Consernyng Tayste and John Milton’s Beeying a Dyck

At a certain point, our concepts of taste got all muddled. Gustatory taste got mixed up with aesthetic taste, sensation blurred into sensibility. This is a problem, because as a result the same snobbery that prevails over aesthetic taste often does so over the tasting we do with nose (80% of taste is retronasal olfaction) and tongue.

It’s all wrong, as any reasonable person knows. There is no accounting for taste: it’s subjective – partly down to gene expression, partly down to where you’re born, how god-awful your school meals were, etc, but always personal.

Taste is not an aptitude test. It’s about pleasure (what food scientists refer to as hedonic valence) and the more we taste the greater the scope for pleasure. It’s something that really needs to be rescued from snobbery and restored to its original evolutionary-behavioural simplicity.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the confusion, try the poet John Milton. In Paradise Lost, for the first time Milton used the word ‘taste’ to refer to something more than ‘tongue taste’ – namely as a metaphor for good judgement:

Eve, now I see thou art exact of taste,
And elegant, of Sapience no small part,
Since to each meaning savour we apply,
And Palate call judicious…

Four centuries on, some of us struggle to admit we prefer the taste of prosecco to champagne, or Rice Krispies to Eggs Benedict, or any other number of preferences which are governed by the measure of pleasure they give us and that alone.

Well done, Milton, you dick.

This is an extract from an article originally written for iLoveMyGrub.com.

Mosella

Mosella is a paean to the river Mosel written around 1,650 years ago by the poet and scholar Ausonius. Born in Bordeaux, Ausonius worked as a lawyer, grammarian and rhetorician before being called to the imperial court in Trier, then a major Roman imperial city, by Emperor Valentinian to educate his son, prince Gratian. Ausonius eventually returned to Bordeaux where, in his old age, he wrote several literary works of which Mosella, here excerpted and beautifully translated from the original Latin, is one of the most celebrated. His descriptions of the boisterous industry on the vine-covered banks off the river make clear just how important winemaking was in the region so many centuries ago. And so well written…

I had crossed over swift-flowing Nahe’s cloudy stream and gazed with awe upon the ramparts lately thrown round ancient Bingum, where Gaul once matched the Roman rout at Cannae and where her slaughtered hordes lay scattered over the countryside untended and unwept.

Thence onward I began a lonely journey through pathless forest, nor did my eyes rest on any trace of human inhabitants. I passed Kirchberg, sweltering amid its parched fields, and Tabernae, watered by its unfailing spring, and the lands lately parcelled out to Sarmatian settlers.

And at length on the very verge of Belgic territory I descry Neumagen, the famed camp of sainted Constantine. Clearer the air which here invests the plains, and Phoebus, cloudless now, discloses glowing heaven with his untroubled light. No longer is the sky to seek, shut out by the green gloom of branches intertwined: but the free breath of transparent day withholds not sight of the sun’s pure rays and of the ether, dazzling to the eyes.

Nay more, the whole gracious prospect made me behold a picture of my own native land, the smiling and well-tended country of Bordeaux—the roofs of country-houses, perched high upon the overhanging river-banks, the hill-sides green with vines, and the pleasant stream of Moselle gliding below with subdued murmuring.

Hail, river, blessed by the fields, blessed by the husbandmen, to whom the Belgae owe the imperial honour which graces their city, Trier: river, whose hills are o’ergrown with Bacchus’s fragrant vines, o’ergrown, river most verdant, thy banks with turf: ship-bearing as the sea, with sloping waters gliding as a river, and with thy crystal depths the peer of lakes, brooks thou canst match for hurrying flow, cool springs surpass for limpid draughts; one, thou hast all that belongs to springs, brooks, rivers, lakes, and tidal Ocean with his ebb and flow.

Thou, with calm waters onward gliding, feel’st not any murmurs of the wind nor check from hidden rocks; nor by foaming shallows art thou forced to hurry on in swirling rapids, no eyots hast thou jutting in midstream to thwart thy course—lest the glory of thy due title be impaired, if any isle sunder and stem thy flow.

