More orange than orange juice

Many years ago, one of those misguided souls forced to interact with me from time to time was finding it hard to accept my dismissal of the power of prayer. Would you never, ever pray, he asked me, “Not even when the plane’s going down?”

Considering I have little intention of going to Malaysia it seems a moot point, but I honestly contend I wouldn’t turn to prayer in such a case. This is because there’s only one thing that can cause an antitheist such as myself to dismiss everything I know to be true and bow before an almighty God, beseeching Him to ease the suffering of my soul in return for a life of penitence, worship and, as a coincidental by-product one assumes, kiddie fiddling.

Hangovers.

It’s quite impossible to explain the strength and breadth of the hangovers I get, increasingly just from walking past a pub much less going in one. They vary in sharpness and duration, sometimes don’t involve a headache, frequently include a draining of all energy from the body, are often accompanied by a less than regular movement and always, always come equipped with a level of nausea not even long-term chemotherapy patients could comprehend.

The sickness of a proper hangover cannot be compared to any other human experience. Imagine sitting in the back seat of a car being swerved about by an 85 year old with acute myopia, while reading a book about being in a storm at sea and being kicked repeatedly in the groin by a vomit-covered child with a faecal smearing habit, simultaneously chewing on a freshly microwaved chicken leg rolled in batter made from off milk and rotten eggs, wrapped in a used sanitary towel. That is the imagery I use at the midpoint of a hangover to make myself feel better.

A hangover day doesn’t always start with the appalling knowledge that you will soon crave death; sometimes the body allows you a little window of hope, perhaps up to a couple of hours, during which you begin to wonder if you’ve gotten away with it. You never have. You can eat and drink whatever you like in that glowing morning spell of health and good cheer, but it won’t help. A little forward planning is called for – will whatever you put down the pipe make a smooth reappearance when mixed with stomach acid and fired like a devastating series of projectiles at the toilet bowl? You might want to avoid anything scratchy, like toast.

Very little helps prevent a hangover. Drinking pints of water before you sleep does nothing but make you piss all night, disrupting your much-needed unconsciousness. Aspirin and ibuprofen seem to have no meaningful effect. Kebabs are not the answer, much as at times in my life I’ve been quite certain that kebabs are the answer to absolutely everything.

Thus it becomes all about the cure. Pizza is the universal fixer, and though it can take its time it does generally work. Sadly my situation dictates that I can’t always have a pizza when I need one; pizza every other day appears to be frowned upon by a society with little interest in my well-being.

Other alleged cures include fizzy water, a magical liquid that somehow manages to be even more fizzy on the way back up, tearing your throat to ribbons like an Arab Spring revolutionary waving a cardboard banner at a water cannon. Bananas supposedly restore something you’re likely to be short of, potassium or sodium or one of those other elements that sometimes you need and sometimes will kill you, but keeping down something with the consistency of a banana is a pipe dream. Some people swear by tea. With a hangover, I swear at tea as it shoots out of me like the brown outrage from a Joskin Tornado 3, with Free Steering axle plus many other extras.

Having experienced countless hangovers in the last quarter of a century, it’s tragic that I’ve only recently discovered something to mitigate the discomfort of being sick as a border collie after a grass bender. An ice-cold bottle of water from the fridge by my side, between each retch I pour a healthy dose down my throat, ensuring cold water is the most likely substance next back up the tube. The idea of swallowing while the body’s trying to push stuff out is tricky for the brain to deal with, though it didn’t seem to do Linda Lovelace any harm. It seems the body just wants something out, be that water, last night’s 12th Guinness or the only liquid known to man that can be more orange than orange juice.

My grandfather told me once that his hangovers got worse up until the age of about 50, then slowly eased after that. That would mean over 12 more years of this and I don’t think I can take it. And yet obviously I can’t stop drinking, or contemplate drinking less, because allowing light and focus into all other areas of my life can only end with me in either HMP Wandsworth or trundling slowly into Euston beneath the wheels of a Northern line train.

I ask just this of you: please don’t belittle my hangovers. They may be avoidable, all other consequences aside, but if I drink half as much as you and yet I’m the one feeling like Alexander Litvinenko the next morning you can believe that the words “it’s only a hangover” will be ringing in your ears as I blow groceries all around wherever you’re standing. There has to be a measure of justice – I don’t need you haranguing me when my body’s already doing a fine job of that itself.

Accept that I’m seriously ill, and leave me be. One look at my harrowing face should be enough to tell you this plane’s going down without you flashing a laser pen into the pilot’s eyes.

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