Tag Archives: alcohol

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.

I’m not an alcoholic in any meaningful sense of the word, and coming from a family packed with them I should know. I have an uncle, two aunts and a cousin humbly asking Him to remove their shortcomings in a room of shame-faced strangers. At a large family event some years ago one of these, in her mid-forties, was found floundering in a ditch outside the venue, attempting to use her cash card to withdraw money from a hedge. Livened up the wedding, at least. Pity it was mine.

I have a raft of alcoholic drinks in my house – an actual raft, in case England’s northern barbarians send down their army of unwanted waters – but I probably crack one open once every couple of months. Alcohol often goes past its use-by date at my place, leading to the forlorn sight of a man sorrowfully tipping away can after can of Guinness that was once God’s gift to drinkers but now tastes like caustic soda laced with brie.

I drink in company, anywhere but home, to have a laugh, get drunk and forget the future. I don’t drink because I like it – I tolerate it in order to lose my wits. I don’t drink because it relaxes me of an evening – that’s what tea is for. I am the classic binge drinker, as are many of my countrymen and women. It’s frequently gruesome, destructive, frightening, pugnacious and vile, and more often than not great fun.

Today, one of our nation’s august health authorities has elected to inform us that even the tiniest sip of grog will do your body harm, and a man’s weekly upper limit should be somewhere in the region of seven pints. Good luck explaining to an Englishman after seven pints on a Monday night that he’s had enough for the week, particularly if you’re not within easy reach of one of the country’s two remaining A&Es.

Even to those with a forehead like Steven Gerrard it must be abundantly plain that alcohol is a poison to the human body, and can be nothing but bad for you. Advice to make us do less of it is akin to telling us not to take naps on train tracks or point binoculars at the sun. But unlike a number of vocal critics fouling the airwaves this morning, I don’t object to such guidance being issued by civil servants with curiously large budgets, because this guidance is plainly not aimed at me.

I object with unimaginable vehemence to anyone telling me how much I should and shouldn’t drink, because life is going to kill me one day no matter how many bulbs of garlic I hang up to ward off the inevitable. I’ve lately been suffering a bout of horrific hangovers that have made me seriously question my intake – and that’s fine, because I’m choosing to take on board the facts of my blistering skin and ripped throat, and react accordingly. You don’t need to tell me I should drink less, because my body tells me itself by upwardly ejecting much of what I put in it through the wrong hole with great force.

Yet official advice on how much you should drink, in that ideal world none of us will ever experience, is surely as harmless as the Green Cross Code. Remember that? Stopped you getting killed when you were a child? Maybe if the red man at the traffic lights had been a bottle instead I might have been sufficiently conditioned to avoid my likely fate of a waiting list for a nasty brown organ I won’t abide on my plate much less have implanted in me when someone else is done with it.

The advice given by health bodies is so plainly obvious to the most ardent of simpletons it seems almost designed to let us ignore it. Eating raw meat could kill you. Well bugger me, that’s a turn up. Don’t try to retrieve your Frisbee from an electricity station unless you want a million British school children to laugh at you in the advert they make about it. Don’t inflate the life raft until you’ve exited the aircraft, though plane safety info is singularly worthless given you’ll be splattered across the plains long before you have the chance to hunt about beneath your seat for a life jacket that probably isn’t there.

Still, objecting to such advice is quite daft. The people behind such guidelines clearly do it because we’re a country with one of the biggest intakes of booze per head on the planet, and to not point out there are downsides to it would be to miss the opportunity to give a few people jobs. It’s bad for you. Yes we know. Here’s a few quid, treat yourself to a Smirnoff.

Don’t complain that alcohol may give you one of those grim diseases that eat you up over the course of many months, like arse cancer or gout, but it’s good for your heart in moderation. Advice like this is hardly aimed at people who sip at a nice glass of red with their tenderloin and smile contentedly that Mr Merlot has helped them cheat death for yet another day. If you’re using alcohol to try to keep your heart healthy you’re probably not reading the label properly.

If you drink a bottle of wine a night and think it’s good for you, you were lost to the grape long ago and good luck on your voyage to the bottom of the vineyard. If you think you’re fine because you have five days a week completely juice-free, you might not live forever if the other two days are spent crawling through sick down Cardiff high street with your skirt up over your head, one shoe in your left hand and the other in The Prince of Wales.

