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November 16, 2009

Booze Control

By Spear's

So far, the most memorable events in my life have been enhanced by the presence of alcohol. Could a great lunch be as epic without wine?

So far, the most memorable events in my life have been enhanced by the presence of alcohol. Could a great lunch be as epic without wine? Would my wedding day have been as magnificent if I’d been sipping on just fizzy water? I suspect not.

Although clearly there are important moments in one’s life when alcohol should not be at the forefront. The driving test, for example. Although beyond that I can’t think of many other instances when a good bottle of wine can’t but improve things.

The key, of course, to the rather more formal moments in life – like weddings – is to get half cut, rather than, as Sir Les Patterson would put it, as full as a pommie complaint box. The problem being that many who devote themselves to reaching that state of perfect near, but not too close to, perfection, often over-reach themselves.

Jeffrey Bernard being a case in point. The great carouser, Spectator columnist and regular of the Coach and Horses in Soho, said that he remembered how much he loved being half cut and spent the rest of his life attempting to reach that point but always missing it by quite some way.

Currently a team of New Zealanders are planning to recover two cases of whisky that have been frozen in the ice of Antarctica beneath the hut used by Ernest Shackleton in the 1900s. Are we to suppose that he took whisky on his journey as a warming drink or so that he could get shit-faced when he reached the South Pole? Both reasons possibly.

He never reached that pole, of course, although in his failure he showed more courage and heroism that might have marked a successful expedition.

These musings aside I can attest that getting shit-faced in Antarctica is a very good idea. I travelled to the chilly continent about a year ago and of the many extraordinary things I witnessed and experienced two of the greatest involved alcohol.

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The first was a bath we had in Whaler’s Bay. Not far from Antarctica’s northern peninsula the group I was with, led by the South African explorer Mike Horn, went ashore on Deception Island in a bay once colonised by whalers.

Steam rose from the frozen shoreline as thermals rose from the earth’s crust. The ship’s crew dug large pits in the sand that filled with naturally heated water at a temperature of around 25 degrees C. We lay down in the boiling trenches and sipped Mumm champagne as the clouds parted and the sun shone down on us. In between sips we ran from the hot baths and dived into the Antarctic.

The champagne enhanced this extraordinary experience and after we felt refreshed and elated and danced about the beach.

A few days later and our plane from King George island was delayed due to bad weather. So Mike Horn threw us a party. Surrounded by frozen waters we drank, shouted, shrieked and danced. Quite what the penguins made of noise I’ll never know. And would it had been as much fun without the booze? I doubt it.  

As Christmas approaches so does the New Year and my mental threat to quit the booze for a while. However, as so many of my friends attest that I am even more tiresome when I’m not drinking I think I’ll plan some other redeeming resolution. Though quite what it might be escapes me.

I’ll have a drink and think about it.

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