For thee two modes of voyaging are appointed: this, when boats move down thy stream with current favouring and their oars thrash the churned waters at full speed; that, when along the banks, with tow-rope never slackening, the boatmen strain on their shoulders hawsers bound to the masts.

Thyself how often dost thou marvel at the windings of thine own stream, and think its natural speed moves almost too slowly! Thou with no mud-grown sedge fringest thy banks, nor with foul ooze o’erspread’st thy marge; dry is the treading down to thy water’s edge.

 

For from the topmost ridge to the foot of the slope the river-side is thickly planted with green vines. The people, happy in their toil, and the restless husbandmen are busy, now on the hill-top, now on the slope, exchanging shouts in boisterous rivalry. Here the wayfarer tramping along the low-lying bank, and there the bargeman floating by, troll their rude jests at the loitering vine-dressers; and all the hills, and shivering woods, and channelled river, ring with their cries.

Nor does the scenery of this region please men alone; I can believe that here the rustic Satyrs and the grey-eyed Nymphs meet together on the border of the stream, when the goat-footed Pans are seized with merry ribaldry, and splashing in the shallows, frighten the trembling sister-Nymphs beneath the stream, while they thresh the water with unskilful strokes.

Oft also, when she has stolen clusters from the inland hills, Panope, the river lady, with a troop of Oread friends, flees the wanton Fauns, gods of the country-side and it is said that when the sun’s fiery orb stops in the midst of his course, the Satyrs and the sister-Nymphs of the crystal depths meet here beside the stream and ply the dance in partnership, what time the fiercer heat affords them hours set free from mortal company.

Then, wantonly frolicking amid their native waters, the Nymphs duck the Satyrs in the waves, and slip away right through the hands of those unskilful swimmers, as, baffled, they seek to grasp their slippery limbs and, instead of bodies, embrace yielding waves.

But of these things which no man has looked upon and no eye beheld, be it no sin for me to speak in part: let things secret be kept hid, and let Reverence dwell unspied upon, in the safekeeping of her native streams. Yon is a sight that may be freely enjoyed: when the azure river mirrors the shady hill, the waters of the stream seem to bear leaves and the flood to be all o’ergrown with shoots of vines.

What a hue is on the waters when Hesperus has driven forward the lagging shadows and overspreads Moselle with the green of the reflected height! Whole hills float on the shivering ripples: here quivers the far-off tendril of the vine, here in the glassy flood swells the full cluster.

The deluded boatman tells o’er the green vines – the boatman whose skiff of bark floats on the watery floor out in mid-stream, where the pictured hill blends with the river and where the river joins with the edges of the shadows. and when oared skiffs join in mimic battle in mid-stream, how pleasing is the pageant which this sight affords!

They circle in and out, and graze the sprouting blades of the cropped turf along the green banks. The husbandman, standing upon the rise of the green bank, watches the light-hearted owners as they leap about on stem or prow, the boyish crew straggling over the river’s wide expanse, and never feels the day is slipping by, but puts their play before his business, while present pleasure shuts out past cares.

Cool Keith

I do wish that you were still on the telly

Giving me giggles from brain to belly

Chastising Clive and being a b’stard

Making a mess of a French piperade

A glug for the pot and two slurps for me

On me, Clive, you arsehole, on me, on me!

The genre’s much shitter since you departed

The cooks all glossy and meringue-hearted

The televisual equivalent of MSG

Everything clean and safe and twee

Christ, you’re missed, you drunken wonder,

The cook who tore the world asunder

The cook who’d accept nothing less

Than 12 types of fish in his bouille-baisse

Who’d blithely knock back, as the cameras ran,

A ’99 Gevrey-Chambertin

You were much of madness and more of sin,

To you, Keith, I raise my glass, cin cin!

 

Wine and Writers II: John Keats

A lot of it-shay will always be written about wine as we wine drinkers struggle to assimilate that maddening combination of sensory vagueness (What is that smell? Chewits! No, not Chewits…’), and inspiriting pleasure which drinking good wine nearly always elicits.

