Wednesday, 30 September 2009

All or nothing

Thirteen people from my workplace went out to the pub at lunchtime to mark the completion of the annual accounts process. Four had alcoholic drinks, nine soft drinks – and, as it was within walking distance, nobody could justify this by saying they were driving. This kind of thing underlines the dysfunctional relationship we have with alcohol in this country, at the same time experiencing chronic town-centre disorder and growing rates of cirrhosis amongst younger people, yet with responsible folks feeling inhibited from having even a single drink except when specifically “having a night out”.

Some years ago, in response to the latest alcohol scare story, there was a letter in the Sunday Times from one Ian Mulvihill, which made this point very clearly:

Brewers and legislators have created a society where regular social drinking is unfashionable, impractical and undesirable; but acute drunkenness one night a week is the opposite. And we're surprised at the results?
We would have a much healthier and more satisfying relationship with alcohol if we encouraged the regular consumption of moderate amounts in a social setting, but frowned upon obvious drunkenness, which is the situation that still prevails in many Continental countries. But, regrettably, as the routine consumption of alcohol is increasingly demonised and “denormalised”, the situation is likely to get worse in the future, not better.


  1. Hmm. I wonder where this 'denormalisation' thing cut its teeth. ;-)

  2. A fair point, but alcohol strength, whether wine or beer is stronger now than it was 20 years ago. Beers of 3% used to be common, now the standard is 4%, premium 5%. Wine used to be about 9%, now it's 13,14%. It's lttle surprise some feel a lunchtime swally will affect the afternoon.

    This discounts, of course, the fact the beers have always been 5-6% on the continent and they still neck at lunchtime. Though that is in decline and accounts for much of the volume falls in places like Germany.

    I blame America and Ally McBeal for popularizing bad expensive coffee in paper cups at the expense of £2.99 fry ups with mug of tea in greasy spoons.

  3. You're a bit wide of the mark there, Cookie. 20 years ago, standard bitters and lagers were much the same strength as they are today, and wines were no more than one percentage point weaker. It was only the lightest German whites that were ever 9.0%. I hardly think a pint of 3.7% Ruddles Best or 3.8% Carlsberg, or a small glass of 12.5% Pinot Grigio (yes this was in Spoons) is going to zonk somebody out in the afternoon, and if you think it will then you've been suckered by the denormalisers.

  4. I was under the impression the standard lagers were nearer 3% than 4%, back at the dawn of man, but as I wasn't there, i'll defer to your knowledge. As for 9% wine, I thought the blue nun used to be pretty much the standard girl grog. But again, this is recorded and not living history to me, so maybe you're right. Maybe it's all to do with the zeitgeist.


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