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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 11:46 GMT
The morning after the weekend before

It's the first working day after England and Wales's inaugural 24-hour drinking weekend. And many people will doubtless have spent much of the weekend feeling a bit worse for wear. Author Stephen Tomkins wonders why, when everyone knows how they feel after a few drinks, do we do it?

It's the taste of repentance.

It's the taste of remorse, and the revenge of your body. 'Go ahead,' it says, 'pump me full of poisons. You're the boss. But in the morning, I'll be in charge. And you'll pay, you punk.'

It's the taste of what goes up coming back down, rather further than it went up. At least it's not the taste of what went down coming up.

It's the taste of stale booze and nicotine and acetaldehyde and whatever this filth is on your tongue. It's the taste of ashtrays swilled out with morning-after dregs - which you don't recall drinking but you couldn't swear.

It's not an especially nice taste at all.

It's the taste of self-inflicted physical abuse that seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.

It's the taste, if you'll forgive me getting philosophical on a Monday morning, of determinism. Because what creature in control of its own destiny would have chosen this one?

Stone age

It's the taste of living in the biotechnological stone age. One day we'll all have microchips allowing us to put our brains back to sleep until it's all over. Normally, you might have reservations about messing with nature, but this morning you see it clearly. Nature is the enemy and deserves what's coming to it.

Ashtray
The taste of the morning after

It's the taste of learning when to call it a night, six hours too late. It's sod's law. Any reasonable sense of judgement will tell you to stop when you've had a few. But then what does having a few do to your sense of judgement?

It's a nasty taste in the mouth, but the one advantage you have over the rest of the world is that you can't smell it.

It is of course the taste of the morning after the night before. It's just that you seem to have ended up with several other people's nights before too.

What you could really do with is the taste of coffee - but then do you actually need any more dehydration? Your brain has clearly dried and shrivelled into a kind of furry walnut, and that can't be good. Ironic really, considering how much fluid you put in your body last night, and how desperate it seemed to get rid of it all.

You could also do with an effective hangover cure. What was that thing with orange juice and a raw egg? You discuss the subject of raw eggs with your stomach and get the gastric equivalent of a hollow laugh. Well, you don't want to tempt bird flu anyway, though how bad can it be compared to this morning?

Drumming

This is divine retribution for having Christmas drinks before it's even December. Now you've already got a premature gift of 12 drummers drumming in your head, 11 lords a-leaping, and quite possibly several species of old English poultry too.

Simon Jones and Ashley Giles, post Ashes celebration
Bright light
The editor would like me to analyse how you can feel so bad on a Monday morning that you swear you'll never touch another drop, and then on Friday do it all again. And it is indeed an interesting question, but a very easy one too - hence the unusually drawn-out getting to the point. The answer is: stupidity. Stupidity and/or dependence, take your pick.

If you'd like more detail on the point: you crawl through a day of miserable self-inflicted illness, pain, nausea, feeling like a landfill, and hating yourself and everything else. Then once the feeling wears off, at the next opportunity you do it again.

It's the taste of what goes up coming back down, rather further than it went up
And it's not even as if this is the inescapable price for an enjoyable night out. People have been known to enjoy a night out without losing the use of their legs, throwing up on the night bus and waking up in purgatory. So, stupidity and/or dependence, take your pick.

To be fair, I suppose there is one more factor, which is that humans don't seem to have a very good memory for pain and illness. Every time I get sick, it's the worst thing in the whole world ever (and yes I am a bloke), it's intolerable misery, and all those times before that I thought were the worst illness of my life, I didn't know what I was moaning about. And then when it goes away I realise that it wasn't so bad after all and I should have just pulled my socks up.