It’s a pursuit that seems doomed to failure from the off, but it doesn’t stop us trying. Very occasionally, we will hit upon that elusive aroma, that errant memory or that mot juste to describe what is being so seductively suggested to us from the glass. And that will be a good day.

Until then, we will hammer on with our ‘reminds me of’s and ‘something like’s and hope we strike somewhere close to the head of the nail. It’s a good exercise. It warms the imaginative faculties – which is something John Keats would have approved of.

A few days ago I had – or rather shared, because that’s what made the experience as good as it was – a bottle of claret, a 1985 Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol, which gave me very possibly the most pleasure I’ve had from a bottle of wine in my life, and had me striving in that well-established way to put my finger on just what made it so.

Christ, it was good. It had me smiling quietly to myself from the first to the last drop. There was just a tremulous hint of the rich, ripe fruit of the harvest of 29 years ago, a sweet-savoury-sweet depth of flavour – Strawberries, was it? Dates, were they? Cigar boxes, did you? – that hummed around my brain for about a minute after each sip, and such a velvety texture, such yawningly, meltingly soft tannins, that I felt as if I was hovering slightly off the ground for the half-hour or so that it lasted.

bon pasteur

Now that was a fine claret, which put me in mind of Keats and his far more finessed attempt to describe his passion for the stuff. Not a lot of people know that Keats was ‘well into’ his claret, as well as being one of the greatest romantic poets ever to have lived. At one point he even suggested to his brother, George, who had moved to the new frontiers of America to seek his fortune, that he might send some vine roots over to him so George could make a semblance of the stuff for himself.

This is Keats’s effervescent encomium to claret, written in a letter to his brother George some time between February and May 1819:

Now I like Claret [and] whenever I can have Claret I must drink it. ‘T is the only palate affair that I am at all sensual in. For really ‘t is so fine. It fills the mouth one’s mouth with a gushing freshness, then goes down cool and feverless, then you do not feel it quarrelling with your liver, no it is rather a Peace maker and lies as quiet as it did in the grape. Then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee; and the more ethereal Part of it mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments like a bully in a bad house looking for his trul and hurrying from door to door bouncing against the waist-coat; but rather walks like Aladin about his own enchanted palace so gently that you do not feel his step. Other wines of a heavy and spirituous nature transform a Man into a Silenus; this makes him a Hermes, and gives a Woman the soul and immortality of Ariadne for whom Bacchus always kept a good cellar of claret.

It makes me happy to know that I share that same ‘palate passion’ – and I say that primarily as a way of neatly concluding this, my 22nd blog post.

Wine and Writers I: Philip Larkin

He was a masterly poet, a sordid masturbator and, in his lonesome latter years, a misanthropic old sot whose head resembled “an egg sculpted in lard, with goggles on” (this is his description of himself).

Having avoided marriage, initially from a sense of artistic sacrifice, then, apparently, out of sheer emotional parsimony, he would spend solitary nights in his suburban home in (to him) faraway, fishy-smelling Hull, listen to jazz records, watch the darts and drink himself numb.

Larkin very much favoured the G&T…

When I drop four cubes of ice
Chimingly in a glass, and add
Three goes of gin, a lemon slice,
And let a ten-ounce tonic void
    In foaming gulps until it smothers
        Everything else up to the edge…

…and as an older man would start drinking it as soon as returned home from his job of running Hull University Library.

He gave up on his friends, including his once-dearest, Kingsley Amis, and increasingly looked to drink to make the loneliness bearable.

He was partial to certain wines, often ‘voiding’ a bottle of ‘Bojo’ (Beaujolais) or ‘Shabbily’ (Chablis) with his dinner. Whisky and sherry also featured prominently.

Towards the end of his life, while dying of throat cancer, he subsisted on Complan and cheap red wine, though he could have easily afforded a decent bottle.

It’s quite possible that, for the man who said “Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth”, these hardships were a perverse comfort.

What a shit and a miser. But, as the poet Don Paterson says in an essay on Larkin entitled Life and Work: “A man who knew so little inner peace should be forgiven anything.”

