Dog daze


"Never mix, never worry," says my latest love, smugly quoting Edward Albee, as he watches me pour half a Red Stripe into my empty sherry glass. Yes, it is quite a large sherry glass and all the jollier for being so. I am old enough, now, for civilised drinks parties - viz, parties where sherry is served from a bottle in preference to vodka from a watering can. But I am yet to progress to the level where my contemporaries provide a dazzling range of flutes, goblets, slim jims and suchlike by the ten dozen. It would be tricky were one trying to keep a record of alcoholic units consumed. Fortunately, I never waste valuable drinking time worrying about such trivia.

Sometimes, though, it might be prudent if not to stint, then at least to stop before my body becomes possessed by the contumacious liquor that bids me go hither and thither, do this and that. And which, by the morning, has slowly commenced its painful vacation that leaves my every cell distended and confused.

It is the morning after the ill-chosen sherry-lager cocktail. What can I do? Tea must first be made. I assemble the ingredients step by onerous step, retiring to my bed for a recovery period between each action (fill kettle, lie down; turn on kettle, lie down). The moment I feel strong enough I will dose myself with Underberg, a vile German medicine that calls itself a natural herbal digestive and is the best hangover cure I've come across. It's also strongly alcoholic - so much so that the manufacturers try to market it as an enjoyable drink. It simply isn't. Never serve, as they suggest, in a tall glass at the end of a good meal. Serve from a teaspoon the next day.

I could be really brave and make myself a Prairie Oyster (one unbroken egg yolk, two teaspoons Worcester Sauce, two dashes Tabasco, pinch of salt and of pepper and one teaspoon malt vinegar, all dropped into a tumbler) but, judging by the painstaking process with the tea, the egg might have hatched by the time I get round to cracking it. Besides, the sensation of glutinous raw egg-yolk sliding down my throat like a plump mollusc would not necessarily be helpful in my current state. As far as I can see, the only possible reason for drinking a Prairie Oyster is to preserve one's reputation. If, by some wild chance, the egg gives you salmonella, you'll be laid up for days and won't have to tell your colleagues indignant lies about a flash bout of food poisoning that definitely isn't a hangover.

Hangovers at work are indeed tricky. Lucozade is a wonderful restorative, and my own personal favourite, but it's important to vary your hangover habits. If you are seen, ashen-faced and hollow-eyed, clutching a bottle of Lucozade for more than two consecutive days, it's not going to look good. You might as well make yourself a big badge: "Sorry, drank too much, probably won't do much today but hey, at least I made it in." So try diversifying into Coca-Cola (fat-coke, never diet) and hot chocolate, too. Sugar and hydration are key.

Just now, I confess, even tea is troublesome, so I slip back to bed with a dry piece of bread and glass of water which, at the moment, seems like a challenge. Every second is a second closer to recovery as the alcohol levels slowly subside. Soon, though still weak, I will be ready to do the proper thing with the hair-of-the-dog cure which can only truly work once a decent period of mourning and self-recrimination has passed. Six o'clock is usually a good time. Gather around you the friends with whom you spent the night before (very important for full recuperation). Pour a refreshing gin and tonic with a healthy chunk of lemon. Sit back and sip slowly.

This article first appeared in the 01 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An earthquake strikes new Labour