Wednesday, 6 November 2013

We are all binge drinkers now

Or so someone said to me the other day. While he was referring to the modern Newspeak definition of “binge drinking”, that is, having more than three drinks in one session, rather than the original meaning of “drunk for days”, I could see what he meant. Drinking, at least in pubs, has become a specific leisure pursuit to be indulged on weekend evenings, and no longer something that is woven into the fabric of everyday life. Gone are the couple of pints on Friday lunchtime, the pre Sunday lunch appetiser, the swift call on your way home from work, the quick pub visit after the cinema or the football match.

This is reinforced by the increasingly widespread belief, which I have seen reflected in the comments on here, that as soon as a so much as a half of mild has crossed your lips, then the rest of the day has to be written off. Many pubs report business holding up well on Friday and Saturday nights, but for the rest of the week find themselves increasingly empty. And this is all part of the process of the insidious denormalisation of regular, moderate alcohol consumption which surely is the key to responsible drinking.


  1. Amen Brother. I'm still in mourning for the lunchtime 'pie and a pint'. The wheels of industry were not harmed in any way by 'moderate' lubrication; on the contrary - many deals that were heading for the rocks were cemented well away from the confines of the office and in the snug of a welcoming ale house.

  2. As one trained in science what I find most depressing is that none of these diatribes against drinking are evidence based. It is open admitted the "safe drinking limit" was plucked out of the air. (And the fact that that limits varies widely throughout the word would destroy any confidence in it)

    There are a number of selection effects. Few people will admit how much they really drink - even if they have kept count. And the report is always lower than the truth which then overstates the danger of modest drinking.

    Hospitals only see the people who have been damaged by drinking. There is no record of how much heavy drinking goes on without harm.

    Ultimately I hope that the zeal of the anti drinking evangelists will be self defeating as people realise that the predicted evil effects of drink don't actually occur. One could draw a parallel with the late Victorian anti-masturbation campaigns :-)

  3. It's a slippery slope. They came for the smokers. Then the boozers and the fatties. The wankers will be next, Dave. Stock up on Nuts magazine before it's banned. I recommend the Lucy Pinder Special Edition.

  4. When I had a small business in London in the 80s, the whole workforce would decamp to the pub every lunchtime, and again after work. By current neo-puritan standards, they weren't merely binge drinkers, they were alcoholics.

    It didn't seem to affect their ability to produce what was required of them, though, even in the afternoon.

    I do get so tired of the joyless finger-waggers constantly staking a claim to the moral high ground. They actually seem to think they have a right to impose their personal autocratic tendencies on all and sundry.191

  5. The 191 postscript crept in because I didn't move the cursor down when I started typing the captcha. Duh!

  6. The inflated price of a pint must also have played a part in the demise of drinking outside of the Friday and Saturday evening sessions you mention, Curmudgeon.

    There was a time when I, along with many of my colleagues, would decamp to the pub on a Friday lunchtime, and sometimes on other weekday lunchtimes as well. There are two perfectly good pubs in the village where I work, but both feel it acceptable to charge just short of four quid for a pint! Well they don't get my custom, and the only time they see any trade from employees of our firm is when we have customers to entertain, and can do so on expenses!

    Greedy brewers, grasping pub companies and out-of-touch licensees have only themselves to blame for the huge fall-off in custom experienced by the licensed trade, and they desrve little sympathy.

    These factors probably play as much, or an even greater part in the decline of the pub, as those caused by the false "science" and insidious drip-feeding of mis-information put forward by the anti-alcohol lobby.

  7. Has the price of beer really increased in real terms over the last 40 years?

    When I started work in 1969 my salary was £1,200 and beer was about 20p a pint. So my salary was worth 6,000 pints.

    Today salaries have increase twentyfold so that becomes £24,000. With beer at £3 a pint that makes it worth 8,000 pints.

  8. The first pint I ever had in a pub was 21p in 1976, so your pint in 1969 would surely have been much less, probably no more than 10p.

    As I posted here:

    "I remember that, when I first moved in to this area in 1985, a pint of Robinson’s Unicorn (then Best Bitter) in many of the smarter pubs was around 60p. In the 28 years since then, the Retail Prices Index has increased by 168%, which would make that 60p pint £1.61. In practice, though, it’s more like £3.00, a rise of well over twice as much and surely well over any measure of wage inflation in that period too. Drinking in pubs is simply less affordable for most people than it was in the mid-80s."

  9. Back in 1972-73, when I first started going in pubs, bitter was around 12-13p a pint. Mild was 10p, and if you were really strapped for cash, you could get a half for one shilling (5p)! This was in the "soft south" as well.

    I forgot to mention the role played by politicians, from all parties, in pushing up the price of a pint.

