||[Jul. 16th, 2006|09:56 pm]
About 1840 a Catholic priest, Father Matthew, led a great temperance crusade through England, Scotland, and Ireland. It was one of the most successful that ever occurred; thousands took the pledge." One of them was an alcoholic physician named Kelly who practiced in Draperstown, Northern Ireland. "Aghast at the pleasure he had given up, but not wishing to break his pledge, [Dr. Kelly] cast about for a substitute. He had prescribed ether by mouth on occasion and knew of its pleasant effects. After a few personal experiments he imparted the knowledge to his friends and patients who had also taken the pledge." Ether sniffing became endemic in Draperstown.
Fifteen years later, when the British government placed a stiff tax on alcoholic beverages and when the constabulary clamped down on home distilled Irish whiskey, Kelly's discovery was recalled and exploited to the hilt. Ether, which was not subject to the tax, was distilled in London and shipped to Draperstown and other places in Northern Ireland by the ton. Ether "was preferred in some ways, and especially among the poor, to the now-expensive whiskey. The drunk was quick and cheap, and could be achieved several times a day without hangover. If arrested for drunkenness, the offender would be sober by the time the police station was reached."
A surgeon visiting Draperstown in 1878 remarked that the main street smelled like his surgery, where ether was used as an anesthetic. Old ether topers, he added, could finish off a three-ounce wineglassful at a single swig, without even water for a chaser. "Everyone who discussed this particular phenomenon," Dr. Nagle notes, "admitted that there appeared to be less chronic damage than with alcohol." But hazards were also noted: chronic gastritis, deaths from overdosage, and fatal burns from smoking while drinking–– for ether is extremely flammable.
Who wants to go to Draperstown for Glasgowbury festival? This Saturday?
Still reading post-apocalyptic fiction, though have had to reintroduce some cheerier novels as mood-leaveners. Can recommend The Gate To Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper and The Last Ship by William Brinkley. Down To a Sunlit Sea by David Graham is rather less good though. The so-macho-it-hurts hero manages to land his airliner during a global nuclear war in a fallout free zone in the Azores, thus saving the lives of approx 600 passengers (some of who are orphans - bonus points!). If that isn't good enough, he goes on to figure out where to go for long-term shelter and how to get there, gets to sleep with two gorgeous women and manages all this on a non-stop diet of whisky and jazz cigarettes. Still looking for suggestions *hints at bookish flist*
All this death and destruction is weighing on my mind muchly, and I am reading up about how to make a radiation dosimeter and fallout shelter. Not sure what I can do about a global plague, or catastrophic climate change.