So I'll concede it's probably natural to forget how badly one suffers. Then again, if a friend said, 'Do you want to go out and get the flu on Friday?"' I think I'd have the sense to pass anyway.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I used to like drinking with my pals but recently it just doesn't hold the same appeal. I'm not sure whether it's the fear of the hangover or the fact I've grown up but I don't miss it.
Nick Beazley, London

I would take issue with Kurt Wiliams assessment of alchohol consumption and its consequences. Some of our greatest and most prolific writers and artists have been known to be excessive users of alchohol and would claim it to be a significant part of their creative process.
John Probyn, Rolvenden Layne

I can't remember who said it but, "Beer is God's way of telling us he love us". If that's true the morning's wretchedness is the stark reminder that we're not with the big guy yet; no matter how much we feel like we're on the way!
Jeremy Cook, Guildford, UK

It's not that we never learn but that we always forget. We forget our inhibitions and our troubles, we forget our quibbles and any consequences. We forget our limits. And we want to forget all this. We want to be here, now and happy. We want to get out of our heads and into our souls. We want to drink... I too get a hangover occasionally but it's worth it.
Dave Browne, Crouch End, London, UK

This article contains no salient points at all, it's like listening to a six year old child. How can you have done this to your brain, Mr Tomkins? Do you really hate it so much?
Jo, Cambridge, UK

Sounds like he needs a drink. People have a choice and sub-conscious will of wether to get wasted or not. Having said that, hanovers can either be more fun than the night before or extremely scary when 'The Fear' appears. For health reasons though, moderation is a recommendation.
Simon, San Cristobal de las Casas

The key to this topic, and I guess for life in general, is that most, if not all things should be done in moderation. Not sure about the comments from people on their moral high horses because they don't drink and think all boozers are inferior. Similarly, am not amused with a loud binge drinker who barfs all over my shoes when he's rinsed in the pub. Friday night on the sauce all night, Saturday spent bringing up the rotten kebab and cheap alcopops, and Sunday re-organising your finances 'cos you spent so much on Friday!! Sad really, but good fun at the time!!
Mark, Middlesbrough, England

Hangovers? After nearly twenty years of experience in such suffering. A hangover seems a rather cordial escapism to me. Drinking is boring and so is the social circle that goes with it. Sadly everyone is too lazy to find something else fun to do and inspire others to do it.
Dominic , Liverpool

Hate to be a goody-two-shoes, but I don't drink at all and don't see why anybody does. I have a hard enough time trying to stay healty as it is without pumping alcohol and cigarette smoke into my body. Just don't know how some people remain so attractive and fit when they habitually abuse themselves every Friday and Saturday night (and Tuesday and Thursday night and Sunday afternoons if you are a typical student). I reckon that anyone who likes doing this - and they aren't just office workers - should spend an afternoon in the local hospital liver unit. Not that that would stop people, as afterall, getting a bed on the ward doesn't seem to stop most people, who continue to drink as much as they can after being discharged. Don't know why alcohol has such a clutch on so many people, but there has to be more to it than stupidity.
RB, Sheffield

If you keep getting drunk that's affecting your life and/or job negatively - even if it's once a week, once a month - it's called alcoholism. You do need help. You just have to admit it first.
Chris, UK Ex-Pat

I agree with Paul Growcoot, the problem is a social/cultural one. Having lived in the UK for many years, I was shocked by the relationship Brits have with alcohol; how every weekend going out meant get completely wasted. Reading most of the comments posted by the readers I am surprised that they find this kind of behaviour normal and universal. I do agree that not all Brits Binge drink but still there is an alarming number that do and see this as normal. Drinking 8 to 12 pints a night is not normal and no other European country has such a problem with alcohol. You do not need to get wasted or even drink to have fun.
Juana Codina, Paris/France

Alot of people now successfully avoid hangovers by not drinking alcohol at all - they use reational drugs instead! Humans will always be self destructive.
BG Jocelyn, London

The real question is - is it worth a day of feeling awful for a night of drunken escapism...of course, otherwise we simply wouldn't do it to ourselves. oh and a shot of drambuie just before bed - kiss goodbye to that hangover - works every time!
Paul, Cardiff

Honestly! As if the binge drinking were not enough we now have binge whingeing!
Liz, Hereford

Its forgetting all the horible mistakes youve made, its escaping that farce you call a life/ a job/ an education its escaping the fact that your single/partnered/married/divorced its escaping the dull and drudgery of everyday life with its endless repetetive cycle of events its because everything seems so much more ammusing when you add alcohol to it its because you forget the bitterness and anger of your life created by all the above things but most of all its because everyone else is doing it and there really annoying if your sober and there not
craig, bath