He may well have been a shit and a miser, a misogynist and racist whose self-repression slowly but surely vitiated his soul – but his poems, his fine-tuned, unimprovably humane poems, more often than not speaking to the insomniac alone and anxious as the light of a new and awful day bleeds over the curtains, or the disappointed romantic perennially frustrated by the banality of the everyday, to these I raise a silent toast, with my own glass of Bojo or Shabbily or, who knows, maybe one day, Complan.

…..

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   
Till then I see what’s really always there:   
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   
Making all thought impossible but how   
And where and when I shall myself die.   
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   
—The good not done, the love not given, time   
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

The Hangover

Ladies and gentlemen, Kingsley Amis…

What a subject! And, in very truth, for once, a ‘strangely neglected’ one.

Oh, I know you can hardly open a newspaper or magazine without coming across a set of instructions – most of them unoriginal, some of them quite unhelpful and one or two of them actually harmful – on how to cure this virtually pandemic ailment.

But such discussions concentrate exclusively on physical manifestations, as if one were treating a mere illness. They omit the psychological, moral, emotional, spiritual aspects: all that vast, vague, awful, shimmering metaphysical superstructure that makes the hangover a (fortunately) unique route to self-knowledge and self-realisation.

Imaginative literature is not much better. There are poems and songs about drinking, of course, but none to speak of about getting drunk, let alone having been drunk. Novelists go into the subject more deeply and extensively, but tend to straddle the target, either polishing off the hero’s hangover in a few sentences or, so to speak, making it the whole of the novel.

In the latter case, the hero will almost certainly be a dipsomaniac, who is not as most men are and never less so than on the morning after. This vital difference, together with much else, is firmly brought out in Charles Jackson’s marvellous and horrifying The Lost Weekend, the best fictional account of alcoholism I have read.

A few writers can be taken as metaphorically illuminating the world of the hangover while ostensibly dealing with something else. Perhaps Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis, which starts with the hero waking up to find he has turned into a man-sized cockroach, is the best literary treatment of all. The central image could hardly be better chosen, and there is a telling touch in the nasty way everybody goes on at the chap. (I can find no information about Kafka’s drinking history.)

It is not my job, or anyway, I absolutely decline to attempt a full, direct description of the Metaphysical Hangover: no fun to write or read. But I hope something of this will emerge by implication from my list of counter-measures.

Before I get on to that, however, I must deal with the Physical Hangover, which is, in any case, the logical one to tackle first, and the dispersal of which will notably alleviate the other – mind and body as we have already seen, being nowhere more intimately connected than in the sphere of drink.

Here, then, is how to cope with:

THE PHYSICAL HANGOVER

1. Immediately on waking, start telling yourself how lucky you are to be feeling so bloody awful. This recognises the truth that if you do not feel bloody awful after a hefty night, then you are still drunk and must sober up in a waking state before hangover dawns.

2. If your wife or other partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good, and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your Metaphysical Hangover before you formally declare war on it.

WARNINGS. (i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the Metaphysical Hangover, and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occasion.

(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you awake by yourself.

3. Having of course omitted to drink all that water before retiring, drink a lot of it now, more than you need to satisfy your immediate thirst. Alcohol is a notorious dehydrant, and a considerable part of your Physical Hangover comes from the lack of water in your cells.

…At this point I must assume that you can devote at least a good part of the day to yourself and your condition. Those who inescapably have to get up and do something can stay in bed only as long as they dare, get up, shave, take a hot bath or shower (more of this later), breakfast off an unsweetened grapefruit (more of this later) and coffee, and clear off, with the intention of getting as drunk at lunchtime as they dare.

Let me just observe in passing that the reason why so many professional artists drink a lot is not necessarily very much to do with the artistic temperament, etc. It is simply that they can afford to, because they can normally take a large part of a day off to deal with the ravages. So, then:

4. Stay in bed until you can stand it no longer. Simple fatigue is another great constituent of the Physical Hangover

5. Refrain, at all costs, from taking a cold shower. It may bring temporary relief, but in my own and others’ experience it will give your Metaphysical Hangover a tremendous boost after about half an hour, in extreme cases making you feel like a creature from another planet. Perhaps this is the result of having dealt another shock to your already shocked system.

