Monday 3 March 2008

Why can't I be more of a Bozo?

14st 10lb (this is ridiculous); 8.0 units of alcohol (approx) and the equivalent of 24 packets of pork scratchings; 1,432; Nurse, the screens!

At first I think it’s an after-shock from last week’s earthquake, but gradually I become aware that this is The Big One. Not tectonic, though, but cardiac, making it all a bit too personal for my taste. At 2a.m. I slowly become conscious both in the general sense, and of the specific fact that I am dying. The shaking sensation I have been experiencing is caused by my heart racing at about three times its normal speed, while the belief that I am also at the centre of a volcanic eruption is caused by a combination of horrific heartburn and a mouth that would do nicely as a set for microbes wanting to make a film about crossing the Sahara. I down the pint of water I always keep by my bed (in case of emergency, don’t break glass) and chew a handful of Rennies. I repeat this procedure at regular intervals through what passes for the night, finally waking up in a muck sweat despite the fact that I recently turned down the bedroom heating and swapped to a thinner duvet, and the presence of white stuff on the edge of the road outside which looks suspiciously like snow.

Never again. (I wonder how many times I have said that in the last 35 years or so?) But while I may not always have kept my word, particularly on drink- and sex-related issues, I think I can say with confidence that I shall never again attempt to ingest almost a whole pig. I am even more dumbstruck with admiration than I was for the constitution of Eddie ‘Bozo’ Miller, the American glutton whose obituary graced the Daily Telegraph in January. There was a man for whom a couple of pounds of pork would have been a mere amuse-bouche. Bozo’s idea of a light lunch was 10 to 12 Martinis followed by a dozen club sandwiches, or maybe 6 – 12,000 oysters. For competitive purposes, he once ate 27 2lb chickens at a sitting, and drank a lion under the table. He regularly knocked back two quarts of whisky in an hour. And the real joke was in the first line: he died at the pathetically early age of 89.

Not for me, though. It’s the dull and quiet life of an ascetic from now on, perhaps enlivened with a bit of light dating once I have attained what I deem to be a socially acceptable weight. I while the rest of the day away in a nauseous haze, somehow managing to file a column for the local paper and write a slide presentation for a client. Which proves, on reflection, to bear a remarkable resemblance to the last slide presentation I wrote for them, which in turn was uncannily similar to …

What’s that line I always use if anyone notices that sort of thing? Oh yes, “there is nothing that the investment community values more highly than consistency”. So long as it’s not a consistent habit of making profit warnings, obviously. Over three decades in the City, I’ve spotted that they don’t like that one little bit, and get very snippy about the excuses one uses, too. I’ve always taken the simple course of telling the truth, but it won’t do if it’s down to the weather (never mind if half your stores were under floodwater, all together now: “Only crap retailers blame the weather”). I’ve been responsible for composing a high proportion of those “Worst Excuses of All Time” that lazy business journalists trot out to fill space during slack periods, including the frozen cockle beds of the Zuider Zee and the short term impact of Princess Diana’s death on demand for soft furnishings. But luckily I had the presence of mind to censor the client’s first thought: “Our stores on that sad Sunday, and on the weekend of the funeral, were as dead as a Dodi.”

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