I love alcohol. It’s taken me some time to admit this and realise that it will always be in my life. I used to think I’d reach forty and give up alcohol forever – like one of those Hollywood actors who used to be fun and now just talks about finding a “good balance” in their life. That won’t be me. Oh no.
It’s easy to remember the worst parts about drinking, but alcohol has been good to me. And do you know what? I really like it. I think it’s had a hard time. It’s not all crying in the back of a cab and losing a shoe. In times of uncertainty, a glass or two of wine has helped us all.
I accidentally started early. I had my first hangover aged 10. I was at an all-girls school in the North London suburbs that was a breeding ground for alcoholism. This was a school that frisked and bag-checked for chewing gum every morning. This was a school that made me scrape illicit gum off tables as a punishment for highlighting my hair. A school that enforced regulation pencil cases, bags and folders, leaving us with only tipex pens as our tools of self-expression. You either chose alcohol or the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to distract you through these school years. Not a tough choice.
A group of us were invited to a girl’s bat mitzvah where there would not only be alcohol, but boys. The girl’s parents had made the understandable assumption that ten and 11 year old girls would not be interested in champagne, but it turned out we were. I crawled under the long table with my particularly naughty friend Charlotte, and we forced a glass of the stuff down our throats. Then another, then another. Then the most foreign feeling crept up my body from my toes. A kind of looseness. I felt warm and happy. I was suddenly aware that I was probably VERY attractive and that everyone in the room wanted to talk me.
The good thing about being drunk when you’re ten is that I think people just thought we were in high-spirits – a case of too much sherbet. We were only caught out when Charlotte hit the dance floor – literally hit it. She bellyflopped with aplomb, writhing around on like a flapping fish out of water. Unfortunately she chose the very delicate moment of the father-daughter dance to brown-eyed girl. The attention was slightly off the girl’s coming of age.
We were all hauled out of the marquee and forced to sit sipping coffee until our parents came to collect us. Needless to say, I was left off most other Bat Mitzvah guest-lists in the following year.
I had my first kiss at this bat mitzvah. I also had my second and third. First with a boy, then the boy’s older brother, then his best friend. That one night gave me enough fuel to write the equivalent of War and Peace in my diaries for years afterwards.
I fell asleep that night dreaming of champagne and couldn’t believe I had survived ten years not knowing what it was like to drink three glasses of it all at once. All the boys I would kiss, all the dresses I would wear, all the dance floors I would bellyflop onto.
And I vomited all the next day.
I suffered from hangovers in 1999, and I suffer from them still. I went to a university where alcohol was the backbone of everyone’s existence, where tales of booze-consumption were exchanged like a currency. With every night out, my hangovers seemed to get worse. My mouth would taste more metallic and my head would burn that much longer. I had to find a solution. And I did: food.
Over the years, salt, fat and carbohydrates have picked me up and carried me through many hangovers until I flopped into bed. I wish I could starve them, but I can’t. This is why I came out of university looking like Letitia Dean (pre Strictly) and have since only allowed Sundays for those bottomless pit hangovers.
A trial and error method has meant that aged 23, I think I have finally worked out how to cure a hangover. Here’s what I think doesn’t work: milkshakes, the gym, orange juice, anything fried, Mcdonalds, too much coffee, starvation, lying in bed all day. Here’s what I think does: chicken noodle soup, huevos rancheros, crisp bacon, tomato soup, a roast, spaghetti, a pint of water before bed, sex, a walk, a shower, a small glass of nice red wine with supper.
(For more suggestions, read this this by the lovely Oliver Thring).
I awoke this Sunday feeling terrible, thanks to my utterly insane friend whose sole mission has been making sure I have had a hangover for the last six years. I awoke with the longing for spaghetti, which turned into spaghetti vongole. Then I suggested bruschetta, and then maybe finish off with some tiramisu. AN ITALIAN FEAST. A three course Italian feast for the two of us! Yes, that’s a good idea. You find the clams, I’ll get the Marsala and we’ll meet back here at six.
Four fish mongers later, we couldn’t find clams. Of course we couldn’t. Decision-making on a hangover is a terrible idea – my friend once bought a pair of rats from a pet shop after a particularly heavy night on sambucca.
So we used prawns instead, not as adventurous, but still did the trick. A bowl and a half down and I was feeling (almost) human again.
I reckon alcohol can always be in your life, as long as it’s in sort-of moderation. And as long as you have some great morning-after cures up your sleeve.
So don’t worry. Eat up. It will all be over tomorrow.
Oh, and I’d check your sent messages, if I were you.
Fettucine with prawns, chilli and garlic.
one red chilli
three cloves of garlic
50 g of butter
200 g of linguine, fettuccine or tagliatelle
200g prawns (raw or pre-cooked. If pre-cooked make sure not to leave on the heat for too long)
A generous amount of chopped flat-leaf parsley
a small glass of white wine
a small lemon
salt and pepper
– Heat the butter with the oil (so the butter doesn’t burn) and into it put the finely chopped garlic and chilli.
– Leave to fry for a minute or so, then add prawns and stir.
– Add the glass of white wine to the pan, cook for a few minutes until it has reduced but not cooked the prawns to leather boot toughness.
– Add every morsel of the pan to the cooked pasta. Stir, add in the juice of a small lemon and generous amounts of chopped flat-leaf parseley. Season. Grate parmesan over the top.
– Serve, eat. Have a second helping. Watch telly. Go to bed.