Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Drinky, Drinky…

I don’t really drink. Really, I’m a very good girl, but I’m not averse to a tiny little drinky now and then. My problem is that as soon as I have my tiny little drinky, I fall asleep, which apparently makes me a very cheap date. Anyway, as I have a bottle of Spiced Apple and Rhubarb Cider chilling in the fridge (yes, I know, I'm not sure whether that sounds wonderful or disgusting) I got to thinking about paintings of drink and the dangers therein…

Behind the Bar (1882) John Henshall
Yes, there I am at the bar. No, not the one with the beard, the woman next to him, feeding gin to my baby. Uh-oh, I just got a flash back to my days working for the Probation Service. At first glance, this looks like a fairly straight forward picture of a bar scene, reminiscent of that Manet picture…

Bar at the Folies Bergere (1882) Edouard Manet
When you start looking a little closer at Behind the Bar, you see the gentleman on the end is being led away, his cup tipped. Next to gin-baby Mama is a small child bringing back the empties. Young and old, we are all drinking and drinking until we are led away, that is what this picture is telling us. The viewer is behind the bar, separated from the mass of drinking. Why would this be? Possibly because the drinkers are all working class and the viewer is presumably not, so we are separated by class as well as the bar. This pretty, airy picture is a sneaky reminder of something that is darkly consuming people.

The Reverend Geoffrey Shovel, Chaplain of the Fleet, and his Drinking Companions Thomas Davidson

Well, there you go. The last man standing is looking out over the others as they loll around unconscious. Deary me. Well, I’ve looked and looked and I can’t find record of who exactly the Reverend Geoffrey Shovel was, apart from being Chaplain of the Fleet, but maybe it refers to the Navy’s reputation for hard drinking, so hard that even the vicar can out drink his land-lubbing chums. Look, his wig isn’t even at a jaunty angle or anything. That’s one hard-drinking man of God.

The Pipe and the Bottle Henry Gillard Glindoni
This is a jolly fellow. I like to think of this as the Drinking Cavalier, as it has that sort of jovial Dutch-ness about it. I love the round, plumpness of the bottles and the way the light catches them as his fingers splay to hold them. The dainty pipe too is a joy: he obviously is still sober enough to multi-task his booze and his pipe. Impressive. He seems like pleasant company, but his nose is getting a little red and he looks like one of those lovely bottles will slip from him any minute. I hope it’s not the painted one…

Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast John Singer Sargent
Ah, now, this is more like me, all elegant and slightly out of focus. I think that this is rather a nice portrayal of drinking, with flowers and a pretty fluted glass and an evening gown. I need to pop out and get some pretty glasses to serve my cider in and then I’ll be sorted. This will be me at the dinner table tonight. I’m hoping that is meant to be a shawl around my shoulders, or else I just lost a sleeve. Mind you, it wouldn’t be good to start the evening this blurry, goodness knows how it will end…

The Gin-Crazed Girl Commits Suicide (1848) G Cruikshank
Oh dear, it looks like I'll end the evening hurling myself off a bridge.  If you hear of a gin-crazed blogger throwing herself into the Thames, then it's me.  However, as I tend to fall asleep after just the one, it is unlikely to end quite this tragically.  Well, let's hope not...Cheers!


  1. Reading many Victorian novels, the drinking culture has changed so much - Absinthe for the richer artists, gin for even young children amongst the poor - and of course drugs freely available. Don't JUMP!

  2. Dearest, I sharn't throw myself from a bridge. I shall probably meet my end lying on a sofa in a corset, coughing consumptively into a blood-stained hankie while clutching a spaniel. Obviously I'll have a concealed hip-flask of Absinthe...that's much more my style.

  3. "Elegant and slightly out of focus". That made me laugh, so thank you :) This was a cute post. If you are interested, you should read "The Life and Absence of Absinthe" (http://allaroundartsy.blogspot.com/2011/09/life-and-absence-of-absinthe.html)

  4. I shall have a look-see, thank you for the link :) The first time I drank Absinthe it was alarmingly strong and made my nose hurt. I didn't give up tho'...

  5. I remember my friend telling me how her dad put a tiny bit of alcohol on her gums when she was in pain from teething. Like the amount on a cotton swab. It did the trick and she is not an alcoholic.

  6. When my daughter was cutting her teeth we had to restrain various older relatives from rubbing alcohol on her gums, which I believe was common practice a couple of generations ago. I'm not sure why it works, but as you say, alot of people seem to swear by it. When I have trouble with my wisdom teeth I'll try rubbing a little gin on it, see what happens...


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx