Cultured Alcoholism: Withnail and I
Awakening in a cesspit of drool in a room moving with the heavy burden of tequila, you turn your bloodshot eye towards your watch – which, aside from reminding you just how much your relationship with your body clock has soured, also prompts a date that hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of Freshers’ week. Need some inspiration? Then look no further than the amenity-ridden, cult classic Withnail & I.
Unknown to many except the film’s director Bruce Robinson in 1987, Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann are the perfect role models for any self-respecting pub-crawler as Withnail and ‘I’ – a duo of down-and-out actors living in Camden at the height of the sixties, who incessantly shift from drink to drink without any loss of enthusiasm, until they go on holiday by mistake in a remote corner of Penrith.
Aside from wise advice concerning lighter fluid and antifreeze (you should never mix your drinks), there remains a wealth of guidance that Withnail & I can teach the discerning student at Leeds:
1. Feeling the sting of the energy bills? Ditch the thermostat and avoid a numb head by covering yourself with Deep Heat rub. £5.50 for 100ml can go a long way.
2. Spare those plimsoll shoes from the northern climate. Tie a polythene bag around each foot and you can walk across the dales in practical comfort. You can recite Baudelaire and double up with intellectual prowess for free.
3. When the washing-up pile borders on inhumane – growing teabags protruding from matter – never attempt to wash up on your own. Wear rubber gloves and go in together at daybreak. Don’t attempt anything without the gloves.
4. Accept no half-measures. Demand the finest wines to humanity, demand them here and demand them now. You can always soak it up later at the tearoom with cake.
5. Confronted by an individual with an imbalance of hormones? Excuses such as ‘My wife is having a baby’ and ‘I have a heart condition; if you hit me, its murder’ tend to work rather well.
6. Being an Arts Graduate isn’t so bad. Signing up to the Labour Exchange is fashionable. Even Redgrave and Gielgud did it. Apparently.
With this in mind, if you’re really eager to jump on the binge-wagon then at least do it with a friend who has a grain of sense. Then, when you wake up in your own saliva and you feel like a pig shat in your head, take solace in the words of another heavy drinker, F. Scott Fitzgerald: “vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over”, and remember: “The fucker will rue the day”.
Do try this at home: The Withnail and I drinking game is a great way to view. Drink what they drink, when they drink – but perhaps leave out the lighter fluid.