Thursday 3 June 2010

Hangover Square

I am as hungover as an avenue of willow trees. So all you're getting today are three descriptions of wages of gin. This from Lucky Jim:

Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by the secret police. He felt bad.

This from the Second Canto of Don Juan by Byron:

Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach
Who please - the more because they preach in vain -
Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water the day after.

(Although it wasn't old wine that did for me, but a pantagruelian dry martini that ambushed me at midnight near Hyde Park Corner.) And here is the original screenplay of Withnail & I.

WITHNAIL emits an accelerating groan. Something to do with a headache. He looks across. Eyes like a pair of decayed clams.

WITHNAIL: Where's the whisky?

MARWOOD: What for?

WITHNAIL: I got a bastard behind the eyes. I can't take aspirins without a drink...
The bottle is discovered. The cork popped. And back to MARWOOD.
Where's the aspirins?

MARWOOD: Probably in the bathroom.

WITHNAIL: You mean we've come out here in the middle of fucking nowhere without aspirins?

This appears to be the case. WITHNAIL is becoming emotional.

MARWOOD: Where are we?

WITHNAIL: How should I know where we are? I feel like a pig shat in my head.

And for those of you who are fond of Withnail, here is a piece of trivia that not even Paul McGann knew until I told him in a moment of drunken sincerity. The character referred to as Marwood in the script is never named in the film, hence the title. However, when I finally saw Withnail & I in a cinema I noticed the name written on the envelope containing the telegram. You can't see it on a television because (like an unfinished whodunit or invader of Iraq) it doesn't have the resolution. So Marwood is named, and the film's title must and shall be changed.

From Hell's black heart I curse thee


  1. You are such fun to read. I was hooked from the first sentence - the 'hungover as an avenue of willow trees' simile is just magic. If you can do this on a hangover, well ....

  2. John Barleycorn, aka Kvasir, slain by the dwarves Fjalar and Galar to make Poetic Mead - you should be inspired. The full story even features a millstone!

  3. Slightly irrelevant literary trivia question of the day - which short but not notably bibulous poet is believed to have planted the first weeping willow in England?

  4. The Antipodean4 June 2010 at 04:41

    I do like the willow tree image, and 'wages of gin,' but I think it's bibulous I'll be using most. "No, I don't think I drink too much at all, I am merely bibulous."

    Mrs M, does it count if I found the answer via Google? I found it in an article about willows that covered botany, the doubtful etymology of the Latin name, biblical references, history, myth and poetry. Has one of you been writing arboreal articles on the side for American websites?

  5. Google is entirely permissible - I was going to leave more clues in the question, but I couldn't think of any which didn't give it away entirely.

    I can't answer for Dogberry, but I have never written for a horticultural website - I think I may have read about the willow tree in a property listing (the poet's villa currently being for sale with my local estate agents, if sadly not in my price range).

  6. @Mark, I used to love that poem as a child. I had no concept of beer, I don't think; I was merely malevolent.