I live in California;originally from Belfast via London;we drank when our team won and when our team lost.You can say the culture has something to do with it but it sure is great when you don't drink anymore.I feel much fitter and v=can work out more and get things done. The Muslim culture has one over on the West what with their abstinence from alcohol.Most money is spent on medicine at the beginning and at the end of life;the end comes much more quickly and more agonizingly if a person drinks and smokes. We have overcome the smoking culture;now it is time to seriously look at the drink culture;a lot of which is down to loneliness and boredom as someone else has pointed out.
leo boyle, sacramento,california usa

Hangovers are just the side affect of a particularly good drug. I night before the morning after is all about enjoying great company, nice tasting drinks, sometimes food, tobacco products if you like, and generally letting your hair down. The vast majority of people that enjoy such activities do this responsibly and have great fun doing it. I just can't imagine why pompous killjoys insist on moaning on about 'binge drinking', or slinging childish insults at people who chose this line of enjoyment. Fun often tends to have risks and consequences, and going out enjoying booze is no different. I just wish people would stop bleating on like it's some sort of major social problem.
Steve, Holborn, London

I would like to say something sanctimonious, but when it comes to the abuse of alcohol and the continued craving for cigarettes, there is nothing sanctimonious to say which has not already been said. Dreary affected little englander me.
Rory Meakin, London

As I've said many times, "It's truly amazing what the simple fermentation of sugars can do to carbon-based life forms." Cheers!
Ray Spruzenieks, Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada

Bring on the 24 hour liscence, people dont need 24 hour pubs to get drunk its the power of free will.
Ben, London Essex

Let us not forget it is a scientific fact that binge drinking is a blast!
Jake Wetherall, London

As Churchill said: 'I've had a lot more out of alcohol than it's had out of me'.
Ian, Kosovo

Was Stephen Tompkins hungover when he wrote this? Maybe he was drunk. It was confused and confusing - a lot like having a druken idiot shoting nonsense in my ear.
Rodney Sharples, Dublin

True, very true. But Alcohol also provides the world's greatest excuse. You can get away with social suicide and blame it on your (real or imagined) level of intoxication. And the morning after it absolves you of domestic chores at home, and also quite a lot at work too. Homer was right - "beer is the solution and/or cause of all life's problems".
Ben, London

Alcohol, like any other mood changing substance is toxic and develops a reaction to the body and an obsession to the mind.This is a process and the person involved most of the times does not consciously notice the changes within.Once your chemical reaction in the brain has been changed,an illness called compulsive disorder with settle in not leaving the person any choice to or not to drink.This disease of addiction is also called Alcoholism,a word mostly avoided by poeple in denial.Be honest to yourself and you will find out if you are at risk.
Tiago, Lisbon/Portugal

The tone of your headline 'Why WE don't learn from hangovers' and your piece itself is objectionable. The young compilers of this site who align themselves with the feckless minority of boozers in the UK should understand that there are millions of us who don't use alcahol as a social prop and mental toy. You're encouraging readers to feel their weakness is officially endorsed.
John, Leicester, UK

It takes a few years, and some have the capacity to learn at a faster pace than others, but with a little experimentation one can find drink which suits. For example I can consume 8 Pints of Banks Bitter go to bed by 12 and get up functioning normally by 7.30 am, yes I am 14 stone and 6' 4", but that's my formula, when you find your own formula, stick to it and you wont have to belly ache and moan 24 7.
tony, Swindon

Aye - couldn't agree more. Stupidity - with a dash of bravado maybe. As I downed the sambuca (- just evil - what idiot would ever drink that?) a mate had bought me on Sat night I thought - 'oh that tastes a bit like water'. Sure enough - about a nanosecond later I was in a world of trouble ( - otherwise known as the toilets in Tiger Tiger. Girls slumped in sinks. Girls bumping into eachother - confused by the wall to wall mirror tiles. That sort of thing). Why? Determinism ay? Dunno. But reminds me of Tonto - a bag of nerves of a pony i used to ride when i was a wee girl. Every time the phone rang on the stable yard he'd jump out of his skin and bang his head on the stable door. EVERY TIME. Only cushions pinned round the edge of the door saved him from bashing his brains out. He was a bit simple but we all loved him just the same.
esmeralda, cardiff

