Love alcohol, Hate the State
I suppose our parents first started us on a little wine well-watered at the dinner table when we reached about 9 or 10 years of age. So started a life-long love affair with C2H5OH, or rather a love affair with the substances in which C2H5OH is disguised. A love affair, I hasten to add, that has never fallen into the blind infatuation of addiction. As with all love affairs, as the years pass I find consummation less frequently. Indeed, there are now days on end during a busy work-week when I forget to take a drink at all.
The dining-room cabinet holds ranks of bottles of curious shape and hue, some of them unopened for a decade. Derived from chocolate, melons, worms, cacti, potatoes, plums and God knows what - all sharing that miracle of fermentation and distillation that, as Heaven's especial gift to Man, allows us to make a drink out of any conceivable variety of organic material on the planet. When the NASA probe announced that microbes had been found on Mars, I must admit the thought idly flicked through my mind "I wonder what sort of liqueur they'd make?".
When I think back on all the good things in my life - all those brief little scenarios of joy and pleasure, the warm laughter of friends, the passion of lovers, the sudden stunning realisations that you are gazing at a scene of true beauty, the closeness of companions who have shared past danger - always in the scene somewhere is alcohol. The old French vintner who declared "A day without wine is like a day without Sunshine" had it spot on.
So you will understand why the news this morning that an organisation calling itself Alcohol Concern, no doubt comprised of characters formed from the rancid grey scum that rises from the bubbling cauldron of joyless interference in other people's lives, declares that parents who allow under 15s to taste life's nectar should be jailed, I am less than enthusiastic. The French would snort, the Spanish giggle and the Italians shrug. Even the Germans would blow a little Teutonic toot through pursed lips.
And now another thought has flicked through my mind. If the meddling witch from Alcohol Concern who spoke on R4's 'Today' earlier was mashed, fermented and distilled, aged in an oak cask with wormwood and scorpion tails, and bottled, what would the taste be? Bitter, no doubt. A hidden spiteful sting, perhaps not unpleasant if well diluted. A few drops then, in a Paris goblet, well swilled round to coat the glass, before half a gill of good Plymouth Gin is added. That would be perfect.