burden, and *will cast an unfavourable limelight on any individual determined to wrest additional drinks out of you. Sit in a specially deep easy-chair, and practice getting out of it with a mild effort and, later in the evening, a just-audible groan, though beware of overdoing this.

3. As regards the pre-dinner period, procedures vary. The obvious one is to offer only one sort of drink, a “cup” or “punch” made of cheap red wine, soda water, a glass of cooking sherry if you can plunge that far, and a lot of fresh fruit to give an illusion of lavishness. Say you invented it and add menacingly that it has more of a kick than might be expected. Serve in small glasses.

The cold-weather varient of this – same sort of wine, water, small glass of cooking brandy heated in a saucepan, pinch of nutmeg on top of each glass or mug – is more trouble, but it has two great advantages. One is that you can turn the trouble to positive account by spending nearly all your time either at the cooker, conscientiously making sure the stuff goes on being hot enough, or walking from the cooker – much more time than you spend actually giving people drinks. The other gain is that after a couple of doses your guests will be pouring with sweat and largely unable to take any more. (Bank up the fire or turn up the heating to aid this effect, remembering to reduce the temperature well before the kicking-out stage approaches.)

If, faced with either of these, any old-stager insists on, say, Scotch, go to your pantry and read the paper for a few minutes before filling the order. * Hand the glass over with plenty of emphasis, perhaps bawling as you do so, “One large Scotch whisky delivered as ordered, sah!”

Should you feel, as you would have reason to, that this approach is getting a little shiny with use, set your teeth and give everybody a more or less proper drink. You can salve your pocket, however, by adding a tremendous lot of ice to fill up the glass (troublesome, but cheaper than alcohol), or, in the case of martinis, by dropping in an olive the size of a baby’s fist (see Thunderball, by Ian Fleming, chapter 14). Cheat on later drinks as follows: in preparing a gin and tonic, for instance, put the tonic and ice and thick slice of lemon in first and pour on them a timbleful of gin over the back of a spoon, so that it will linger near the surface and give a strong-tasting first sip, which is the one that counts. A friend of mine, whose mother-in-law gets a little excited after a couple of drinks, goes one better in preparing her third by pouring tonic on ice, wetting a fingertip with gin and passing it round the rim of the glass, but victims of this procedure must be selected with extreme care. Martinis should be as cold as before, but with plenty of melted ice. Whiskies are more difficult. Use the back-of-the-spoon technique with coloured glasses, or use then darkest brand you can find. Water the sherries.

4. Arrange dinner early, and see that the food is plentiful, however cheap it is. You can get away with not serving wine with the first course, no matter what it may be. When the main course is on the table, “suddenly realise” you have not opened the wine, and proceed to do so with a lot of cork-popping. The wine itself will not, of course, be French or German; let us call it Ruritanian Gold Label. Pour it with ceremony, explaining that you and your wife (*especially she) “fell in love with it” on holiday there and will be “interested” in people’s reactions. When these turn out to consist of polite, or barely polite, silence, either say nostalgically that to appreciate it perhaps you have to have drunk a lot of it with that marvellous local food under the sun, etc., or announce bluffly, “Doesn’t travel well, does it? Doesn’t travel.” Judge your audience.

5. Sit over the remains of dinner as long as you dare or can bear to, then take the company off to the drawing-room and make  great play with doling out coffee. By this stage (a vague, prolonged one anyhow), a good half-hour of abrupt and total forgetfulness about the very idea of drink can profitably be risked. At its end “suddenly realize” you have imposed a drought and offer brandy, explaining a good deal less than half apologetically that you have no cognac, only a “rather exceptional” Armagnac. This, of course, produced with due slowness from your pantry, is a watered-down cooking brandy from remote parts of France or from South Africa – a just-potable that will already, did they but know it, be familiar to those of your guests who have drunk “Armagnac” at the average London restaurant. * Ask the ladies if they would care to try a glass of Strelsauvada, a “rather obscure” Ruritanian liqueur made from rotten figs with almond-skin flavouring which admittedly can “play you up” if you are not used to it. They will all say no and think highly of you for the offer.

6. Play out time with groan-preceded, tardily-produced, ice-crammed Scotches, remembering the recourse of saying loudly, * “I find myself that a glass of cold beer [out of the cheapest quart bottles from the pub] is the best thing at this time of night.”

7. Along the lines of sticking more fruit than any sane person could want in the pre-dinner “punch” or “cup”, put out a lot of pseudo-luxuries like flood-damaged truncheon-sized cigars, bulk-bought * after-dinner mints, bankrupt-stock * vari-coloured cigarettes, etc.

8. Your own drinks. These must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass (“an old friend of mine in Venice gave it me – apparently it’s rather valuable, ha, ha, ha”) and a silver cup of some sort (“actually it’s my christening-mug from T.S. Eliot-believe it or not, ha, ha,ha,”) which you stick  inseperably to and can undetectably fill with neat whisky, or boldly use a plain glass containing one of those light-coloured blends known, at any rate in the U.S.A., as a “husband’s Scotch” – “Why, hell, Mamie, just take a look; you can see it’s near as damn pure water,” and hell, Jim, Jack, Joe and the rest of the crowd.

