Tag Archives: alcohol

The Cheshire Cheese and the Boot

Some things ignite rage in the soul. The sight of that fucking oaf Johnson at a podium outside number 10. Secretly filmed footage of care home staff abusing residents. Easy Listening covers of proper rock tunes. Farage.

But the world’s not all Jose Mourinho; there’s joy aplenty if you’re willing to peek from behind the sofa. The sight of someone you don’t know doubled over laughing – how bizarrely infectious is that? A good film in a quiet cinema while the world outside goes all to bloody hell. Dogs. Snow. Dogs in snow.

And some things can be a bit of each, like Ben Stokes briefly papering over not so much cracks as canyons in England’s batting order. It’s 2019 though. Everything must be one or the other, good or bad, no grey areas. Ambiguity has been killed by the internet and if you’re on the fence about something you’re Neville Chamberlain reincarnated. You there: decide.

So what the fuck am I supposed to do about table service at Wetherspoons?

Continue reading The Cheshire Cheese and the Boot

A hole to China

It was a rather hot summer’s morning at about 10am. I’d been up since 6am because I work for myself and my boss is a total prick.

My friend came to see me, said he had the day off. Now, you know that friend you have that, when they say they have the day off, you know you’re about to spend all day down the pub? Well, this is my friend like that. Before I could even argue he threw me my coat, and as this was a summer’s day, this confirmed my suspicions that we would be in the pub all day and most of the night.

It was one of those days where work didn’t matter. Nothing mattered, really.

Continue reading A hole to China

Veganuary

A good many people will take the dawn of a new calendar year as a signal from some higher power to kneel at the altar of self-deprivation, pledging themselves to some puritanical amoeba-like existence in the blind hope that it will preserve their oh-so-precious bodies for a meagre few more years of life.

Meanwhile, I’m doing my level best to do all the drinking and meat-eating for them in a bid to maintain the rapidity of the universe’s collapse. This tired charade of human life has really gone on for far too long as it is; the pretence of sustainability in a world moulded by greed is as laughable as a pig on an ice rink – which would be perfectly hilarious if it weren’t a perfect metaphor for human progress. Whilst I’m loathe to dance as this grim cavalcade nears its end, I see no reason to delay that end.

I’m interminably incensed by the holier than thou horseshit that spews forth every time someone proudly proclaims that they’ve kicked a habit that they deem detrimental to their pointless existence. The only things that punctuate the grim monotony of life are those rare exotic substances that for a brief, fleeting moment rescue you from the seeping septic tank of the world and help launch you into the realm of sheer self-indulgent bliss. That might sound like an advert for pro-biotic yoghurt and other affordable placebos, but it stands as a defence for those life-shortening sweeteners that make the world we’ve crafted a bearable one.

Smoking that first cigarette after work, I’m almost inclined to believe there could be a god, such are the restorative powers of all that some seek to deny themselves during the bleakest month of the year. The prospect of Dry January or Veganuary – take a moment here to reflect upon the kind of world we live in where that is a legitimate term for the first month of the year – is so unceasingly dull it merely serves to stretch our tedious existence out for longer than necessary, which to me feels like a lose-lose deal.

Especially at a time like January! With such gibbering gumption do people decry the old follies of alcoholism and any other earthly pleasure that can be given up for a month in the pursuit of moral superiority. At this time of year there can be no greater need for the home-comforts of mind-numbing alcohol, tobacco and all the other vices through which we sustain ourselves amidst the madness of meal deals, fun-running and zero-hour contracts.

People always blather out of their gaping word-holes about how much they think this year will be full of positivity and change and progress and other buzzwords that middle-managers in PR firms bandy around when trying to flog a new form of hair-gunk or when David Cameron’s trying to bomb someone. Why? How in god’s tit did you reach that conclusion you fucking genius? Maybe these are the same people who believe in horoscopes, yoga, juice diets or sharing Britain First memes. Never mind Mystic Meg, these twats have been listening to Denial Deidre and Bullshit Barbara.

We inhabit a planet that rejects us, a world desperately retching like someone regretting a suicidal overdose. A world where everyone’s a salesman flogging themselves as a brand in a disparaging fire sale of our collective sanity. A world where style finally drove an ice-pick of idiocy through the skull of substance. A world we paradoxically wish to save and yet are pre-programmed to consume – how, here, can there possibly be something so flagrantly deluded as hope?