The ideal arrangement, very much worth the trouble and expense if you are anything of a serious drinker, is a shower fixed over the bath. Run a bath as hot as you can bear and lie in it as long as you can bear. When it becomes too much, stand up and have a hot shower, then lie down again and repeat the sequence. This is time well spent.

WARNING: Do not do this unless you are quite sure your heart and the rest of you will stand it. I would find it most disagreeable to be accused of precipitating your death, especially in court.

6. Shave. A drag, true, and you may well cut yourself, but it is a calming exercise and will lift your morale (another sideswipe at your Metaphysical Hangover).

7. Whatever the state of your stomach, do not take an alkalising agent such as bicarbonate of soda. Better to take unsweetened fruit juice or a grapefruit without sugar.

The reasoning behind this is that your stomach, on receiving a further dose of acid, will say to itself, ‘Oh. I see: we need more alkaline,’ and proceed to neutralise itself. Bicarbonate will make it say: ‘Oh, I see: we need more acid,’ and do you further damage.

If you find this unconvincing, take heed of what happened one morning when, with a kingly hangover, I took bicarbonate with a vodka chaser. My companion said: ‘Let’s see what’s happening in your stomach,’ and poured the remnant of the vodka into the remnant of the bicarbonate solution. The mixture turned black and gave off smoke.

8. Eat nothing, or nothing else. Give your digestion the morning off. You may drink coffee, though do not expect this to do anything for you beyond making you feel more wide awake.

9. Try not to smoke. That nicotine has contributed to your Physical Hangover is a view held by many people, including myself.

10. By now you will have shot a good deal of the morning. Get through the rest of it somehow, avoiding the society of your fellows. Talk is tiring. Go for a walk or sit or lie about in the fresh air. At 11am or so, see if you fancy the idea of a Polish Bison (hot Bovril and vodka). It is still worthwhile without the vodka. You can start working on your Metaphysical Hangover any time you like.

11. About 12:30pm, firmly take a hair (or better, in Cyril Connolly’s phrase, a tuft) of the dog that bit you. The dog, by the way, is of no particular breed; there is no obligation to go for the same drink as the one you were mainly punishing the night before.

Many will favour the Bloody Mary. Others swear by the Underburg. For the ignorant, this is a highly alcoholic bitters rather resembling Fernet Branca, but in my experience more usually effective.

It comes in miniature bottles holding about a pub double, and should be put down in one. The effect on one’s insides after a few seconds is rather like that of throwing a cricket ball into an empty bath, and the resulting mild convulsions and cries of shock are well worth witnessing. But, thereafter, a comforting glow supervenes, and very often a marked turn for the better.

By now, one way or another, you will be readier to face the rest of mankind and a convivial lunchtime can well result. Eat what you like within reason, avoiding anything greasy or rich. If your Physical Hangover is still with you afterwards, go to bed.

Before going on to the Metaphysical Hangover, I will, for completeness’s sake, mention three supposed hangover cures, all described as infallible by those who told me about them, though I have not tried any of them. The first two are hard to come by.

• Go down the mine on the early-morning shift at the coal-face.

• Go up for half an hour in an open aeroplane (needless to say, with a non-hungover person at the controls).

• Known as Donald Watt’s Jolt, this consists of a tumbler of some sweet liqueur, Benedictine or Grand Marnier, taken in lieu of breakfast. Its inventor told me that with one of them inside him, he once spent three-quarters of an hour at a freezing bus-stop ‘without turning a hair’. It is true that the sugar in the drink will give you energy and the alcohol alcohol.