It's the glory of escapism, and the drudgery of realism, all mixed in with too much good times to care how you feel in the morning
Joseph Fitzpatrick , Liverpool

To me, it's not a case of... stupidity and/or dependence. It's a combination of boredom and shyness. We go out because we are bored, we drink because to stay in, makes us boring, to got out and NOT drink makes us boring. The only alternative is to go out and drink which makes us interesting, or so we think.
Luke Coughlan, reading

I would like to say something bright and clever, but when it comes to the abuse of alchohol and the continued craving for cigarettes, there is nothing bright or clever to say. George best, sums it all up quite clearly.
Dale, Plymouth England

The UK does not have 24-hour drinking laws. Only England and Wales.
beth, glasgow

How right you are. For years an essential weekend medication was Alka Seltzer, especially if we were away with friends. Then, 10 years ago I gave up booze for Lent, more to prove that I wasn't an alcoholic than anything else and I haven't had a drink since. I immediately felt better than I had for years and 10 years on a feel absolutely fantastic all of the time! God knows why I drank such inordinate quantities of booze and made a complete pratt of myself on numerous occasions. Just glad that I don't do it anymore.
Paul Green, Stockport

This article fails to address the point at all, rather it just examines what it feels like to have a hangover. In actual fact, getting drunk is not down to stupidity. The choice is made whilst sober, and we decide to drink because we are able to project ourselves into a short term future, and gamble on whether or not our future selves will feel ok. I drink, knowing full well that I'll feel sick as a dog the next day, but what was I using the next day for anyway? I'm only at work, and that time will be miserable anyway, hangover or not so whynot combine the two?
Edd McDonald, Birmingham, England

I keep saying, 'That's it, no more booze, I'm laying off it. I've grown up now so there's no reason for me to get so langered now'. And I've gone and done it again. I don't know - my willpower and common sense just leave along with the sensible people who say they want something to eat... And yes, the hangover (minimise hangover tip: water + nurofen BEFORE you crash out + loadsa choc nearby) is hitting me even harder. One day I will learn (?)
Yvonne, London, England

"It's the taste of what goes up coming back down, rather further than it went up. At least it's not the taste of what went down coming up." Try understanding that with a hangover!
Kathryn, Cardiff

Want to share the fun of a night out with your mates? Then you HAVE to share the pain. You HAVE to share the hangover. You HAVE to share the guilt. Otherwise what sort of a mate are you? Legless or not is NOT your choice, it's your mates choice. The only way to have a clear head in the morning is to change your mates - and that's far more painful than your hangover.
Jane, Basingstoke, UK

Its more to do with the majority of office workers, over worked and under paid, finding a few hours to chemically force themselves to forget what a awful week they've had. Imagine what a happy, well paid and productive workforce would do to our profitable and now open-all-hours 'vertical drinking establishments'!
Richard, st.albans

The reason many people binge drink is because it's so pleasurable to temporarily forget one's normal everyday anxieties. In days of old we downed gallons of ale and gin rather than dwell on the high likelehood of dying of some unpleasant disease in the near future. Nowadays our so called advanced society makes us comfortable, and medical advances even makes us feel we can avoid ill health. But somehow life now seems pointless to many and deep down we know that death can come at any time. So for many people a night on the town is still preferable to sitting at home being miserable.
Paul Welsford, London

I get horrendous hangovers and actually gave up the demon drink about 10 years ago. I have the odd "mad turn" when I do it again, but these have about 5 years between each one. With my hangovers I can feel my hair growing! My husband on the other hand does not suffer at all, he can drink whatever he likes in any quantity, mixing everything and the most I have known him to drink was 15 pints of beer, a bottle of whisky and half a bottle of brandy - with NO ill effects. No headache, no talking to the great white God, nothing. His powers of recovery are the stuff of legend. He says he has no fear of the morning after as for him there have only been 3 mornings after in the last 35 years! Its not fair!
Denise Wilden, Maidenhead, UK

Some of us are blessed with a dislike of the taste of alcohol so we get to go out and have a good time and not suffer a hangover on Monday. Now that smoking is being banned as well, the sore throat and the unpleasant stink of stale smoke will also be banished.
Dave, Cambridge UK

