Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Mourning after Tie Night Before

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Mourning after Tie Night Before

Article excerpt

Hold on to your heads, fellow drinkers: January is upon us and I propose to discuss hangovers. Awaking pale and tattered is considered a fitting punishment for excess, but f m an unrepentant hedonist and don't believe there should be a set of metaphysical scales whereby if you pile too much fun on one side in the evening, the contraption tips and gives you a head of hell next morning. Why does alcohol lure us so sweedy only to slap us so soundly? Theories vary from simple dehydration to a complicated explanation involving chemical compounds rearranged by booze into the formula for a headache (this is a rough approximation. If you want to know more, ask a friendly chemist- although I did and am none the wiser).

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Like Kingsley Amis, who divided hangovers into physical and metaphysical components, I believe the explanation has more to do with psychology than the frail dipsomaniac likes to admit: we spend an evening drowning our inner voice in booze like an obnoxious party guest shouting down his host. The next day, that essential self, outraged, wreaks revenge. My favourite evocation of a hangover (apart from Bertie Wooster swallowing one of Jeeves's patent morning revivers, then having to reinsert his eyeballs) is Amis; "consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way1'. Getting out of the way is what you were doing last night - that's why you're moving so slowly now. The question is: once fully, if reluctantly, conscious, what to drink?

The non-alcoholic options are fairly straightforward. There is water, which is dull but useful -or so they tell me. Amis advises against "violent stuff like chilled fruit juice" but I find lemonade beneficial - not the sickly, clear fizz, but a cloudy, combative potion, spiky with citrus. Ginger beer, if strong enough, works on the same principle (the one that says if you stand up to a bully, he or she will back down and maybe, if you're lucky, run away). …

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