A letter to the Department of Health



Dear Department of Health, opposition parties and anyone else who has an unhealthy interest in what I consume,

I have sat in my office with the radio on since returning to work after the Christmas and New Year break and I am noticing a recurring theme on the news bulletins, namely that alcohol is about to bring about armageddon, the end of days and the fall of civilisation. Now it may just be that you're all trying to divert attention away from something truly bad, like the government being useless or the announcement that Big Brother will not in fact be ending this year but just in case it isn't and you all do actually believe the crap that you're coming out with, let me do you the courtesy of debunking a few of the myths that you seem to be clinging on to.

1) Alcohol automatically leads to antisocial behaviour – It doesn't. Now don't get me wrong, it CAN, we've all seen some stinking little scrote on the streets puking up 4 litres of Sambuca, or trying desperately to work out which one of the 4 people he can see in front of him is the real one so that he can lamp them. We've all seen the tramps on the park bench clinging on to a 2 litre bottle of cheap cider like it's a lifejacket. We've all seen the footage of the girls falling over drunk in the city centre and – end of days – flashing their hooters at passersby. But let me let you into a little secret – these people are a minority. I've been drinking since I was around 14 or so, that's now 16 years and the worst thing I ever achieved while truly out of my tree was to fall in the Lancaster Canal and have to be fished out by two charming young men from the Forestry Commission. Oh and I had a tendency to talk crap loudly and fall off my heels. Not exactly world shattering. I never ended up in hospital through my drinking and nor did I put anyone else there. This is something I have in common with virtually everyone I know. I still drink now, sometimes to excess and do you know what? I still don't start fights in kebab shops.

2) People in the UK drink too much because they are confused over the amount of alcohol in what they are drinking – I realise that our politicos think we all have the IQ of a cup of expresso but let's get this one shifted right away. We are not confused about the amount we're drinking and I'll tell you why. Because no matter what you write on the bottle of wine, be it units, centilitres, calorie content or the meaning of life, we don't take any bloody notice. Most of us measure our alcohol intake in a far simpler unit – number of glasses. If we feel particularly mellow after a couple of glasses we may glance at the alcohol percentage on the bottle to see if it's a particularly strong wine/ beer/ lager but that's not a common occurrence. So you can adopt new systems to make units clearer and bring in information about how many centilitres of pure alcohol are in the bottle and shall I tell you how much difference it will make to the drinking habits of those who like a glass of wine with dinner, 2 litres of cider on a park bench or their own body weight in Russian paint stripper round the back of the town hall after they've finished their maths homework? Or would you like to guess for yourself?

3) A tenth of the population are now classed as hazardous drinkers – Now I realise that this sounds like a bad one, it makes it sound as though we've suddenly turned from a nation of abstemious Methodists to the sort of people who'll happily swig the alcohol handgel in hospitals but this isn't the case is it? The reason 10% of us are now classed as hazardous drinkers is not that we've started drinking more, it's that you've moved the goalposts. Previously if you necked a bottle and a half of cheap pinot grigio, forgot your own name and got off with a bloke whose face could scare small children you were classed as a binge drinker. Now if you have two pints of reasonable strength lager or two large glasses of wine you're a binge drinker, even if you can still recite the alphabet backwards, spell 'antidisestablishmentarianism' and name every ruler of Britain since AD500. It's like if you classed 'pensioner' as anyone over 40, suddenly Britain would have a LOT of pensioners. Do you see? Bandying about statistics like that doesn't scare anyone when it's blatantly obvious that they're fudged.

4) What I choose to put into my body, as long as I'm not harming anyone, is any of your damned business - this is the biggie isn't it? I work full time, I pay tax, I don't hurt anyone and so do you know what? If I want to have a glass of wine in an evening a few nights a week and a brace of vodkas in the pub with my friends on a Friday night I can and I will and it has bugger all to do with you. The current obsession with ruling every aspect of our lives, from what we eat and drink to what we look at on the internet is out of control. If I am theoretically trusted by the state to drive, vote, buy a house, raise a child and bear arms in the name of my country then I would say I'm responsible enough to decide when I've had enough to drink and how much is bad for me without your interference. Why should I be assumed to be stupid and treated like a child because a few teenagers are still doing what teenagers have done for generations and getting pissed at a weekend? Let me tell you something that you mind find a complete revelation – the problem isn't the alcohol, the problem is the kids themselves. My generation got drunk as teens, my mother's generation did, even my grandmother's gave it a go and were there all these stories about teens beating people to death? Nope. Therefore logically the discipline problem that permeates everywhere else is the issue, not the booze. But that's much tougher to deal with isn't it? In fact you have no idea how to deal with that issue so you'll just concentrate on aiming for the easy target, alcohol.

In short, butt out all of you. Sure, make certain that kids are well educated about the effects, problems and addictive nature of alcohol, ensure that they know how to drink responsibly and safely but don't you dare treat me like a halfwit who is too stupid to judge what I put into my body. And if any of you are a little on the Rubenesque side then be afraid, be very afraid because you and I both know that they've finished with smokers, they've started on drinkers and you WILL be next….



