Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: On the Wagon

It is with a heavy heart that I open my laptop to write the following words; but for the time being I am on a booze break. For the month of January, or thereabouts, I tend to give my liver something of a break – should this blog seem more than usually wistful or sub-standard then this, I am afraid, is your explanation.

Despite the headline I've given this post, I have a particular dislike of the phrase "on the wagon" – there is something irritatingly self-regarding and portentous about it. Possibly it lies in the much-disputed origins of the phrase. One theory has it that it derives from the final journey of convicts to Tyburn, London's historic place of execution. They would be allowed to stop on the way for a final drink to steady the nerves, but once they were on the wagon, that was it. So the theory has it, anyhow.

Sadly, it seems that the true origin of the phrase is even more unpleasant. In the United States temperance types would parade "reformed" or "repentant" drinkers on wagons through towns in which they would either show off their new found virtues or else serve as an awful warning of the perils of drink. (As mentioned before, I can provide plenty of examples to refute this by showing the merits of drinking).

At least those at Tyburn executed were able to give a grand spectacle on their final journey. Public executions were massive spectator events (I don't think I am being unduly cynical when I speculate that if we still had public executions, tens of thousands of people would still turn out to watch the "fun") and the likes of Jack Sheppard, the most glamorous outlaw of his day and Lord Ferrers, the first peer to be hanged, went out in style. (The latter dressed rather stylishly in "white suit, richly embroidered with silver" on the unimpeachable grounds that "This is the suit in which I was married, and in which I will die".)

Anyhow, the tiresome, nannying mindset which inspired Trollied Tuesday would doubtless applaud this temporary lapse into abstinence, but my intention is not to parade my virtues in the fashion of those unfortunates being paraded through the streets of Buttfuck, Iowa (or wherever). Besides, the boredom of life stretching out endlessly would surely kill me. This is more my type of health kick (the fellow involved has just been done for amphetamines too, what fun) Instead let us think of more pleasant things, such as the other amusements which I can afford with the money I save as my liver recuperates.

1) Gambling. The perfect vice, from a health point of view. You get to exercise your brain calculating the odds (and a clearer, alcohol-free brain surely helps here) plus the excitement from a big punt on a live event will give the heart a good work out. Currently, the marvellous Political Betting site and the US primary season are providing me with a stimulating diversion.

2) Better cigars. I will blow the smoke from my Romeo y Julietta in the face of all puritans.

3) Unhealthy literature. I particularly fancy the Dedalus Book of Absinthe. This last is an example I urge you all to follow, for a an especially good reason.

Due to the overspending on the Olympics, the Arts Council has cut funding to Dedalus (and 193 other arts organisations). Unless the publisher can raise £24,958 by the end of February it's the Newgate Hornpipe for it. There are various things you can do (including signing this petition). But I would urge you all to follow the path of enlightened self-interest and swell the company's coffers by buying some of its remarkable books. If you're short of cash, give up drink or something for a while.

(More on Dedalus here and here.)

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Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Milk Thistle for the liver. Pronography for the boredom. Works for me.


12:16 pm  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Pornography even...


I hate shellfish.


12:17 pm  
Blogger Political Umpire said...

I know I should get out more (but with two children under the age of three it's hard ...) but I'm sure you meant pretentious not portentous ...

9:39 pm  
Blogger Ann O'Dyne said...

Taking funding away from culture to waste on the effing criminal olympics ?

Give them peerages and then hang 'em. Orf with their heads.

4:08 am  
Blogger bill said...

The criminal Olympics? Now that would be rather interesting – and Hackney a damn good place to hold them.

Would it be regular athletics events for criminals or, and I prefer this, tailored events for the law-breaking community.Eg in the shooting events you have to hit the target while driving by in a Bimmer.

P-Ump, well it is pretentious too. But portentous is the word I wanted, in the sense of it being a pompous phrase, full of foreboding.

10:36 am  

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