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Ernest Hemingway reckoned that an intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools. And indeed who amongst us who takes a drink has never chosen to tune out the drones around us by indulging in just one more or has never had a sip of Dutch courage before an important event? We talk of drowning our sorrows, of wetting a baby’s head, of toasting a new deal – and, for the most part, our social drinking is relatively harmless.

hangover 2Until, of course, you wake up wondering what on earth happened the night before. Did you actually do what you think you did? Did you actually say what you think you said? Will anyone remember? And, if you’re a public figure, this scrutiny is rarely restricted to the confines of you and your bathroom mirror. Word gets out and the things you do while under the influence make the news.

István Lovas, a Hungarian correspondent in Brussels, might well be living to regret polishing off that bottle of wine and the two kupica of pálinka that led him to write a steaming letter to the foreign correspondents in Budapest accusing them of false reporting and of painting an unfair and false picture of Hungary. His excuse … he was drunk. And yet he seemed to be fully aware of what he was doing: I have never ever been as rude in my life as I am being now in any article, or in any “official” letter addressed to anyone. A little embarrassing, I’d say.

hangoverLast week in parliament, István Pálffy, a relative newcomer, was said to have been under the influence while in attendance. And a few months ago, József Balogh, another parliamentarian, made the news when he allegedly beat up his partner after getting drunk at a wedding, apparently fracturing her skull in the process. In the throes of what must have been a massive hangover, he’s reported to have said that she’d been tripped by the family’s blind dog. Mortifying, I’d say.

Is the well worn excuse of being drunk still viable? In fact, was it ever? It’s not rocket science: the best way to avoid the morning-after guilt is to know your limit and drink responsibly. Everything in moderation… now why is that such a difficult lesson to learn?

First published in the Budapest Times on 22 November 2013