At this point, younger readers may relax the unremitting attention with which they have followed the above. They are mostly strangers to the Metaphysical Hangover. But they will grin or jeer at their peril. Let them rest assured that, as they grow older, the Metaphysical Hangover will more and more come to fill the gap left by their progressively less severe Physical Hangover. And of the two, incomparably, the more dreadful is…

THE METAPHYSICAL HANGOVER

1. Deal thoroughly with your Physical Hangover.

2. When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a s**t you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is and there is no use crying over spilt milk.

3. If necessary then, embark on either the Metaphysical Literature Course or Music Course or both in succession (not simultaneously). Going off and gazing at some painting, building or bit of statuary might do you good, too.

The structure of both courses, hangover reading and hangover listening, rests on the principle that you must feel worse emotionally before you start to feel better. A good cry is the initial aim.

HANGOVER READING:

Begin with verse, if you have any taste for it. Any really gloomy stuff that you admire will do. My own choice would tend to include the final scene of Paradise Lost. The trouble here, though, is that today of all days you do not want to be reminded of how inferior you are to the man next door, let alone to a chap like Milton. Safer to pick somebody less horribly great.

Switch to prose with the same principles of selection. I suggest Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’sOne Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. Its picture of life in a Russian labour camp will tell you that there are plenty of people who have a bloody sight more to put up with than you (or I) have or ever will have, and who put up with it, if not cheerfully, at any rate in no mood of self-pity.

Turn now to stuff that suggests there may be some point to living after all. Battle poems come in rather well here. By this time you could well be finding it conceivable that you might smile again some day. However, defer funny stuff for the moment. Try a good thriller or action story, which will start to wean you from self-observation and the darker emotions. Turn to comedy only after that; but it must be white – i.e. not black – comedy: P.G. Wodehouse, Stephen Leacock, Captain Marryat, Anthony Powell (not Evelyn Waugh), Peter De Vries (not The Blood of the Lamb, which, though very funny, has its real place in the tearful catagory, and a distinguished one). I am not suggesting that these writings are comparable in other ways than that they make unwillingness to laugh seem a little pompous and absurd.

HANGOVER LISTENING:

Here, the trap is to set your sights too high. On the argument tentatively advanced against unduly great literature, give a wide berth to anyone like Mozart. Go for someone who is merely a towering genius. Tchaikovsky would be my best buy, and his Sixth Symphony (the Pathetique) my individual selection. After various false consolations have been set aside, its last movement really does what the composer intended and, in an amazingly non-dreary way, evokes total despair: sonic Metaphysical Hangover if ever I heard it.

If you can stand vocal music, I strongly recommend Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody – not an alto sax, you peasant, but a contralto voice, with men’s choir and full orchestra.

By what must be pure chance, the words sung, from a – between you and me, rather crappy – poem of Goethe’s, Harzreise im Winter, sound like an only slightly metaphorical account of a hangover.

They begin: ‘But who is that (standing) apart?/His path is lost in the undergrowth,’ and end with an appeal to God toopen the clouded vista over the thousand springs beside the thirsty one in the desert’.  This is a piece that would fetch tears from a stone, especially a half-stoned stone.

Turn now to something lively and extrovert, but be careful. Quite a lot of stuff that appears to be so at first inspection has a nasty habit of sneaking in odd blows to the emotional solar plexus. Jazz is not much good for your M.H., and pop will probably worsen your P.H.

But if you really feel that life could not possibly be gloomier, try any slow Miles Davis track. It will suggest to you that, however gloomy life may be, it cannot possibly be as gloomy as Davis makes it out to be. There is also the likely bonus to be gained from hearing some bystander refer to Davis as Miles instead of Davis. The surge of adrenalin at this piece of trendy pseudo-familiarity will buck up your system, and striking the offender to the ground will restore your belief in your own masculinity, rugged force, etc.

WARNING: Make quite sure that Davis’s sometime partner, John Coltrane, is not “playing” his saxophone on any track you choose. He will suggest to you, in the strongest terms, that life is exactly what you are at present taking it to be: cheap, futile and meaningless.

* Wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things — ECCLESIASTES

The Hangover by Kingsley Amis (from ‘Everyday Drinking – The Distilled Kingsley Amis,’ Bloomsbury 2008).