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8 May 2024

I have a gift for hangovers and doing an impression of a helicopter

It’s amazing what you can find out about yourself after three dinner parties in a week.

By Nicholas Lezard

It has been an unusually busy week. For me, a whirlwind. I remember when lockdown started and I saw practically no difference between that and my normal existence. (Actually, the last eight months of lockdown were great, thanks to a bored woman in Durham, but that’s another story for another day.) But last week saw me pinging back and forth to London like a bouncy ball. First, I was invited to a fourth-floor flat just off Highgate Hill to celebrate my first Seder. Ever since I started to identify as A Bit Jewish I have been learning more and more about Jewish culture.

On the train, on the day of the Seder, I double-checked on the pronunciation of the word “Seder”, that’s how Jewish I am. For that and other reasons I had been mildly nervous, mainly about making a faux pas. I was told not to worry, and my host cleverly invited me a bit early so I could acclimatise, and meet her daughter and her friend P—, who is a gay Sikh woman who knew as much about Jewish custom as I did. We hit it off immediately because you just do that with some people.

There is a notion that Jews don’t drink much. “Yes, but Lezard makes up for the rest of us single-handed,” said a friend of mine a few months ago. It turns out this is a myth. At least one Jew was matching me drink for drink. I woke up on the sofa bed with one of the worst hangovers I had ever had; the arrack had come out. My phone told me there was a missed call at 5.32am; picking through my memories, that’s when I asked my fellow-reveller to call me, as I was too drunk to find it. It was a great night, but thank God the walk back to Archway station was downhill. (On the walk up the evening before, I had thought: “Is this the hill I am actually going to die on?” So I caught a bus. I told everyone I’d walked up but that was a filthy lie. My apologies.)

Then, a few days later, it was back to That London for my eldest son’s birthday dinner. The company of my children makes me blissfully happy, largely because of their wit and beauty, which they inherit from me. Yeah, OK, and their mother. Sometimes I catch myself marvelling at my boys’ hair. It is so abundant, so luxurious, so thick. “Don’t take your hair for granted,” I tell them. “You’ll miss it when it’s gone.”

Since my ejection from the family home, though, my children have gone over to the dark side and developed a fondness for those family games that come in a box but demand that you do things. Sort of like charades. This would not have happened on my watch but you can’t be everywhere at once. On this occasion the game, which came with a set of instruction cards, involved having to describe a word on one of the cards with your hands behind your back, so you can’t point or make gestures, and without using articulate words. Onomatopoeia is allowed. Example: “boing, boing” for a kangaroo.

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“Oh f**k off,” I said. “I’m not playing that.”

“Too bad, it’s my birthday.”

In the end, I entered the spirit of the thing, and it was generally agreed that my impression of a helicopter was the standout event of the evening.

“It’s funny,” said my eldest, A—, “Dad’s much better at the games where you’re not allowed to use words.”

“That’s because a writer is someone for whom writing is unusually difficult,” I said, but to myself, several days later.

In between these two gigs I bought myself a new pair of trousers. I had noticed a flash of white when I sat down at the Seder, and discovered a hole in the crotch large enough to push a tennis ball through. This won’t do at all, I thought, and went to the Levi’s shop in Brighton where I buy a new pair of black 501s every two years or so.

“That’ll be £90,” said the shop assistant.

“£90!!!” I screamed. But I wasn’t going to go to my eldest son’s birthday dinner and have his girlfriend see the fissure in my kecks and decide to dump him right there because, you know, his dad.

The day after that I had another hangover, which had stirred the dormant embers of its predecessor, so I went back to Brighton in a gale of pain. But that evening I had yet another dinner party, this time just five minutes’ walk up the road, but those five minutes were an eternity. I sank into an armchair and feebly accepted a glass of champagne. The people there were ex-hacks and editors so there was a great deal of gossip, a lot of it about a particular writer who has been much in the news lately. I can’t name him. But it turned out he is a fan of this column so all is forgiven. My hangover was still in place, so I left before anyone else. As many could testify, this really isn’t like me. The next morning I found a card from a certain AM which had been forwarded from the Statesman in March. It contained £30 in cash. So now my trousers cost £60.

Everyone is being nice to me and life is pleasant. It is most unsettling.

[See also: Joan Baez haunted by heartbreak]

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This article appears in the 08 May 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Doom Scroll