    "Drinking in pubs is DEFINITELY less affordable for most people than it was in the mid-80s", and like you Curmudgeon, I speak from experience. I would also like to add that I earn a pretty decent salary these days, but still regard a visit to the pub as a treat rather than something which was second nature 20-30 years ago.

  10. Brains beer in Cardiff was 20p (four shillings) a pint in 1979, rising to the horror of 25p a pint (FIVE shillings!) by 1981.
    Welsh Bitter was cheaper and rightly so, it was gas in a glass.

    Anybody paying 20p a pint in 1969 was in fact paying 1s 8p a pint, or about eight new pence because decimalisation hadn't started yet.

    Which actually sounds about right.

    David C. Brown, who started work in 1969, must surely know this.

  11. My apologies. Beer was 2/- not 20p when I started work. Never could get my head round this new-fangled money.
    The first pint I ever drunk in 1966 was 1/10, whatever that is in decimated money.

  12. In the late eighties, early nighties beer was around the pound a pint mark. A Big M burger "meal" was around the £3 mark. A prawn sandwich as Mr Ratner pointed out, 99p. There was no minimum wage but bum vacation type jobs paid around £3 per hour which was more or less the bottom end. I encountered people doing that for a living and not just until term started again.

    Today a pint is £3, Burger meal £4, Sandwich £1.50, Minimum wage £6.

    Relative to other things a pint looks pricier & you get 1 fewer per hour in a bum job.

    The only other change is that I have no reason to take a bum job what with having a decent one so I personally get more pints per hour than ever before. I also have more outgoings than ever, all more important than a pint, mind. Such is life, I guess.

    For the those at the bottom of the ladder, those that were more likely to go down the pub than sit in with a bottle of shiraz, the pub is a pricier option now than is was when I took my short pants off and joined you all in the delights of grotty pubs.

  13. I was in Rochdale Infirmary today about my bad knee. The walls are covered in anti alcohol stuff and loads of dubious claims, but they do say binge drinking is four pints.

    Make of it what you will.

  14. Lord Egbert Nobacon7 November 2013 at 20:09

    I'm just about to do something I haven't done in years - step out for more drink after coming home from the tea-time session for some grub.
    Normally I'm a four pint man then home for the grub and a bit of a doze in front of the telly before heading up the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire
    I stepped into my local tonight expecting the same faces, the same banter and the same bollocks I get every Thursday.
    But buggeration, there were three cameras, a producer,a director,a clipboard of assorted PRs/PAs/Gofers/Hangers-on, a dozen diddly-eye musicians,tables groaning under pints of stout.a heavyweight boxer named David Hayes and a shaggy-haired comedian I've never heard of.
    Turns out they were recording an " impromptue " session for a travel programme on a channel I've never heard of called Dave.
    In my quiet little local.
    I chanced a quart but couldn't be putting up with all the carry-on so fucked of home for me tea.
    But the fact is I can't settle. I know I'm two pints short of my usual midweek quota and it's annoying the bollocks out of me like the proverbial pea under the mattress.
    I'm hoping th coast will be clear soon and the circus will have moved on.
    But two visits to the same pub in one evening ?
    I know I'm going to get some quare looks but those two lost pints are bugging the hell out of me.
    Hey ho.

  15. Ford Prefect's 6 pints for £5 and a tip for the barman is always a good barometer of beer prices, fictional or otherwise.

    but seriously prices have gone up across the piece, its not just the cost of the beer in pubs thats causing them to empty out mid week, but the cost of the other things too, you take football, for two of you going theres usually not enough change to buy a pint out of £50, so youd be spending £60 at least for 1 round of drinks and football, then the cinema thesedays is £10-£15 pounds each so thats maybe £40 pound spend for a film and a drink & then are there any cinemas/football grounds within walking distance of pubs anymore anyway.

    certainly the modern trend for expansion of football grounds & cinemas which end up as entertainment complexes,with identikit restaurants, tends to be out of any reasonable walking distance to a city centre pub, some football grounds are literally just exits on motorways now and there arent many pubs round those to visit, which encourages more people to drive, which discourages them from calling in a pub on the way home.

    equally I think the lunchtime pint with work colleagues has declined,because people dont socialise as much within their work environment, would you want to go for a lunchtime drink with anyone from the Apprentice for instance.

  16. A drink will soon be a special occasion only thing soon enough

    At least if you want a job and the regular prosperous life that goes with that sort of thing. I think the tramps in the park with the white lightening will get away without a test, so at least there will be a choice.

  17. Lord Egbert Nobacon8 November 2013 at 12:29

    Update - this two visits to my local on the same night malarkey turned out to be rather good.
    The film crew Pied Pipers and their hangers-on and rubber-neckers had cleared off and normal service had resumed.
    Another half dozen pints made it eight in one night which is unusual for me on a weeknight but the head was clear as a bell this morning.
    Binge drinking with a half-time break seems the way to go.


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