The Last Straw- Grace Hamer
Whilst watching ‘Give It Up for Comic Relief’, a special in aid of addicts, I began pondering some slightly more far-fetched addictions.
The programme was composed of music and comedy acts, interspersed with celebrity interviews in which they revealed their “addictions”. Many of the responses were sadly predictable (Jo Wiley: shopping (yawn), Robbie Williams: reality TV (hardly one of his most exciting!), Jarvis Cocker: Brick Breaker (gaming = lame), whilst Rob Brydon’s response of “milk and cookies” was a real gem: his earnestness really made the spectator believe that, although perhaps not a serious addiction, he’d certainly sacrifice a few flimsy friendships over forever being denied his hallowed milk and cookies. I don’t intend to trivialise addiction here, just merely peruse a few of the more bizarre and self-evidently less harmless ones.
After a quick cyber gander, the world wide web produced an array of predictable offerings: the internet (modest), tanning, exercise, tattoos, plastic surgery and cleaning (channelling the Andre Agassi circa ‘97 crystal meth vibe) – as well as some slightly more unusual ones: ice chewing (pagophagia), eating dirt (geophagy) and hair pulling (trichotillomania). Having suffered from the latter, I wondered whether I had any further strange addictions to bring to the table. I discounted ‘90s school crazes of Pokémon, yoyos, those gross squidgy alien things (how on earth those caught on is anyone’s guess) and so on and so forth, as well as my daily egg fried rice habit of second year… but one habit I can’t kick is something so seemingly superfluous and yet which brings me an unprecedented amount of joy: THE STRAW.
I brought a supply to a festival upon the recommendation of a dentist. And we have been inseparable ever since. We have survived the credit crunch, a papal resignation and several major natural disasters. It was the first word I learnt on my year abroad in Bordeaux: une paille – which subsequently became my most invaluable French noun. Straws went everywhere with me even drinking wine without one was a serious challenge.
So imagine my shock when a barmaid in Exeter at the weekend informed me that they had run out of straws, with nothing by way of explanation or apology. My reaction provoked a judgmentally furrowed brow and a most unladylike grunt in my general direction. I should, really, have informed her then and there that me being told there were no straws was something akin to telling Tinky Winky that the tubby toaster has gone kaputt and all the rabbits have got myxomatosis. When she thrust me the change, I duly noted the trampy orange tan stains between her spindly fingers. And I subsequently reflected, in impatiently rustling around my cavernous bag to retrieve an emergency straw (purposefully placed there for such emergencies), that I was hardly one to judge. For an addiction, when so trivial as tanning or straws, hurts no one but its owner. Besides, if we’re being serious about it, the rabbits have always seemed a little incongruous and Tinky Winky could do with losing a few pounds.