You might not live forever even if you spend seven days a week off the sauce, every week of your dwindling life, because that’s the game I’m afraid. It ends. Don’t fume at the guidelines explaining how to delay the certain, just accept they’re another way of saying “You’re going to get hit by a bus, but it doesn’t have to be the next one you see.”

Let us applaud these new directives in the true spirit of a nation minded to listen politely before making their own bloody minds up, consequences be damned. And drink up, because before last orders in the great pub of life we might as well go out singing and shouting and glassing each other in the true tradition of a country floating on ale.

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.

That’s not real meat. That’s middle-class meat. Your imagination is filled with images of unreal meals cooked by that fat-tongued clown Jamie Oliver and no-one else ever because what the fuck is he on about, really?

Meat is the rotting flesh of dead animals, industrially reared and slaughtered, hacked up and transported incalculable distances so we can get fat on suffering and murder and call it ‘natural’. Meat is meant to be frightening, and if it doesn’t scare you you probably deserve the same fate as that sheep they made in a lab, named and marvelled at for a few weeks before beginning to look at differently, with eyes saying “That bit’s the shoulder, that bit’s the shank.”

Meat must be feared. That’s where kebabs come in. Don’t look at me like that.

There are people in the world who think kebabs are the sole preserve of the drunkard who’s given up all hope of a future without diabetes. At times it’s hard to fault that line of thought, and yet at 12.35am on a Wednesday, some hours before Wednesday becomes a serious and terrifying reality, there’s nothing more life-affirming than a hairy man regarding you balefully as you step across his threshold slurring “large doner please mate”. Witness him glide across the dubious linoleum towards the object of your terrible desire, sharpening his infernal weaponry and slicing through so many mashed-together ex-creatures in one swipe it’d make that arsehole who arrowed Cecil the Lion quake with fear.

Kebabs are a gift to Britain from a culture that has realised we’re fucked beyond imagination and only food that makes you genuinely ashamed can stave off the doom. But here, too, some will be thinking: “Actually he has a point. I had a lovely schwarma wrapped in a toasted tortilla from the new artisan Turkish on the High Street last week. They infuse it with herbs and they won’t give out the recipe for their garlic sauce, and believe me I’ve asked. It’s that good, I even had it sober once.”

You’re what’s wrong with the world, do you know that? You think Waitrose is fine for day-to-day items, but oh that new patisserie, they make the most wonderful cinnamon tea cakes. You regularly claim you prefer the feel of a ‘real book’ while never buying anything on your Amazon wish list unless it drops under a quid. You probably think Jeremy Clarkson was treated shabbily by the BBC. You’re the reason there’s such a thing as a ‘gastropub’.

What you imagine to be a kebab is nothing of the sort, but just as with dartboards, jukeboxes and faded pub carpets swimming in beer, our heritage is being lost in a blur of upward mobility. Genuine kebab shops of the type the past two generations have worshipped as temples of post-pub salvation are being replaced by places that are safe, non-threatening and, worst of all, clean.

This is summed up by the slow death of the pita bread. There’s a reason I go to Eddie’s by Kings Cross station – they serve me stacks of dirty meat, wrecked salad and ring-stinging chili sauce on Poundland-quality pita bread, and some minutes in the bread’s soaked through with more fat than the beach at Benidorm. This, I must stress, is a marvellous thing.

But we are being invaded by ‘wraps’. It’s impossible to describe the disappointment of a ‘wrap’, with meat that seems pre-chewed, sauce you can’t see and therefore can’t be sure isn’t “chef’s special”, and the culinary equivalent of a sheet of A4 holding it all together. There’s half as much food than in a proper kebab – and worse, the bit missing is the hangover-prevention ingredient that most of us have bought it for in the first place, that glorious pita that will gum you up like putty.

I demand that at least one aspect of my life be allowed to continue unmolested by the drive to make everything family-friendly to maximise revenue. Pubs that I can tolerate are disappearing as irascible landlords are replaced by apron-wielding ‘managers’. I feel increasingly uncertain in newsagents since energy drinks and devices for ‘vaping’ replaced Panini stickers and a proper top shelf. Even easyJet isn’t the comedy bunfight it once was, with reserved seating and fake tan no longer mandatory among staff of both genders. I think they’re allowed to fly to Monaco now and I don’t understand.