We’ve unwittingly been sold our own values back to us; whether we wanted to cut out red meat for quixotic desires or for the self-absorbed pursuit of health, beauty and all the other hypocrisies that humans beings are capable of, it doesn’t matter. We believe that by consuming a product, or not consuming a product, we have performed an act of free will, whereas in reality the values we try to exude, the ones that we feel define us and our conscious decisions as human beings who matter, are merely defined in relation to our consumption or rejection of some marketing executive’s wet dream.

Whether we buy into the wet dream or the dream of free will and rebellion through a month or even a lifetime of eating nothing but damp cardboard, we’re still buying in. And it costs us more than a loaf of artisan pumpkin-seed gluten-free bread.

The pious holy-rollers of the sustainability camp are merely prolonging a life that cannot possibly meet the unrealistically high expectations that their values set upon themselves. Abstaining from drinking or going vegan or vegetarian on the grounds of some moral bent somewhat misses the point, ecologically speaking – will these same people avoid combustion engines, mass produced electronic goods and anything that uses processed packaging?

Due to the ubiquitous nature of the aforementioned evils, such an absolutist morality is only serving to prolong human existence in a far from perfect world. The “every little helps” notion is quaint and commendable in some abstract sense, but I’d much rather these self-sacrificing Mormon-esque types get busy dying along with the rest of us. We live in a cesspool and you brought a mop of morality? There’s no undoing the damage and there’s really not a great deal to cry about or save, so let’s just snap the neck of the world rather than strangle it slowly. Let every cigarette, every drink, every sirloin steak be just another pillow in the greatest smother party the world will never see!

Whether we were designed or found such a pugnacious form by accident is irrelevant – we are all cursed with the same in-built desire to persevere irrespective of the consequences. At this stage denying yourself those deadly small joys is merely obeying that programming. Self-flagellation is just masturbation without the mess, whereas self-destruction is a noble act in a world of narcissistic self-belief. And it’s probably the only mercy we’re capable of collectively granting to all the other life that inhabits this planet.

Lost to the grape

The day begins with a feeling of minor dread akin to realising you’ve left the freezer door open overnight and melted your fish fingers. A mild sickness appears in the back of the throat, your body stating in no uncertain terms that it may allow you to get a little toothpaste in your mouth but if you attempt porridge you’re asking for it. Your mind refuses to output sensible instruction as you fail to get pants on like an adult and almost headfirst yourself through the window. It’s the type of stodgy malady only a lack of alcohol the previous night can bring on.

Hangovers are diabolical and can leave an Iron Man veteran curled up foetally on his bathroom floor, but the hollow feeling of a fresh morning following a night of sobriety holds its own terrors. Despite this, and some evidence to the contrary, it’s a feeling I experience most days of the week.

Continue reading Lost to the grape

Chef’s special

Vegetarians are lunatics; I think we can all agree on that. Somehow, the ever-reducing number of guilt-free pleasures available to the western consumer do still include a meat-laden meal, prepared to perfection and presented in such style it makes you glad you were able to dismiss that definition of ‘pearl barley’ you had to look up the other week as the ravings of a madman.

Oh but hang on – you’ve been led astray. Your mind has wandered off to a land of cattle shaped like deliciously tender and well-seasoned steaks, done to within a split-second of perfection with juices emerging lazily to blend with your mashed polenta. You’re picturing succulent pieces of chicken reclining in a polpette di pollo, laced with garlic and flat-leafed parsley and sprinkled with parmesan as though Edesia herself has blessed your majestic banquet. Roman goddess of food. Thank you Jimmy Wales.

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Pearl barley and quinoa

I wish I hadn’t watched that video. I wish I could roll back time and forget this moment of enlightenment. Why do we treat animals so badly? Why do we mass produce living beings just so we can eat at McDonalds? I’ll never be able to enjoy a burger again, or a flat white. Even honey is off limits.

Vegan. That’s the dirty word, that’s the descriptor I never thought would define me. I’m normal, I’m just like everyone else, and “I’ll eat whatever you’re having!” Except I won’t. Because I can’t unsee those images. I can’t pretend that it’s fine to stick my hand inside a dead decapitated chicken and fill it up with lemons and garlic. I can’t fry a steak, or wear a leather belt, because I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of other living things.

