7 January 2020 – St Distaff's Day

There is so much to tell you. There’s been dancing. There’s been walking in the misty twilight. There’s been STDs. There’s been regret. And yet I still had time to buy my cat her incontinence pads. 

Welcome to St Distaff’s Day.

Now today actually comes under many names – Plough Tuesday or Rock Day or Straw Bear Tuesday or St Brannoc’s Day (and probably plenty more in between). And if you want to find out all about all these things, I recommend you read Steve Roud’s The English Year or Quentin Cooper and Paul Sullivan’s Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem. Or use a search engine of your choosing.

But what you need to know is that on St Distaff’s Day (not a real saint) young men used to attempt to steal young women’s flax and were deterred by water, and it’s the day after 12th Night when everyone used to get drunk and rowdy. So for today’s Everyday Lore, I have been carrying a water pistol to defend my flax, and getting drunk to try out some hangover cures. Obviously. 

Flax shenanigans 
I haven’t carried a water pistol since being frisked in the FBI building in Washington DC when I was 18. And today, I didn’t carry one either as I forgot. Well mostly forgot. I remembered when I went for a walk to sober up. And then nothing happened. Probably a good thing as I also forgot to carry any flax. 

Folklore hangover cures
There are so many. Boiled tripe first thing. Deep fried canaries. Sheep’s lungs. Cabbage water. Asparagus. Eels and bitter almonds. Being buried up to the neck in damp river sand. I needed help. Enter five exceptionally generous and talented folklorists, all of whom I’m very grateful to be able to call my friends. I gave them a list of cures to try or let them go freestyle and these are the results:

The ‘Wealthy’ Hangover Cure – Lidl version
First up is Sarah and Robert. Sarah and Robert very gallantly tried the ‘Hangover cure for the wealthy’, adapting the recipe I’d found in Polly Bloom’s Old Wives’ Lore: A Book of Old-Fashioned Tips and Remedies, to suit a Lidl budget. The original contained vast quantities of butter, onions, champagne, Camembert and some breadcrumbs. 

After a two cocktails, a glass of horrid rosé, half a bottle of wine and a gin and tonic each, they felt a bit dehydrated and hungover…

What was taking the cure like? 
Delicious. Quite, ahem, rich.

How did you feel after taking the cure?
Sleepy. Thirsty   

What is your opinion of this cure?
Sarah – Delicious treat but wouldn’t have wanted to eat it if I was very hungover
Robert – Fits into the ‘bacon sandwich’ category of salty greasy food

Would you take it again or recommend it to anyone?
As dinner, not as a curative.

The Old Putting Pins Into Something Hangover Cure
Next up is T. T tried this cure after playing a drinking game throughout all three of the Lord of the Rings films. After over half a bottle of wine and several gin & tonics (“the LoTR Marathon Drinking Game is brutal”), T felt the need to cure a classic hangover: headache, tired and a bit nauseous. After pushing 13 black pins into the cork of the bottle that got her drunk, then returning the cork into the bottle to help alleviate her symptoms, how did she feel?

Pushing the pins into the cork of the bottle felt nice. Although I realised, I might not have done it correctly and had to give it a couple of tries. I discovered the part where you seal the cork back in the bottle after I had put the pins in. And had to re-pin them. 

How did you feel after taking the cure?
Still pretty tired, headache continued through the day, and several hours later I had to take some Paracetamol. 

What is your opinion of this cure?
Very satisfying to do, even if it didn’t do much to improve how I felt. But who knows, maybe I would have felt worse if I didn’t do the cure? 

Would you take it again or recommend it to anyone?
I might do it again, but I will probably not recommend it to anyone, except in discussions about folklore and hangover cures. 

The Wiping Lemon Under the Armpits, and Ginger Tea Hangover Cures
Then it was Jaymie Tapsell’s turn, I’ll let her tell you all about these ones. Just ouch though.

The lemon one was taken from Polly Bloom again and was supposed to cure a dodgy stomach, and the ginger one was passed down to me, also for nausea. I’d say that one was successful!

The Pickle Juice Hangover Cure
Next it was Claire Slack (@xxheimdollxx), and despite offering her other options, she chose pickle juice. After 2 glasses of wine, 2 sizable rum and lemonades and a shot of Jager for good measure, she felt Grim. Dehydrated, tired and grumpy. And had to go to work.

What was taking the cure like?
Equally grim. The smell was like stale bath water and it was a decidedly unattractive murky green colour. Bonus bits of dill floated across the top of the shot. Once I got over the stink the actual shot wasn’t too unpleasant. Think salted cucumber water. 

How did you feel after taking the cure?
Oddly a little better. It did settle my stomach. I did have to follow up with a glass of orange juice to deal with the after taste. 

What is your opinion of this cure? 
I’d say it’s a disgusting way of settling a stomach but kind of effective. I felt better about two hours after drinking the pickle juice. Cannot confirm whether I just didn’t drink enough for a full day hangover or if the pickles helped. 

Would you take it again or recommend it to anyone?
Would in desperation. Probably wouldn’t recommend.

UPDATE:

And when Claire isn’t taking one for the team, you can listen to her on her brilliant folklore podcast, Lasses of Lore

And now me: The Cheese and Onion Pasty Hangover Cure
Many years ago, I knew a tall man called Stephen who swore by the cheese and onion pasty method to banish the hangover blues. And at fourteen I thought it was cool to have a go-to hangover cure. So his cure became my cure. But thinking back, I’m not entirely sure I ever tried it, until now… 

Thing is I stopped drinking, and eating wheat and dairy in my early 20s. So a) I had no hangovers and b) back then the possibility of finding a gluten free, dairy free pasty was virtually nil in the back streets of Headingley. Nowadays, I am known for the occasional V&T but the pasty is still a problem, unless I prepare in advance. The other problem is that my hangovers tend to ride on the heels of the drinking, so getting drunk last night wasn’t an option as I would have slept it off by morning. Which meant some day drinking. 

Once the yardarm was well and truly passed, I thought I would do my best Keith Floyd impression and drink while I prepared my special pasties. A large slosh of potato vodka and some cranberry juice (with a frozen blackberry substituting for ice) got me very drunk very quickly. Then after several dance breaks, lots of punching the air to an Adam Ant song on Radio 2, and crouching down, resting my head against the top shelf of the fridge door for the longest time, I managed to get the pasties in the oven. Then I decided to do the bins. And then, as I was very tired, and a bit emotional, I watched an episode of Judge Judy about gonorrhoea. 

Pasties out of the oven, I went for a walk to sober up as no hangover, no blog. It was perfect weather, cold, wet, misty, twinkly. It also gave me an opportunity to be ready with my water pistol. But even though I sidled past some young men at the bus stop, twice, nobody tried to steal my flax. 

My hangover had started knocking half way through the walk so I scoffed a pasty on my return, and then another about 40mins later. Both of them delicious (even if I do say so myself), but if I’m honest, I don’t think they helped. In fact, my screen is so dimmed, I can barely see what I’m writing, but at least my stomach has stopped roiling. So in terms of salty, fatty greasy goodness, it’s a thumbs up, but I am about to go fish out some ibuprofen…

So that’s day one done. Huge thanks to all my hangover testers, I owe you all a pint. Tomorrow is going to be a lot less wordy. I promise. So do you reckon you’ll have a go at any of the remedies? Or do you have one of your own that is your go-to solution after a night (or day) on the sauce? And any tips on what I can do with all those leftovers? Let me know…


Resources

Bloom, P. (2016) Old Wives’ Lore; A Book of Old-Fashioned Tips & Remedies, London, Michael O’Mara Books Limited

Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Pickle juice

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