The demon drink


Writing about Cooking With Fernet Branca and coming across a book called Highballs For Breakfast : The very best of P. G. Wodehouse on the joys of a good stiff drink (Richard D. Kelly, ed.)  made Gert think about memorable drink scenes.

Kelly includes lots of extracts from Wodehouse, including Bertie Wooster’s description of the 6 kinds of hangover – the Broken Compass, the Sewing Machine, the Comet, the Atomic, the Cement Mixer, and the Gremlin Boogie. Bertie is an expert- after all, he hired Jeeves on the strength of a miraculous hangover remedy. Kingsley Amis, from long experience, is another expert:

His face was heavy as if little bags of sand had been painlessly sewn into various parts of it, dragging the features away from the bones, if he still had bones in his face. Suddenly feeling worse, he heaved a shuddering sigh. Someone seemed to have leapt nimbly up behind him and encased him in a kind of diving-suit made of invisible cotton-wool. He gave a quiet groan; he didn’t want to feel any worse than this…..He reached up and turned off the light by the hanging switch above his head. The room began to rise upwards from the right-hand corner of the bed, and yet seemed to keep in the same position. He threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, his legs hanging. The room composed itself to rest. After a few moments he swung his legs back and lay down. The room lifted, He put his feet to the floor but didn’t lie down The room moved. He sat on the edge of the bed. Nothing. He put one leg up on the bed. Something. In fact, a great deal. (Lucky Jim, 60-1)

Then there’s the drunken rampage  (a confused roaring and breaking of glass) of the Bollinger Club in Decline and Fall that provokes the Junior Dean, thinking of the fines that will be levied on the rioters, to say,  “Oh, please God, make them attack the Chapel.”

Gert herself is no slouch when it comes to writing about the ill-effects of drink. This is from Writing Is Easy:

Marcus woke slowly to the consciousness that he was lying on the ground under a tree. His back ached and there was something unpleasantly squishy under his right hand. He raised it to his face and saw that it was covered with something brown and sticky, with a fishy smell. What was it? He sat up. To his left stretched the fence dividing Gagebrooke from the valley, and in front of him he could see the house, serene in the early morning sun. The smell of coffee came to him. On the white linen legs stretched in front of him were further smears of the sticky brown stuff, and one of his shoes looked as if it had been dipped in red wine. He squinted in the bright morning light, putting his hand to the back of his head, automatically smoothing his hair down, and began to get to his feet, remaining half-bent over swaying slightly while his head stopped whirling. Then he stood upright cautiously. He had had some sort of row with Andrew last night. He had a vivid memory of Andrew’s narrow dark face contorted in fury, but what was it all about?

He began to make his way towards the French windows of the morning room, brushing at his clothes. There were twigs stuck in his collar and a splodge on his sleeve that looked like bird-poo. Perhaps he should go in the back way by the kitchen and go upstairs to clean up before anyone saw him. He doubled back around the house and eased the back door open, sliding past the open kitchen door where he could see Andrew at the bench, whacking at something with a cleaver. He stopped as he came into the hall, listening for their voices in the morning room, but all was quiet. Perhaps it was earlier than he thought. He stopped at the head of the stairs. He could hear women’s voices coming from the other end of the corridor where Lilian and Marjorie had their rooms. He went softly towards his own room, keeping as close to the wall as he could, slipped into his room with a sigh of relief, put the chain on, and turned around to see a policeman going through his suitcase. Mandy was standing by the window.

Marcus’ heart gave a distinct lurch. He could swear it stopped, then began to beat again with an echoing thud that shook his whole body. Marjorie. She’d shopped him after all. He began to remember some sort of struggle with Marjorie last night. He began to remember doing his best to strangle her on the dining table.

“Hullo, sir, been for a walk, have we?” said the policeman, his eyes running pitilessly over Marcus’ rumpled white linen. “That’s a nasty gash you’ve got.”

Marcus put his hand up to the side of his face where the eyes were directed and felt something rough and matted on his temple.

“Anything you want to tell me?” said the policeman.


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