Sunday, May 24, 2009

Does bacon really cure a hangover?

The X5 bus goes from Oxford to Cambridge in just a bit over three hours. The only other public transport option involves taking a train to London, the tube across London, then the train again, which is about 2 and a half hours if you don’t screw up any of the connections, as I have done in the past. Considering that the train stations in both Oxford and Cambridge are a bit outside of town, and the train is much more expensive, it might seem like the X5 is a pretty good choice. However, the X5 has the reputation for being a truly miserable experience. Not because it stops at every podunk town along the way (most not listed on the schedule) but because it takes a route that goes around a dizzying number of traffic circles. By the end of the three hour tour, I was told that, even those with a strong stomach would be ill from the experience.

This week, I made a short visit to Cambridge to work with my friends Nigel Cooper and Ady Stern who was visiting from the Weizmann (in the next few days he will visit Oxford). Having never experienced the X5, I thought I would try it out… and maybe, having three uninterrupted hours, I would be able to get some work done along the way. I mean, how sickening could a bus ride actually be? We’re not talking about some crazy chaotic amusement park ride like the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Well, the rumors had at least a bit of truth to them. While the bus was generally comfortable, I quickly discovered that trying to read anything while going around traffic circle after traffic circle was a fast road to nausea– so I opted to try to sleep instead. This was a pretty good choice, and I made it to Cambridge feeling only slightly dizzy.

The visit to Cambridge was productive, although the three of us spend at least one entire afternoon working out a theory for something related to an experiment (related to this) –which the experimentalist then managed to shoot down in about five seconds. Good ideas that just happen to be wrong are rather common.

Friday night we went to high-table dinner at Pembroke college (See my previous post about high table at Pembroke). The master of Pembroke, Sir Richard Dearlove, used to be “C” the head of MI6 the British Secret Intelligence service. I met him once at a high table dinner at Pembroke a few years ago. Unfortunately, he was not present at this particular dinner, which meant that dinner was presided by the senior fellow present – which surprisingly enough was my friend Nigel. This means that he was required to say the Latin grace. Although he admitted that he did study Latin in grammar school, and was even good at it once upon a time, he opted for the short version (i.e., two latin words before dinner, and two latin words after).

The dinner (including dessert in the parlor) included no less than six courses of wines. The pre-dinner White, and the post-dinner Reisling and Port were all excellent (I was not so into the Claret, but I had a few glasses of that too just for good measure). The quality of the wine, and good conversation, encouraged me to overindulge just a bit. Around 1am, I finally took a cab “home” to the nice B+B where I was staying, and I woke up rather hungover (Yes, I confess, I am a lightweight).

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered recently reading a headline in the Telegraph “Bacon Sandwich Really Does Cure a Hangover” (you can find the article here), so I asked the nice woman at the B+B if she could come up just such a cure for my breakfast. She pleasantly obliged, I choked the stuff down, and went off to catch the X5.

The next three hours were complete misery. What was a bit dizzying under normal conditions was sickening when hungover – and was probably made far worse by the ridiculous idea of curing my hangover with a bacon sandwich; I had cold sweats through the entire trip.

I did make it home without losing breakfast, but I was awful wobbly walking to my house from the bus station and then needed to nap the entire afternoon to recover.

Lessons learned from this trip include: Do not get your medical advice from the telegraph, Do not take the X5, and don’t drink the Claret.

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