Two weekends ago, I met a friend for late afternoon drinks at a bar across the road.  When I arrived, he’d been soaking up the sun and cider for a couple of hours already, and was sitting with a cheerful group of people I was invited to join.  This included:  Chester from Newcastle; Chester’s Swedish girlfriend, called Em; the bar’s owner, Dave, who is Irish; Dave’s Polish wife; my South African mate, Sean; and their friend, Gary, who is from Edinburgh.  I mention the hodgepodge of nationalities only because this is one of those things I love about London – Sean also lives with a Ghanaian, an Italian, and two Czech lodgers who were all presumably drinking pints in another patch of sun.

As I was a little bit late to the party, the conversation was relaxed and winding.  A popular topic, however, was what substances could be used to spike Gary’s drink without him noticing.  A range of fluids were suggested, with Gary’s enthusiastic participation.  This was mildly amusing, but a bit weird for a bunch of thirty-somethings to be talking about – with two PhDs amongst them, no less.  It was more the stuff of the fifth-grade cafeteria table.  Because four of the group were bartenders, the discussion covered what noxious liquids could be visually disguised in what ranges of seemingly innocuous beverages.  I finally had to pipe up and ask:  What exactly was the deal?

It turned out that one drunken night four months ago, Gary bumped his head getting into a taxi, and suffered a mild brain injury that had left him without a sense of taste or smell.  The loss of smell is called anosmia, but Gary’s principal complaint was that everything tasted of, well, nothing.  Although likely the hundredth time poor Gary was forced to tell the story, we all sat and contemplated this for a while.  (more…)

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