We, the standard bearers of a country that would have as much point as Switzerland without our ability to hold our ale, are hungry. Wraps will not do, damn it. Find some other way to describe whatever pitiful muck your people masquerade as kebabs, and a way to serve it that doesn’t involve me wandering into a place with an elephant leg on a sign outside and emerging with tears streaming down my face as a once-great nation allows itself to be emasculated by the rampant hordes of people who know what the holy Christ ‘chia seeds’ are.

Some things in life should be confusing, alarming and not for everyone, like animated porn. Kebabs are not yours, they’re ours. We will have sodden pita bread, and chili sauce of unknown provenance from a silver container, not a bottle. We will continue to say yes to chillies to look like proper kebab eaters then covertly throw them in the street for the rat whose brother we’re probably munching on right now. We embrace botulism like a comfort blanket.

We know our dinner will kill us, and you’d better let it. You wouldn’t like Eddie when he’s angry.

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.

It’s been majestically plain for many weeks that I’m not needed here, yet their intention was to keep me on. Yes, please let me be one of the four people left from the old regime who must carry the can for the decisions of the 25 you took out the back and shot. I always thought Comrade Duch displayed a wonderful serenity in those rheumy eyes of his as the gavel came down on the 12,000 murders he’d ordered, but all things considered I think I’d rather be Pol Pot. Not for the first time.

This has lead to the inevitable demands for a ‘handover’. Having done as good as fuck all since May, what exactly I’m meant to hand over to my successor is unclear. A document filled with survival tips, perhaps. For example, how to put down the lid, sit sideways on the toilet, and position a new, fat bog roll under your head on the little ledge behind the khazi for an invigorating nap of which tales will be told to future generations. Admittedly while doing so you must breathe in the gaseous waste of men in their fifties who have as much Yule Log as fibre in their diet, but that’s something I might allow my replacement to find out for themselves.

Many of the condemned are already exhibiting the mania of the more ill-fated patrons of the Arizona Department of Corrections. One of the incoming party was today introduced to a doomed man, and met with “But you won’t need to remember my name”, to uncomfortable laughter. People are still working, though building their own gallows with reams of bubble wrap directly beneath the trapdoor. As the copywriter, there is nothing but professional pride preventing me from changing “You must bring your printed confirmation with you when you board your plane” to “We send all your details to MI6 immediately and if your confirmation is not printed on both your t-shirt and underpants you will be shot in a shed at Stansted.” I am not a proud man.

Eight months I’ve wasted in this place. Eight months where I could have been writing filth like this on websites no-one reads, as I did happily for most of 2014. I’ve pocketed the loot, and in doing so I’ve damaged myself to the point that I was ordered last month not to top myself because we’ve got a nice holiday coming up and it would be a shame to miss it. When the parlous state of things becomes that plain to other people, it’s time to accept a career in ceaselessly tedious office employment may not prove the path to contented oblivion at well past your half century.

So it’s done. There are three weeks of my notice to work out. Three weeks of 150-minute lunches made entirely of questionable brown drinks in pubs whose usual lunchtime trade involves Kronenbourg Keith droning interminably on to the barman who hates him more than the father who beat him. Three weeks of coming in late and getting out early, met with a level of disinterest that suggests I could have got away with this from the off. Three weeks of two hours’ work. That’s two hours’ work in the whole three weeks. If I exert myself.

And then we’ll all part ways and pretend that we’ll see each other again in the future, praying that we won’t. People are already asking each other what job they’ll be doing next. Am I unusual in desperately praying I can spend the rest of the year sitting about in pants that will swiftly tighten due to an increase in beer, pizza, motionlessness and porn?

Unless Jeremy Corbyn successfully dismantles capitalism in the next six months, I suppose I’ll have to tolerate another office job at some point in the medium term. I’ll be planted among another group of tired, middle-class chancers making work where there should be none and producing so little of note the high point of their week is tearful acclaim of their child’s pre-school Crayola depiction of Mummy holding hands with a man they don’t recognise. Until that time I will write nonsense, drink copiously, talk to people I don’t know on topics I know nothing about, and pound my city’s streets in search of answers to questions that only matter to the lost and the damned.

