The wrath of grapes

By | 6th January 2011

Is there such a thing as a cure for hangovers? Or is the idea that a remedy exists merely a cruel joke perpetrated on the vast majority of us who occasionally drink too much? I am not talking about the obscene binge drinkers who are so incapable after the intake of alcohol that only intervention by the authorities or kind hearted volunteers prevents them from being bullied, beaten up, raped, robbed or even murdered on our streets because they are completely unable to look out for themselves.

No, I am talking about the rest of us who enjoy a drink from time to time and sometimes (and only sometimes!) wake up feeling a little under the weather after a night of unsatisfactory sleep.

It is often said that milk lines the stomach. Have a pint before starting on the alcohol and you will be fine. Well, I hate milk so that is a non starter for me even if the so called preventative actually works.

Then again people say that alcohol dries you out and that the key to sobriety and a clear head is to drink lots and lots of water. Experience suggests that that is partly true…..but only partly!

Water is certainly a commodity which we ignore at our peril. For us, in the UK, we take it for granted. We turn on the tap and clean clear drinking water comes out. We wallow in baths and showers without a thought as to where the water comes from and only complain if it is not hot enough. Some fill holes in the ground with the stuff and sometimes it is hot enough to swim in. Still others swim in the sea or in rivers and none of us gives a thought to where it all comes from and what we would do if it were not there…..

Unless, that is, you live in Northern Ireland. It gives me no pleasure to mention the province today. As some of you will know, I was involved in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry which took up a substantial part of my life a few years ago and readers will recall that I mentioned that Herbert Smith had recently set up an office in Belfast principally as a litigation document review centre. [Snowman theft armless, say police, 7th December 2010]

While there may be all shades of opinion about the merits or otherwise of the Inquiry or the decision by one of our principal law firms to set up an office “over the water,” my reason for mentioning Northern Ireland today is the news of the appalling performance of the company responsible for providing water to the population in that area. I confess I did not know that Northern Ireland was exempt from the privatisation of water some 20 years ago, but it seems that it was, and while the rest of us have “enjoyed” the benefits of a more efficient and cleaner system of provision of water, the inhabitants of the province have just discovered an important truth, that there is an awful lot of water in the UK until there isn’t!

I suspect I am not alone in thinking that the water companies could, on occasion, perform better. My own experience of seeing water escaping from a drain cover in London last autumn and continuing to escape for nearly three months after the relevant water authority had coned off the offending area before deigning to fix the offending leak, is an experience common to many. But Northern Ireland is literally a state apart where NI ministers blame Northern Ireland Water and the politicians escape censure (so far). Apparently the people of Northern Ireland do not specifically pay water rates like the rest of us. We are used to paying a separate rate for our water whereas in Northern Ireland the taxpayer pays for the water. True, the inhabitants pay a proportion of the cost of their water through their rates but the amount is hidden in their bills and in any event is way below the amount needed to maintain, let alone improve, the system.

Taxpayers throughout the rest of the UK subsidise the provision of water in the province and the whole affair is overseen by the company which describes itself as a government owned company, 70% of whose income comes from state handouts, according to an article by Charles Clover in the Sunday Telegraph on January 2nd 2011.

The remedy seems clear but it is doubtful that the politicians in Northern Ireland will be willing to do the necessary. After all, breaking dependence on the state is a painful process after many years of disinterested reliance. It is always difficult to change the habit of a lifetime.

Suddenly, water is big news. You either have insufficient supplies (or none at all in some cases) or you have too much. The inhabitants of Boscastle and Cumbria will know what I mean and now so will the inhabitants of Bunderberg in Queensland. How apt are the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Water, water, everywhere
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

But enough of water! What about those hangover cures?

Moving seamlessly from the briny to a bryony, I am indebted to the bootylicious Bryony Gordon for her reference recently to The Mating Season by P G Wodehouse, a Jeeves and Wooster story which contains suggested remedies for six types of hangover.

Those of you unfamiliar with Miss Gordon will enjoy a picture of her. I have introduced you before to the charms of the delightful Sophie Dahl and even attempted an extremely tenous link between Miss Dahl and Senior Master Whitaker when commenting on the Goodale judgment [Stevie is my dahling, 16th March 2010]. Miss Gordon is, however, new to this blog.

She refers to The Hungoevr Coobkook by Milton Crawford and to PGW and comes up with:

  1. The Broken Compass: feeling directionless and indecisive; requires spicy comfort food.
  2. The Atomic: feeling your insides have been ripped out; makes you hungry and requires a chorizo omelette.
  3. The Cement Mixer: your insides feel as if they have been turned upside down and round and round; needs soothing tea and toast.
  4. The Sewing Machine: a feeling of a sadistic needling; requires peanut butter, rehydration and painkillers.
  5. The Comet: feeling hysterical and indistinct; needs anything with fizz, sparkle and bite.
  6. The Gremlin Boogie; a dark immovable sludge at the bottom of a sewer; needs melon, feta, mint and ham salad.

Different remedies for differing complaints. Seems obvious doesn’t it and I challenge you to try any or all of these and send me your experiences, good or bad, although if they are truly bad I reserve the right to refer them on to Mr Crawford via Bryony (or indeed to Patrick Meanor, from whose 2005 book  The Wrath of Grapes, I draw my title)

After that foray into the briny ocean and the problems for consumers of water in Northern Ireland and Australia (as if the memories of Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne were not enough), I suppose, on reflection, that the difficulties I have described and their possible resolution can equally be applied to the world of Smart e-Discovery.

I apologise if you thought that you had got away with a blog post which did not mention the subject but the lesson is pretty clear. If you set about applying the right remedy to your problems and think about it carefully before plunging in, you will almost certainly avoid those horribly uncomfortable consequences which often come from poor planning or a refusal to move with the times which can be pretty well guaranteed to produce unwanted results.

 Now that is just like e-discovery, isn’t it?

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