So my transition starts. My girlfriend watches on disapprovingly as our fridge loses all meat and dairy, and hemp milk, oat milk and almond milk take up increasing amounts of space. She’s even less impressed when I proudly state: “The cat ate smashed avocado on toast for breakfast today.” I’m turning that carnivore vegan; she gets special cat food delivered in the post now.

All I see are healthy guilt-free alternatives; all my girlfriend can see is boring plain food. I tell her; “It’s for the best, we can radically change the world one meal at a time.” She tells me she’s hungry, and she’d rather stay ignorant. I’m not allowed to show her the evidence of the terrible things done in her name.

Things come to a head at 2am on a Wednesday morning. My girlfriend has been out drinking with her workmates and she staggers in and wakes me up – she’s absolutely smashed. She’s hungry and I follow her into the kitchen and watch as the realities of my veganism wash over her swaying form. Sourdough bread, almond butter, bags of kale, fresh mushrooms, seven packets of lentils (green and red), pearl barley and quinoa – this isn’t the menu for a drunk twenty three year old.

She slams the fridge door shut and decries the “vegan shit” filling up our kitchen. She wants pizza, pie, kebabs, sausages, burgers, but all I can offer her is homemade soup, or a banana smoothie. And I remember the phrase that appears in nearly all vegan media: “See the world through the eyes of the victim.” And I’m torn – who is the victim in this scenario: my drunk girlfriend? Or the animals that die so she can drunkenly sink her teeth into their decaying flesh?

But context is important too. We sit around and stuff our faces and we owe our lives to mass production and deception. We’re sold images of happy animals who die quietly and peacefully (after content little lives) and we buy their dead bodies wholesale.

My drunken girlfriend has bought the lie. She’s drunk so she wants meat (of course), she wants to stuff herself on unhealthy foods because that’s what you do. You drink too much, and then you eat a kebab; and it’s fine, you can be temporarily hedonistic. Until you wake up the next day with a pounding headache and a bad stomach.

We’re all victims. We’re all sucked in by late-night advertisements. We’re enchanted by the kebab shop myth, those late night vendors in brightly lit windows, hawking horse meat at ungodly hours – the moments where people are at their most susceptible.

I realise that we’re all victims of corporations that fill their pockets with our pennies, the tiny pieces of money that we all tithe daily to keep Coca Cola, McDonalds and other global purveyors of repackaged suffering solvent. So I fill up my blender with chickpeas, I dice up a lemon, crush some garlic, and I make houmous, good wholesome Middle Eastern food.

I chop up a cucumber and I hand it to my girlfriend. “It’s finger food,” I tell her. “It’s good.”

She looks at my arrangement with disdain but her belly growls and she starts to eat. She stuffs her face and devours an entire cucumber, all of the houmous, and promptly falls asleep on the sofa with a contented belch.

We don’t have to eat the shit they tell us is good, we can change our perspectives, we can reassess and reconsider the myths we’re sold. I don’t eat anything that had a face, or a mother. I don’t drink cow’s milk, monkey’s milk, elephant’s milk or rat’s milk. I’m a human; I don’t consume animal products.

But it took a massive shift in my reasoning to change my diet, and it’s hard to maintain. I miss cheese, I miss milk and cookies, but I can’t go back. I’ve learned something, a truth that sits uncomfortably inside me, and one that I can’t forget – we don’t need to eat animals (even when we’re drunk).

So in those moments of weakness, in those times where advertisements define your response, take a step back. You can be radically different. You can change the world one mouthful at a time by not accepting the pain and suffering that meat-eating causes.

But don’t try and change your girlfriend’s mind too quickly. Take inspiration from fast food advertising. Wait until she’s drunk and at her most susceptible – then feed her cucumber.

I’d rather be Pol Pot

Everyone’s been fired.

More accurately, some abnormally lucrative contract in this barbaric government silo has been revoked, unrenewed or disavowed, or whatever the Tories do to consultancy firms in the age of tightening ringpieces. Each of that consultancy’s steeds is to be ceremonially slaughtered in favour of a set of baying replacements from a similarly rapacious private sector drone factory in the middle of next month.

