Tuesday, 4 January 2011

My New Year

It's bad luck to keep your Xmas decorations up past Twelfth Night (6 January), but it's not bad luck to take them down before then. My tree was begging to be released back into the wild. It had dropped so many needles that it looked bald and abused, like a monkey on an anti-vivisection leaflet. Returned to the fresh air of the garden, it's already looking sprightlier. (By the way, it's also bad luck to keep Xmas songs on your iPod beyond Twelfth Night, so don't forget.)

Since we are defined by our habits, and whatever defines us confines us, a New Year's Resolution ought not to impose new habits, but rather release us from bad ones, and create more opportunities for creative activities. I have therefore resolved to 'Do two worthwhile things before 8.30am', without specifying what those two things should be. Candidates: juggling, writing, exercising, gardening, playing the accordion, thinking.

This time last year, I was just coming to the end of a very miserable bit of my life, and to help me capitalize on a not-quite-so-shit December, I vowed to increase my energy and vim by giving up alcohol, caffeine and wheat for a the month of January. (Wheat? It was due to an article I'd read, but in hindsight I believe the wheat abstinence made absolutely no difference to my state of mind.) This I did, and I also made an Important Change to my life, with the result that by the end of January 2010 I was feeling really rather good, optimistic for the first time in ages and full of beans. I went on a further 'detox' in September this year, following an unrestrained week at the Edinburgh Festival: for a month, no booze or coffee, but with all the tea I could drink and all the wheat I could eat. Also, no Important Changes to my life. The results were less marked. Drinking lime-and-soda in pubs irritated the hell out of me (alcohol makes other people seem more fascinating than they actually are). Nonetheless, I did feel vaguely more energetic and healthy by the end of the month. I even went on the odd run, goddammit.

Well,  I'm off caffeine and alcohol again for the whole of January 2011 (or at least the first four weeks of it). It's the fourth day of the month (not even Twelfth Night yet) and already I feel bad-tempered, lethargic and incapable of anything remotely worthwhile before or after 8.30am, and less inclined to dig myself out of the impro-less hole I'm in. Why am I putting myself through this ordeal yet again? What benefits will I see? Some, undoubtedly, as I'm not so unscientifically minded as to deny that booze and caffeine do me damage. They're inherently bad habits. (Don't give me that shit about 'cutting down', and 'everything in moderation', by the way. I simply don't operate that way.)

A wild civet eating coffee berries.
I do like good coffee. To reward myself at the end of my fast, I've ordered a 50g packet of kopi luwak, widely reported to be the finest (and most expensive) coffee beans money can buy. Farmed in Indonesia, the berries are eaten by wild civets. They pass through the animal's digestive tract, and the beans are recovered from the droppings by someone who I don't suppose is paid enough. This coffee is famed for its rich yet subtle flavour, and lack of bitterness. This is the sort of thing that can only have been discovered by chance. I can't imagine even the most radical, avant garde coffee grower tasting his latest roasted blend and thinking to himself: 'These beans are magnificent, but they'd be even more magnificent if a wild civet ate them first.' Yet, if kopi luwak was a chance discovery, it must be one of the most serendipitous of all time. 'Make the coffee, won't you?' 'No beans.' 'What? None at all?' 'Only these ones that the wild civet shat out.' 'I'm dying for a cup. Use them.' 'Are you sure?' 'Yeah, whatever.' Five minutes later: 'You know, considering where these beans came from, I have to say, this coffee is pretty good.' 'I'd go further than that; I'd say that this is the finest coffee I've ever tasted.' 'Fancy that.' I also wonder if experiments were made with other animals, with the aim of creating different taste sensations, but that the wild civet blew the competition away. Whatever it is about the wild civet's unique skill at producing high-quality non-bitter coffee, I understand that Creationists have seized on the poor animal as an important plank in their raft of evidence for Intelligent Design. I suppose they might be right.

You will have to wait until the end of the month to read my review of kopi luwak. Keep reading until then, eh?

1 comment:

  1. I love your digression from new year res to hypothetical anecdote of the day the coffee cupboard ran bare. Made me smile, like a contemporary Ronnie Corbett, but more interesting.

    Michael A