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15 Responses

  1. There was a 3-part documentary on the Beeb last week called, 'The History of Now' and it examined trends in the noughties. The first one was the best of the three; among other things it looked at the changes in alcohol consumption amongst young people. They said that for over a decade the drinks industry was in decline because young people were popping pills, going to raves and drinking water so in a panic the industry introduced sweet-tasting (vomit-inducing) alcopops and local authorities tried to make town centres more appealing so the ravers would go there and spend money rather than get loved up in a field. The resultant '£6 for all you can drink' clubs and BOGOF deals on offer in many town centres did indeed get the drinks industry back on its feet and young people going into town centres and then all of a sudden everyone turns round and blames THEM for succumbing to the temptation. The whole thing is pretty immoral – like giving credit cards to people already in bad debt but oops we don't do that any more. For now.
    And whilst I'm on my beercrate – it's ridiculous to state that as a nation we're all suddenly drinking more – you only have to look at pictures by Hogarth to see that's not the case. Everyone drank gin becuase it was safer than water and the upper classes drank beer because they were refined.
    (I do have to fess up and say I have ended up in hospital as a by-product of drinking – I fell asleep on someone on the bus and they nudged me off them and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor having cut my head open on a metal edge of a seat. Stitches were required and I couldn't wash my hair for 2 weeks – let that be a lesson to you, kids.)

  2. Ouch, stitches. It was a little uncharitable of them to shove you onto the floor wasn't it? Binge drinking isn't new, my dad told me all about the utter drunkeness that went on in the nurses home and the subsidised staff bar at Prestwich Hospital while he was doing his nurse training back in the 1970s. He also got hoofed out of Sheffield Uni earlier than that for spending too much time in the bar and not enough at seminars or doing his coursework. My great aunt and her friends in Berwick used to hit the gin in the early afternoon and lurch merrily through the day. But suddenly it's all 'Binge drinking Britain', Crap. They just want a new area to interfere with. If we're too stupid to be trusted with the stuff then take it off the shelves, but of course they don't want that to happen because the revenue they get in from booze is massive.
    And I did have to go to the GP for a tetanus shot after my jaunt in the canal….

  3. Ha! My dad used to tell me stories of his drinking competitions when he was a teenager and they'd go off for TCs or 'Tactical Chunders' so they could carry on drinking more.
    My mother never got drunk in her life. No prizes for guessing who I take after.

  4. Couldn't agree more, ladies – not only are they telling pokies and massaging the stats, they are also bleedin' patronising, overbearing, nannying, interfering tosspots.
    Oooh – I feel better now.

  5. 'pokies'? WTF? 'poRkies!'.

  6. A lot of Australian TV messages about alcohol consumption actually use the "glasses" unit of measurement. As a nation, since the demise of Big Brother we are no longer so much driven to drink.

  7. Well…I'll "generally" agree with you on the alcohol IF you generally agree with me that anyone that bugs anyone else as a result of their drunken behaviour basically can be shot on the spot.
    Smokers should just be shot on sight anyway, regardless, as they are basically noxious vermin, so on that basis we could have a very neat, very responsible society with no over-population problems and no patronising "ducu-shit-mentaries"

  8. It's a deal, anyone who bugs anyone else while drunk (and that includes drunk people who go on kareoke and can actually sing) can be shot on sight if the rest of us can be left alone to destroy or not destroy our liver as we see fit.
    I'd have to disagree on the smoker thing for the simple reason that I used to be one until 3 years or so ago and it would therefore be hypocritical of me to order hte shooting of others for it!

  9. The glasses measurement does seem more sensible because it's so simple. Assuming of course you can count.
    Big Brother here has just got ridiculous. In the first series, ten years or so ago, they had a woman on who was a lesbian ex-nun. Everyone was fascinated because it seemed so outlandish. These days being a lesbian ex-nun isn't even odd enough to get you past the CV stage to interview. If it carried on the way it has been going then some nutter was destined to murder someone else on live television.

  10. I hope you realise this means that Jando got off light in our Brave, clean, crisp New World. And Smokers are vermin. They truly deserve death. I realise you Earthlings are incapable of logic but it's elementary as Sir Arthur would have put it, dear Vicola.
    Basically passive smoking at people is like doing random drive-by shootings. With crappy guns admittedly but the science on it is unequivocal. If you can smoke anywhere I can ever smell it, ever, in a sane world, that would give me the automatic right to shoot at you with a home-made zip-gun from 20 feet.

  11. You have a home made zip-gun?

  12. You make it legal to shoot smokers and I'll have one ready in 5 minutes….hell I'll build a whole industry around manufacturing them by the crate!!

  13. I sometimes wish someone would shoot me on the spot (usually the day after) but then who would be around to be an example of how not to do it? Anyway, I have a text on my phone that says I am a 'fun lovely drunk' – that is my story and I'm sticking to it.

  14. We've all been in that state! It's nice though that someone has told you you're a lovely, fun drunk, everyone should have a talent!

  15. I'd be inclined to say things were worse in previous generations. Perhaps not the scrapping, but as you rightly pointed out that's to do with retard kids getting it into their heads that they are the proverbial ten-men and because they've had a sip of some white lightning they've swiped from Tesco they can take on the world. What I refer to is that in the past, homebrew wasn't just some fancy way of saying you've hacked your Nintendo Wii and can run software that you wrote at home on it – it actually meant you went for a visit to the flat above your local paper shop with an empty plastic bottle of roller cola and walked smartly out of it with a watery looking substance which could (and would) strip the insides of your stomach clean out.
    I refer of course to Poitín or as it's more commonly spelled, potcheen. This wonderful stuff was sold in my dad's time and purchased as I described above – you knew someone who was brewing it and you took your empty bottle, came out with one full and sat with your mates on the railway lines drinking away merrily.
    Chronic ulcers in older age have ensued. When you have to carry a bottle of Aludrox everywhere you go, you know things are pretty dire.
    Ramble over.

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