I’m not part of the ruthless gang being run out of town by the Deloitte brothers, who have begun sending in a parade of precocious children in identical spectacles to replace the overpaid adults surrounding me. My contract is unaffected and they hoped I would stick around, not least to help with the ‘transition’. That simple word was enough to send me running screaming for whichever hill from which I last saw my dignity. Adopting some combination of solidarity and fear of being set up, I’ve decided to join the rest in raiding the stationery cupboard for A4 pads I’ll take home but never use – I have quit.

Continue reading I’d rather be Pol Pot

A month in Marrakesh

I lived in Marrakesh for a while, a few days, minutes or months ago. Time has never really been my strong point. I’m the type of person who says ‘a few days ago’ and that can mean anything from yesterday to when I was a child. Anyway, I went and lived in Marrakesh for a month, just for something to do really, to see if I could break the monotony of life, of which there is plenty when you live in a humdrum village full of pubs and gossips.

I went to Marrakesh during Ramadan. A few people had told me it would be an interesting time to go. I didn’t really know what this meant because any time going to a foreign land should be interesting, right? Basically what interesting meant in this context, as far as I can work out, was that nowhere was selling booze out there.

For people from anywhere other than the UK this wouldn’t be a problem. For us UKians, it’s a fucking nightmare. It’s shit being in a city without booze, especially when you have no idea when the religious festivities are going to be over so you can quench that thirst.

What do they expect us to do? Sit patiently and wait for them to decide that this religious nonsense has gone on long enough? Should they not at least build some sort of medical booze tent in the centre of the city for us sunburnt tourists to go and get plastered in? Perhaps a kebab shop just outside the tent for us to shout at the owners in after a day on the golden nectar. I really don’t think that is too much to ask for, do you? They should really put some sort of system in place for next year before the British tourists in the city begin thinking it’s time to reform the Empire!

Anyway, thanks to my British upbringing, after a few hours of being in the city I managed to sniff out the only place in Marrakesh that was selling booze. There are three supermarkets in the city and of course the one the furthest from my fucking apartment was the only one of the three selling beer. A walk of 2km every other fucking day was in order, to fill up a bag full of beautiful beverages and then walk home in the sweltering 40-degree heat. At least I was sweating out all of the beer from the previous day, can’t hurt I guess.

After about two weeks of this and just as I’d had enough of this walk, finally the religious barrier was lifted. I’m not even religious for fuck’s sake. Ramadan was over, the cafés, restaurants, bars and other supermarkets slowly began to regain their wits and put beer back on their menus. It was like the end of some natural disaster in a film, the dust settling and people emerging blinking onto the streets.

And finally they allowed us tourists to take over once more. Travellers could be spotted climbing out of their holes, dusting off their Hawaiian shirts and swimming shorts and walking into bars where they smiled, laughed and drank merrily. It was a magical time.

What are they thinking taking religious values over money for a month anyway? Throughout the two weeks of Ramadan I was there, I had countless tourists coming up to me asking if I knew where to buy beer. I don’t know why they asked me – perhaps the comfort in my stride lead them to believe that I was half cut. I was very proud of myself as the only bastard in the city to know where to buy booze, at least for those two weeks.

I promise you that I did a little bit more than just drink beer while I was there. I also walked around half drunk, pointed tourists in the direction of the oasis that I had found, got into amazing conversations with Moroccans about their drug habits and my drink habits, and even drank the wine as well. It is fair to say that for the most part I was a typical English tourist for a month in Marrakesh.

The tyranny of rope

Let me tell you a story. At about 11.15pm on Monday night, a very un-Monday number of Strongbows to the good, I skipped gleefully out of a kebab shop beside a tube station that’s closed for maintenance for months. With a 15-minute walk up the road to the next station it seemed wise to eat my spoils en route, and what should appear in front of me but a battered office chair. I’m almost certain it wasn’t an ABV-induced mirage; either I was sitting on an office chair or I’ve turned into a fakir.

This chair had been dumped in the small forecourt of a place called Maple House, the front of which is covered with metal bars, CCTV cameras and a distressing sign saying ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY: Circle Anglia Residents Only’. Nevertheless there were no lights on inside and there seemed to be no-one who might object to me giving this chair one final hurrah before its trip to the incinerator.

I hadn’t reckoned with the British people’s inherent need to be told what not to do.

Continue reading The tyranny of rope

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.