9. If you think that all or most of the above is mere satirical fantasy, you cannot have been around much yet.

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Swingin’ Them Jingle Bells – by Fats

December 25, 2010 at 12:02 am (Christmas, jazz, Jim D, whisky, wild man)

Poor recording quality, weird film (what’s the significance of that bridge?), but…the wildest, swingingest version of ‘Jingle Bells’ ever.  Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller in 1936. Fats and the boys were feeling no pain that day.

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Hurricane: the People’s Champion

July 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm (beer, Champagne Charlie, drugs, sport, whiskey, whisky, wild man, wine)

RIP Hurricane, 1949 -2010

The People’s Champion found dead, alone and emaciated in his flat. He was poverty-stricken, toothless and had endured two major operations for throat cancer. But…

…(in the words given to him by actor Richard Dormer in the one-man play Hurricane)…

“Don’t pity me. I’ve stood on top of the world.”

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I forgot my leek

March 1, 2009 at 9:48 pm (beer, Champagne Charlie, literature, national liberation, whisky)

“A few pieces of traffic turned up as they in fact reached the outskirts of Treville. As the car ducked down the last little hill before the village, the motto FREE WALES was briefly to be seen  daubed on a brick wall in faded and dingy whitewash. An ironic cheer went up.

“‘Now would that be -‘ began Malcolm in his frightening American accent before Alun shushed him.

“”Belt up you stupid bugger. What’s the matter with you? You hardly set eyes on that clown and everything you see reminds you of him. Forget him.’

“‘Dismiss Cadwallader Twll-Din Pugh from your mind.’

“‘Hey, I’ve thought of the thing to say to him about that slogan there. Show me a Welsh nationalist and I’ll show you a cunt'” – Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7N5ODlswiE&feature=related]

(“…frightening American accent…”)

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I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None…

February 20, 2009 at 8:38 pm (beer, Jim D, trivia, whisky)

I’ve just made two wonderful discoveries, one of which is difficult to get hold of (but well worth the effort if you can – and I particularly recommend the brew named after “The Originator of Jazz – Stomp – Swing“) ; the other (12 Year Old Highland Malt)  is readily available from your local Sainsbury’s, and it’s a top notch single malt at any price…let alone the £15 or so that Sainsbury’s are asking…

Btw: I’m not being paid for any of this, you understand. The money from international Zionism is quite sufficient, thank you.

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Burns on a populist shyster…

January 25, 2009 at 12:18 am (Champagne Charlie, Galloway, history, literature, Respect, scotland, stalinism, whisky)

As Burns Night, and the 250th anniversary of the Great Man‘s birth arrive, many comrades will be disappointed to note that George Galloway’s ‘Respect’ party seems to have abandoned its once-popular Burns Night celebration.

Respect Burns Night fundraiser 

I’ve no idea why this grand event seems to have dropped off Respect’s social calander. Perhaps they considered that the traditional “tot of whisky” that used to be included in the cover price (along with an MP  addressing a haggis), wasn’t appropriate to their chosen communal/religious base.

Or perhaps someone has drawn their attention to some of Rabbie’s lesser-known, but remarkably prescient, writings:

  • On Seeing The Beautiful Seat of Lord Galloway: What dost thou in that mansion fair? –
    Flit, Galloway, and find
    Some narrow, dirty, dungeon cave,
    The picture of thy mind!
        

  • On The Same: No Stewart art thou, Galloway
    The Stewarts all were brave;
    Besides, the Stewarts were but fools,
    Not one of them a knave.
        

  • On The Same: Bright ran thy line, O Galloway,
    Through many a far-famed sire!
    So ran the far-famed Roman way,
    So ended in a mire!     

  • To The Same: On the Author’s Being Threatened With His Resentment: Spare me thy vengeance, Galloway.
    In quiet let me live:
    I ask no kindness at thy hand,
    For thou hast none to give.
       

     

(h/t: A Cloud in Trousers)

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Books of the Year #1

December 12, 2008 at 10:51 pm (beer, Champagne Charlie, comedy, literature, trivia, whiskey, whisky, wine)

Our leading writers make their selections from around the world:

CHARLES CHAMPERS

The combination of classical learning, lavish book production and  a hint of scholarly controversy makes Il papiro di Artemidoro (LED: Editizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto), edited by  Claudio Gallazzi, Barbel Kramer and Salvatore Settis, one of the the most important books of the century so far. On the other hand, if you want practical guidance on  piss artistry, try this:

Especially useful (and I recommend this to my colleague Mr Priest, a notorious tightwad when it comes to buying a round), is the section entitled “The Mean Sod’s Guide (incorporating The Mean Slag’s Guide)“. To give you a flavour:

The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existance of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10 p.m – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk…

“(#8): Your own drinks. These must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass (“an old friend of mine in Venice gave it me – apparently it’s rather valuable, ha ha ha“)  and a silver cup of some sort (“actually it’s my christening-mug from TS Eliot – believe it or not, ha ha ha”) which you stick inseperably to  and can undetectably fill with neat whisky…”

As for hangovers, Kingers provides the following sound advice:

* If your wife or other partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your metaphysical hangover (M.H.) before you formally declare war on it.

“Warnings. (i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the M.H., and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occassion.

“(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you wake by yourself.”

Not everyone likes this book (eg John Crace), but then you can’t please ’em all. can you? I enjoyed it (despite Amis’s disrespect for my own favourite tipple), and laughed out loud at parts. Published by Bloomsbury at £9.99.

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