Christmas is a time that asks deep moral questions of us all. Questions like: can I skip Christmas this year? And what is the nog in “egg nog”?
But if you’re like me, there is one Christmas Query that supersedes all others. To wit: Am I an alcoholic? As an investor in the wine industry both here and in Europe my immediate answer is no, I should be drinking more.
It’s certainly a very tricky question to avoid, as you slalom from one Xmas binge to another office knees-up, via that festive seafood buffet party with your old wine buddies. And normally my answer to this seasonal puzzler is:- Yes, of course I am a bloody alcoholic, have you tried that new Tim Adams shiraz?
Because it’s true. I drink a bottle of red a day – or more. This means I am probably going to die at 38; which is quite concerning, as I am already …….hmm a little bit (blush from lies, fingers crossed) older than this.
However, in this season of all seasons, I have good news for me. I’ve been reading a book called Daily Rituals, which describes the work regimes (and drink and drug regimes) of some of the most accomplished people in history. And it turns out half of them are – or were – total soaks. And when they weren’t downwind of a gallon of Macallan by elevenses they were doped, kinky, or mad, as well.
Here’s an aperitif. For W H Auden, the famed English poet, the day started with a dose of Benzedrine; that is to say: speed. He then fuelled himself to work with coffee and cigarettes, before starting on the martinis at 6, following on with litres of vino, then popping a Seconal (a downer) at about 11, so he could sleep. Fitfully.
The painter Francis Bacon would have laughed at Auden’s puritan sobriety. He commenced work at the crack of dawn (and he worked hard) but by 11am he was ready to “socialise”. First a friend came over to splice a bottle of wine. Then he repaired to a Soho restaurant for a long boozy lunch, drank through the afternoon, before dining out, going to a nightclub, necking some more wine, moving onto spirits, then visiting a casino, then having another liquor-fuelled meal at a bistro, then popping some sleepers to help him snore away the grog.
It is reliably estimated Francis Bacon drank six bottles of wine a day. He also died at the age of 83, and created some of the most wonderful and valuable paintings in history.