Saturday, 10 March 2007
Coffee and Coleridge on a step machine
I have consumed two large mugs of high roast ‘there is more caffeine in this than carbon footprints at Heathrow’ coffee and am wondering about the wisdom of attempting to write this blog whilst under the influence. I write a great deal under the influence. I drive a lot under the influence; I always think that should a breath test be devised for caffeine intake, my crystals would turn a rich dark shade of Colombian or possibly Blue Mountain beans. I think road rage incidents could at times be attributed to coffee intake. Does a Police Officer ever say at the scene of a driving related incident, “Have you been drinking coffee Sir, would you like to blow into my little bag?”
Of course tea has nearly as much caffeine in as coffee so Lorry Drivers in those roadside eateries where they consume heart stopping fry-ups and huge mugs of tea could also be at risk. One wave of a fist and a dent in the back bumper of a pensioners Fiesta and those four mugs of tea would be discovered. “I’m sorry Sir but you are way over your caffeine intake limit and you are driving in an erratic manner”. One cafétiere and you could lose your licence, two pots of strong Yorkshire tea and it might even be a prison sentence. Caffeine can play with the synaptic pathways; it can play with the mind.
See this if you want to scare yourself. A hundred cups of coffee in one day and you could be a goner, I could have come close when a deadline has loomed.
I have tried herbal teas, I have pretended that I like them and made ‘how much better this is for me’ faces in the mirror. Frankly, camomile tastes like brewed privet twigs to me and the fruit teas …well I’d much rather suck on a wine gum. I have taken to water, which of course is the trendy and advised drink of choice. Umpteen litres a day and my kidneys are flushing like Niagara and my brain and body tissue is so hydrated I feel like a soggy mattress left out in a cloudburst. I use the water to balance the caffeine intake and make myself look as if my body is my temple carrying a water bottle in the car and into hot shopping malls. I consume two big glasses of water for every mug of coffee or tea. I do a lot of thinking in the loo these days, my bladder could be sold as a hot air balloon should I die in an accident. I navigate no longer by the stars but by signs for the toilet.
I can always tell those first poem drafts I have completed under the influence of the bean; they tend to have rather jittery short lines, no drifting on with commas. They often have slightly aggressive take me or leave me metaphors. Poems written under bean power are never lyrical, pastoral or mention stars. I have to wedge in stars and universal truths on my water and twig brew-up days. Bean poems contain close examinations of sharp things, sandpaper and mature cheddar cheese with beetroot sandwiches which have that kick you in the face taste and a lot of red that stains your fingers.
Many famous poets, of course, such as Dylan Thomas and Baudelaire notoriously consumed huge amounts of alcohol; although Baudelaire really only hit the bottle hard when he moved to Belgium which is understandable. Poets have always written fine memorable work either under the influence or recovering from the influence of some drug or other. Caffeine now seems to be a slightly more acceptable drug of choice than wine, absinthe, opium or whiskey. There are endless modern poems and blogs that glorify and serenade the bean and its delights. I am waiting for the water poets to make their mark or perhaps the gym visiting poets. The consumption of water in excess can cause unusual brain activity and of course the endorphins released by exercise are a well known cheap if sweaty high. Maybe Christabel or The Ancient Mariner would still have been written in the same way if Coleridge had thrown his opium pipe away and had worked out daily on the step machine or had a personal trainer.
I have sometimes read a poem that has made me feel on a complete high, giddy with the excitement and possibility of words. I wonder whether the brain activity induced by a great poem could be shown to agitate the brain.
“Excuse me madam would you please blow into my little bag as I believe you may be under the influence of a poem whilst driving.” I suspect the crystals might turn the colour of someone’s eyes or the mosaic inside that Art Deco building in Philadelphia. However poetry, good prose or a compulsive story can surely oblige you with a memorable hang over you can savour.