Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: In Search of One's Inner Flashman

Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.

You may well be familiar with Dr Johnson's quip already – it's certainly sound advice when it comes to sorting out the young fellows. However, you'll note his careful choice of words there: brandy may be a noble drink, imbued with heroic sentiments; it won't make you a hero, no matter how you aspire to it, though. Tempting as it is to speculate that drink could imbue you with particular qualities – heroism from brandy, boyishness from claret, manliness from port; we must accept that this is not so, and take a stiff drink to recover from the bitter knowledge that we cannot wash away our flaws so.

A good fictional example of this phenomenon is Sir Harry Flashman VC– arch bounder, bully and brandy swiller but, as he freely admits, an abject coward. Still, he is in his own way a great advertisement for the benefits of brandy. Less so is a real life example: Kim Jong-Il. The Dear Leader is a particular devotee of Hennessy (yes, I know I have elided the precise Cognac/brandy distinction; this is not a blog for drink-sodden train-spotters, I'm afraid.)

According to one recent estimate he gets through $650,000-worth of the stuff each year (then again, it's also been suggested recently that he's dead. I'd say check the drinks bill. If Hennessy is still shifting vast quantities of the stuff to Pyongyang, he's still alive. [Or there's a claque syphoning it off, I suppose]). Note this, though, that although Kim is a lover of the good things in life (fond of cinema, private railway travel, and has his own "Pleasure Brigade" of young women to attend to him – JFK would have been just the man to deal with him, wouldn't he?) he is a decidedly unheroic figure. Managing to be an utterly preposterous little man and, simultaneously, the pinnacle of the most monstrous and - potentially - dangerous tyranny on earth is not a good combination, nor much of an advertisement for the Hennessy brand.

And yet, it's possible that selecting the correct drinks will bring out the right elements in your character. Try being witty, subtle and profound while clutching a can of White Lightning if you doubt this. (You want Special Brew for that - says that puerile little corner of my mind that is possibly attributable to the claret I am drinking).

A deeper appreciation of brandy's profundity and sublime power may allow one to understand and develop the heroic elements of one's character, after all; as a moral education rather than a simple case of in vino veritas. Churchill was another funny little man with a privileged background and a taste for brandy, after all, yet he turned out rather better than Kim. It might be that he had an innate heroism, resolution, eloquence and foresight, which the correct dose of the correct brandy brought out; whereas Kim had an innate cowardice and degeneracy (don't we all?) which an injudicious and flashy consumption of expensive brandy drew out of him.

Alternatively, it may just be that one should avoid Hennessy and stick to other brands (or, if you wish to be literal-minded, shun the DPRK's mixture of mysticism and Stalinism and stick to liberal democracy).

The full relationship between drink and one's nature is a question for the philosophers ultimately. Do we all have it in us to be another Churchill, another Kim or even a real-life Flashman - or is it the brandy that makes us so? It's one that the likes of Socrates, Plato, Kant, Marx and Hume – all of whom were found of the dialectic method of arguing the toss over several drinks – would have been well-qualified to discuss.

Since they're all dead, however, we can outdo them in this at least. What drink would you choose to bring out a hitherto unexplored aspect of your nature?

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Blogger Glamourpuss said...

A friend of mine always weeps shortly after drinking brandy - it brings out the maudlin in her.

As for me, I'd say absinthe to bring out the madness, but that may be foolish.


12:48 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Bring out your inner French poet, I think you mean, Puss. Copy the example of Gerard de Nerval (apart from the topping yourself stuff) and get a pet lobster.*

Allons mon andalouse,
puisque la nuit jalouse,
Etends son ombre aux cieux
Fais à travers son voile,
Briller sur moi l'etoile,
L'etoile de tes yeux.
Allons ma souveraine,
Puisque la nuit sereine,

What with him and van Gogh I think it's a bit harsh to blame la feé verte for everything.

I find whiskey brings out my inner drunken Irishman, although that might not be something that needs much encouragement.

* Thoug it may be a myth. Good idea, though, as the Simpsons showed.

10:11 pm  

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