There are days and there are days. Some days you have club soda instead. You go for walks. You have a salad and are good to yourself. And other days you do not. That is the way things go in these times of the general awareness of the need to be healthy. But not so long ago there were not these times. There were those times. And this collection of short works by Kingsley Amis comes out of those times.
Am I being too obscure? I am? Ok, how about this, then - when was the last time you heard a bit of advice like this:
In the middle of a greasy meal, a quick neat double brandy certainly seems to hose down your stomach wall and give you heart and strength to continue eating.
Extraordinary. Full of advice on what liqueurs to stock, what equipment to buy and how to avoid being abused by a host who is too mean with the pour, this set of writings from 1971 to 1984 reminds us that that era, for someone from his 49th year to his 62nd, owed more to the 1920s or maybe even the 1820s than today. Slimming was done by eating grapefruit and drinking clear broth so as to reserve the bulk of your calories for drinking. Wines was to be consumed also in mass punch bowls with healthy measures of that spirit and those bitters. Interestingly, there is one passage on the pub that I immediately thought could have been writing now:
Just why the British pub has declined so disastrously in recent years is a matter for argument. The greed of the brewers, the rise of youthful affluence, changes to the wage structure and the new stay-at home "culture" must all be something to do with it. But that there has been a disaster is beyond dispute.
Given the reference that follows about pubs suffering from the distraction of the Space Invader machine, this observation is from well over 25 years ago when Amis could still speak of the "Six Big brewers" of Great Britain. Yet it is the sort of thing still heard today. Maybe some version of some sort or the other could meet with acceptance for any generation.
You should enjoy this book. But it is both a comic romp as well as a cautionary tale. The idea that he could speak of "drink-men" as one might of sportsmen is telling - as are the the volumes of booze describes such men consuming, as the title indicates, every day. Amis came from a different culture, one not so far off that noted by a blogging pal of mine last month when he recollected how his father's business once was done. And the fact is drink killed Amis - as the author of the Introduction Christopher Hitchens more gently puts it "the booze got to him in the end, and robbed him of his wit and charm as well as of his health." This book should give you an idea of how that happened, not to mention a good recipe for something called "The Dizzy Lizzy" if you find yourself in surplus when it comes to Chambery, framboise and cognac.