In other words, live.

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.

Having hurtled through a fabulous meal of long-dead ‘lamb’, fat-soaked bread and wrecked lettuce, I briefly made use of the office chair’s tilt function to rub my rump contentedly. At just that moment, I noticed an army approaching. Its commanders were two fat bints in brightly coloured tarpaulins, pushing vehicles designed for children but almost certainly containing multipacks of toilet paper. Their soldiers were toddlers, 12 of them, though obviously with hindsight there might only have been six. None of these runts were on leads.

Keep walking don’t live here oh Jesus they’re coming here aren’t they oh that’s bloody typical: “What you doin’?”

“Making use of this chair. Thank you, very comfortable. I’ll go now.”

“You can’t just sit there! That’s someone’s property. There might be kids in there!”

I can surely be forgiven for exhibiting a degree of confusion at this point. She presumably lives here, and yet “someone’s property” suggests she’s more concerned that the owners, perhaps whatever the fuck ‘Circle Anglia’ is, are having the value of their real estate damaged by a shambolic buffoon rubbing himself gaily in an office chair in full of view of everyone, in utter defiance of a sign, and cameras, and other things designed to scare tramps off.

Also, all the kids appear to be in front of me here, not inside Maple House. If you don’t want me to demonstrate to these young minds the spectacular benefits of midweek drinking, you might consider keeping them inside the building with the bars and CCTV cameras rather than carting them up and down Junction Road at gone closing.

It never ceases to astound me how British people have accepted the tyranny of rope without stopping to question that they may be being prevented from doing things that are their right, or interesting, or fun, for no reason. I was on HMS Belfast once, clambering about a ship with various intriguing steps up and down, passageways and so on. Across one set of steps was a rope. I climbed over it. My brother immediately let out a wail that I was about to be keel hauled. “But there’s a rope!” Yes, I saw that. I’ve not yet learned the ability to talk to rope and its implied message was a touch too subliminal for me. No sailors awaited with plank at the ready. In fact there wasn’t much of interest beyond the rope, and I’ve still no idea why it was there.

If you visit Buckingham Palace in the 90 minutes a year the old dear’s forced to accommodate plebs, you’ll encounter rope. There’ll be a bed, say, which they allow you to stare at from a few metres away from behind a rope. This bed was perhaps once slept in by a minor 18th century prince who’d got pissed and lost his way around the massive castle that we bloody well pay for. If the nobility want to prevent me from having a lie down on what amounts to my own bed, may they find the ghost of Maximilien Robespierre measuring their necks in their dreams. In reality I’ll probably just pay £3 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn but the effect’s the same, sort of.

“Look, I’m no threat am I? I just wanted to sit down.”

“You can’t just sit on someone’s chair!”

Can’t I, though? Why would you have a problem with that? Are you so terrified of unforeseeable consequences that the sight of a non-resident sitting near a sign saying ‘residents only’ fills your mind with the monstrous panic of that woman in the 1980s safety ad who shouted “No Tom!” when she smelled gas and her husband was about to cremate them both by turning on the light? Clearly I’m a dastardly rule-breaker who will live in this woman’s nightmares until the day she dies, probably from pulling her hair back too far.

I get ‘danger of death’ signs that prevent berks being electrocuted. I can understand that the laws of trespass exist for a reason, even if they are blatantly exploited by the rich to stop everyone else sharing their hoarded loot or living space. I can see that in some cases a sign, or even a rope, is utilitarian.

But just blindly accepting that you’ve been told not to do something or go somewhere, without any fathomable cause, by Christ knows who on whatever whim took their fancy when they had to spend their signwriting budget last spring, leads you to a mentality that moans at a man for doing no more than sitting on an office chair, eating a kebab. You’re controlled enough in your life already, you wedge yourself into rules and regulations forcing you down the narrowest route from birth to death that people in charge will allow you. And now you’re happy to let them save the signwriting budget, and just put up a rope?

Bollocks to the rope. The world needs more people who demand to know why they’re told not to do something, not people who acquiesce at the merest wag of authority’s finger. If you don’t question on what grounds a rule exists you’ll end up sleepwalking into a society run by and for the people with the biggest signwriting budget in which notices saying “Poor people this way” dangle from Beachy Head.

“There’s plenty of park benches around!”

