Agony Uncle: On Drinking Culture, the Definition of Class, and Instagram Poetry

Paramvir Singh Khera 28 November 2018
Image Credit: Paramvir Singh Khera

I have a drinking problem. Every single night I will drink pint after glorious pint, the culmination of this behaviour being my record of ten pints in 52 minutes at Wetherspoons one unfortunate evening. I want to give up alcohol, but it is the only thing that makes life worth living – what should I do?


Despite your state of despair, you can at least be proud of your powers of deduction: you do indeed have a drinking problem. I have spent my university life issuing warnings about the perils of alcohol, and at no time were the terrible repercussions of excessive inebriation more apparent than the early hours of last Monday morning. I received a phone call from a friend who was clearly in desperate need of help. When I got to him, he was in a near-comatose state and, despite his best intentions, crying. He spent the next hour attacking the character of a close mutual friend whilst hugging his cricket bat very closely, and yet I stayed by his side and looked after him. You can imagine my surprise then, at being told the next morning by the mutual friend that he had arrived to look after the drunk boy after I had left, during which time the poor lad had done the exact same thing but in reverse: highlight all of my many faults whilst, apparently, continuing to clutch the cricket bat, still in tears. This is what alcohol does to people, and you must, one way or another, let go. Take up a hobby to pass the time instead, there are many to choose from and all of them better than destroying your liver. Perhaps cricket.


I want to have far more class than my bank account is capable of – what can a man do to walk the walk without any of the money?


There are plenty of ways to become a sophisticated and classy gentleman without spending any money at all. Here are three simple but effective class boosters: learn to tie a bowtie, remember to extend the courtesy of walking on the road-side when accompanying a woman, and know how to give an after-dinner speech. When pondering how to improve, it is perhaps easy to neglect an analysis of how you are going wrong in the first place. Cutting half of your wardrobe often does you just as many favours as adding half more on. Having said all this, the fact remains that you must have at least two winter coats, preferably of a wool-cashmere blend and with buffalo horn buttons.


I try to write poetry of an upstanding nature, formal in both meter and rhyme, and imbued with the rich heritage of English versification. Yet my friends do not appreciate my efforts. How do I convince them to turn to the light of true poetry, and renounce the bastardised tones of Rupi Kaur?


I like your question and it is well phrased, though I have to say my readers generally like to leave the verbose meandering sentences to me. I personally find the stream-of-consciousness, prose-randomly-split-up-into-lines-of-two-words-each, first-idea-that-popped-into-her-head style of Rupi Kaur depressing and disappointing. Although art is subjective, it is not so subjective as to make possible a comparison between “milk and honey” (obviously not capitalised) and the collected works of T.S. Eliot (who, incidentally, capitalised his titles appropriately). As to your friends, if they wish to drown in the empty void that is Instagram poetry, I think it is best for everyone if you let them do so.


How do I tie a bowtie?


If you are asking for the basic steps, your question is offensive, sir. You ought to have a very long look at yourself in the mirror, and at least part of that time should be spent practicing tying your bowtie. It is outrageous that so many people in Cambridge, including some of those that went to schools where black tie was de rigueur for formal occasions, have very little clue how to tie a bowtie, or how to tie one well. A lack of personal responsibility for the continuation of traditions in dressing sharply, and a culture of impatience that values knowledge only if it is immediately useful have teamed up to doom the formal dress codes to a future of non-existence. What is next, a generation of men that cannot tie their own shoelaces? It is depressing enough that white tie is resigned to members of the royal household and the Peterhouse May Ball, now it looks like black tie (or at least black tie done properly) is on its way out too. Tempora mutantur.


If your question is about the fine details, it is a very good one. As everybody ought to know, the trick is in the adjustment stage, where you must make sure that the back and front bows are equal. Try to retain the self-tied look by restraining yourself from tying your bowtie too perfectly, and perhaps try to perfect the art of putting a slight crease in the loop section of the tie that goes vertically down the bow, though, admittedly, this is very difficult to get right.


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