Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

An absolute shocker

Jeremy Clarke reports on his Low Life

When the relationship ended a week before the Christmas before last, she’d already bought my Christmas presents. Instead of posting or burning them, she stored them under the desk in her office, resting her exquisite feet on them during working hours, until three weeks ago, when we finally met again over a tapas in a Spanish restaurant off the Edgware Road, and she managed to hand over, after some 14 months, the carrier bag containing her parting gifts. 

One was a hardback copy of Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis. I read it straight off when I got home and loved it. It’s a boozer’s manual, informative and funny. The chapter on hangovers I found particularly fascinating. In it, he describes the various aspects of the hangover and suggests a few strategies for coping with them. As well as describing the physical hangover, which of course he did so brilliantly and memorably in Lucky Jim, interestingly he then goes on to describe and analyse what he calls the ‘metaphysical’ hangover.

The metaphysical hangover, he says, is the spiritual desolation which invariably accompanies the well-known physical collapse. Of the two aspects, he thinks the metaphysical hangover is the uglier customer. Whereas the headache and nausea begin to lessen around mid-afternoon, the terrible depression, anxiety, sadness, sense of failure and fear of the future of the metaphysical hangover seem permanent. His advice is always to bear in mind that this spiritual malaise is merely a hangover and nothing worse, and that it too will eventually go.

He does, however, recommend having ‘a good cry’ at some stage. He also suggests reading the final scene of Paradise Lost, Book VII, and then a battle poem or two, such as Chesterton’s ‘Lepanto’. ‘Try not to mind,’ he says, ‘the way Chesterton makes some play with the fact that this was a victory of Christians over Moslems.’

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