I think it is a case of you work so hard during the week that you need to let your hair down at the weekend + alcohol seems to often be the way. The hangover is often the way to prove how good the night was. Not a good attitude to have and after George Best's premature death maybe this drinking culture should be re-thought.
Mel, Manchester

The article misses one key point. You go out on Friday safe in the knowledge that you're never going to repeat last Friday, ever!! You're going to stop after the third, or maybe the fourth. Unfortunately, good intentions are soluble in alcohol, so after that 4th round when someone says 'Another gin Keith', all those good intentions just dissolve away. By the end of the evening when the tequilas come round you've lost count, but it can't have been more than three or four. So a couple of tequilas won't hurt.... Saturday morning sees you with another pounding head, praying that the aspirin will start to work soon, and wondering what kind of idiot has puked his a kebab all over your hedge...
Keith, London, UK

Alcohol tastes good, thats why people drink it. The problem is, the more you drink the less you think about the consequences - so you drink more.
Neil Maudhub, York

I'm sorry, but this is a cop out. It's far too easy to pin it down to stupidity and/or dependence. No-one goes out for the night thinking "I'm gonna make sure I have a whopping hangover in the morning." We just know and accept that those are the consequences. I believe that most of us go out with the best of intentions but the best of intentions can seem like pain in the proverbial after 2 pints with your mates. After 3 you think "who cares!" and the last thing on your mind is that pulsing brain sensation you'll have when you wake up. Actually I think the problem is much more deep rooted and it's a social one. Living in Italy it's normal for people to go out for an entire evening and only drink one pint. They don't actually have to get plastered to enjoy themselves. I've been here for 10 years now and I think it has to do with the relationship you have with alcohol when growing up. Wine is a fundamental part of any household in Italy and it is always drunk at mealtimes, even by children as young as 10 (diluted). These people grow up with a healthy relationship to alcohol. They see it as a kind of condiment to life, just a sprinkle to make it taste better. Very different to the relationship we Brits have, i.e. it's a means to the end of getting wasted. Why all these people want to alienate themselves from themselves is another social issue!
Paul Growcoot, Milan Italy

People drink because they are boring ignorant idiots. Nothing to say?. Ok, just repeat verbatim the drivel in your cretinous magazines. These no life losers trying to make out like their wild and cool!. Give me a break. Just look at yourselves, pathetic morons, not a clue about anything, don't care about anything including youselves. Hey what about me?. Don't drink, very happy, loads of cash, great life. Go off and cry in your glasses about that then.
Kurt Williams, London, UK

Stephen, what a great article.... It isn't the story itself that makes it brilliant, but rather HOW it's written.
Azim, Roosendaal,NL

I think boredom comes into it, a huge proportion of us spend 40 hours a week (if you're lucky) doing something that we'd rather not do - work, and come Friday, with the excitement of time to do whatever you fancy, you want to let go and have a good time - a few bevvies is the easiest option.
Jimmy, Cambridge

It was my hen party on saturday night, and believe me i took the opportunity to enjoy the new late licensing and to abuse my body horribly....Its monday morning, im still hungover, i vowed never to do it again......and guess what? I have already been discussing with my fiancee (who had has stag night on the same day and feels as bad as i do) what excuse we can conjur up to organise another big night out!!!
claire, grantham

It makes me feel like I have a hangover reading this nonsense!
Rich, Bristol.

What kind of gibberish is this? Can't you get people to write in English?
Jamie Lang, Sheffield UK

I think it's the fact that the booze loosens you up and lets you lose some (if not all) of your inhibitions that you think hold you back in the sober light of day. Also, if you're out with mates who are drunk and you're sober you soon find out how much trash you talk on a friday night and feel the only way to get through the night and be able to understand the jokes coming out is to join the masses and have that one JD and coke too many.
Lee, London

Drinking, is, sadly enough, pure escapism. Drinking so much you forget your job, your horrible wife, etc. Heck, it even makes you more attravtive to women. Well, possibly. A hangover is merely natures way of saying, "hey, how dare you try to forget the life I have given you by drinking yourself under the table, take this!" Well, this is my theory anyway. Of course, if you are a student, you drink because you have nothing better to do with your time, and therefore you do not get mnay hangovers, because sobering up is a remote possibility.
Alex Peace, London, Camden

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