Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

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The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

This has been a very dangerous project. You've sensed something of the physical furies I've encountered (the bellowing at the moon, the scrabbling at the chest), but one psychological jeopardy has been more dangerous than all the others because it's been the most insidious.

You may not know that two years ago and right at the start of this project, I stopped drinking to increase what economists call my productivity.

Two years. No alcohol. At all. That deserves one of those low whistles of approval heroes used to get in Biggles books. Giving up drinking was the most dangerous thing of all. It is terribly addictive. You think you can handle it but it sucks you in so subtly you don't realise what's happening. You get a high you can't do without. The energy released by not drinking comes to be indispensable: the sweet sleep it provides, and that half hour in the morning before you come round, you come to rely on. But it's very depressing, as Dean Martin once said, knowing that's as good as you're going to feel all day.

So you surge out of bed to attack the to-do list. You make calls with both hands and type e-mails to five continents with 10 toes. You whip up all sorts of activity, snap at heels and make increasingly absurd demands. Your productivity is registering on government scales, and your mercurial mind glitters and flashes across the face of creation.

But nothing is for nothing.

Suddenly you find you are only mixing with other non-drinkers. You're moving so fast no one understands what the hell you're talking about. Not drinking detaches you from reality. You soar above the world looking down on the ruck of humanity. And you get so judgemental. And bored! Oh, Lord, the unending watchfulness of sobriety!

The surplus energy leads one into foolish, fanciful, doomed projects, some of which - but only some - I have revealed to you already. Waiting for some phase of the main project to come about, you can't sit still long enough to see it come about. So you start something else. You get an unreal sense of confidence from all the surplus energy and inspiration and the dozen-ideas-a-day not drinking produces. With the piercing clarity of the sober (and the insane) you can't see how the project might fail.

But in the real world there is no piercing clarity. Doubt and laziness are very important brakes on action, for people like me. And somewhere in the course of the second bottle, the idea that seemed so brilliant in the first bottle is simply forgotten. It's by far the cheaper way of discovering your idea won't work.