Miles Remembered: Hangovers can be a profitable part of life (16 March 1987)

Miles Kington, who died last week, wrote a much-loved daily column in this paper for two decades. In his honour, we are reproducing some of his finest writing
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The Independent Online

For years, scientists have been looking for a cure for the common hangover. Millions of pounds have been spent on this mysterious condition. Most of it, admittedly, on creating that drunken condition without which no hangover can ensue. Often, experimental workers have woken up in the morning with a blinding headache and a complete inability to remember what they were researching.

I should know, because in my own laboratories I too have been doing experiments for many years on the state of the hangover, creating the medical condition necessary for a hangover, and then attempting to cure it. Now, I have made an important discovery. There is no cure for hangovers. I think the average scientist would have given up then. Not me. I have proceeded to investigate the psychology of hangovers and have made an amazing and important second discovery. Hangovers can be a profitable and significant part of life.

In other words, hangovers are best left uncured.

How can I justify this statement? Am I still drunk? Not at all. I have merely worked on the indisputable basis that we perform certain functions best when we are in the right mood for it.

A man who is feeling full of energy and dynamism is likely to do well in a sprint race, but not so well at sitting for a portrait.

A woman in pensive mood is well suited to read a novel, not so well suited to jump out of a plane with a parachute, though if her mood changes she might well prefer to jump out of a plane, especially if it were a Jeffrey Archer novel.

The condition of a person with a hangover can be described as follows: general immobility, self-pity, despair, groaning out loud, suicidal tendencies, nausea, remorse, an inability to stray too far from the lavatory. Not a promising set of symptoms, I grant you, but it may be that such a person is in peak condition for certain functions. He can indeed use his hangover for personal gain.

My research shows that there are a number of functions done best during a hangover period, of which the most notable are:

1 Opening tax office letters.

2 Acting in a Samuel Beckett play.

3 Watching videotapes of programmes you are not looking forward to watching.

3 Listening to a close but not well-loved relative on the telephone, in one of those conversations where the relative does all the talking and you just make the occasional appreciative noise: they won't know it's really a groan.

4 Tackling a crossword you can't do when you're feeling well.

5 Getting out your passport to see if you finally do look like your photo.

6 Ringing up telephone numbers you have found scribbled on a piece of paper with no name attached, and finally having the reckless courage to check them.

7 Trying on the clothes which have been hidden at the back of your cupboard for more than five years.

8 Changing the cat tray, cleaning behind the lavatory or anything which is likely to induce nausea, which you already have, so what can you lose?

9 Hearing very bad news, such as death of a relative or the return of Jeffrey Archer to the scene; bad news normally casts us down but not if we are already down.

10 Taking a turn as a volunteer in your local Samaritans organisation talking on the phone to people who are marginally worse off than you.

11 Listening to anything by Stockhausen.

12 Doing any repair to your car which involves lying on your back underneath it.

13 Tasting all those rather suspicious-looking leftovers in the fridge, any cheese which is now hard outside but might be soft inside, any chutneys or jams which are probably quite all right underneath the mould, etc etc...

14 Making your will.

15 Experimenting with hangover cures.

This last is, of course, doomed to failure, but as any journalist will tell you, the subject is always good for another article.