And I’ll be spending plenty of time on those in years to come my darling, have no fear. I speed towards my long-term future as a resident of the great outdoors with every lift of a Monday night elbow, but until that glittering destiny is fulfilled I’ll be sitting on your office chair and your rope can go to hell.

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.

The cormorant

At lunchtime today I went to sit by the Thames. I sat on a bench a little way west of HMS President for about 15 minutes, during which time I completed as much work of importance as I had all morning in my valueless non-job.

As I sat there I noticed a bird, standing on a large post protruding from the water. Its wings were unfurled as it dried itself in the faint sunlight emerging between cracks in the impressive clouds overhead. I know a little of birds from a few years as a youthful twitcher, half a life ago. It was a cormorant.

These can be angry beasts, but they’re uncommon enough to make them a pleasant sight during a lunch break away from desks, computers, meetings and people using words like ‘solutionise’. As I stared at the cormorant, at those fearsome clouds, at London, at the river, and considered life, one question struck me above all others.

What the fuck are all these people jogging for?

Hundreds of them, heading in both directions, most of them past their prime already. Where they’re going I have no idea and how they’ll deal with reeking like a turd rolled in Camembert when they get there is anyone’s guess.

The cormorant wasn’t fat, and didn’t seem overly concerned about flapping its wings to stay slender. It also didn’t seem to care much about eking out the very longest period of years it could before it became the sort of mess that even rats turn their noses up at as the corpse washes ashore at Rotherhithe. In all, the cormorant seemed perfectly happy with its place in the Milky Way.

Nobody could accuse me of being happy, I’ll grant you, but as the days tick by it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is all there is and moaning about it isn’t helping. I even said to someone the other day, “If I was really likely to top myself I probably would have done it by now”, which may or may not be true but speaks to a slight relaxation of the existential angst in my mind, if not the underlying rage-laden desolation.

As we’re all well aware, there are constant stories in the press about how walking 20 minutes a day makes you immortal one week and fucks your knees up the next. Today’s is: ‘Having heartburn for three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer’. I don’t know a man alive who doesn’t get heartburn regularly. I chew through Rennies like a six year old overdosing on Fruit Pastilles.

Until around a year ago I was a semi-regular visitor to the gym. I hated it more than bile could express but I went in the faint belief I was holding back the inevitable tide of fat-bastardry. It didn’t work; I was slowly rolying anyway. And since I stopped, I neither feel nor look measurably worse. Just older.

Because old is coming, regardless of how much you sprint past Cleopatra’s Needle at 1.15pm every day, head bobbing like a drunk on the tube home, clad in your tightest shorts so I can see every bulge of your astounding balls, though given your horrific sweaty face and pollution-matted barnet you could just be an ugly woman and those could be flaps for all I know.

What you hope to gain from your lunchtime exertions is between yourself and the last nurse who asked you to cough while she cupped. Perhaps you’re hoping to spend extra time with your children in later life. There’s nothing your children will thank you for more than you spending your healthier days in an office, then running, then back in an office, then too tired to function when you get home, before slowly succumbing to dementia and decay so horrifically your grandchildren’s nightmares become populated by slowly necrotising old codgers holding out their arthritic digits to scratch at their skulls with yellowing nails.

On my way back from the impromptu London marathon taking pace by the river, I walked past a man sitting cross-legged in Milford Lane. Sound asleep, glittering gold can of Special Brew by his side. Can you joggers honestly tell me you’ve a better life than him? You get back to your already humid office, sweating like Paul Merson in Ladbrokes, as he wakes up fit as a spring lamb, ready to take on all-comers just as soon as he can find the next course of his breakfast/lunch/dinner of champions. He might well be dead within the next 12 months but he’ll know very little about it once it’s over, just like you. You don’t find many regrets beneath the graveyard grass.

Because the cross-legged jakey is the cormorant. He doesn’t care, there’s no obvious reason why he should, and he makes more sense to me than an entire battalion of Lunchtime Linfords. I’d be more likely to share his dazzling chariot to oblivion than your never-ending race for deathlessness if I didn’t know he’d sooner jump up and down on my throat than let me share his tramp juice.

Perhaps he’s dead already. When I looked back along the river, the cormorant had gone. Run all you like; just be in no doubt where you’re running to.