Sunday, 19 November 2017

The love of alcohol

Over my life I've watched as several valued friends and many acquaintances have destroyed their lives with alcohol. All the while I've thanked providence for an immunity to addiction; whilst I'm quite happy with a three-day bender (though stamina flags with age) or a bottle every evening, I find that sometimes I go for days, even weeks without a drink; not intentional abstinence, just casual disuse. Yet I'm always up for a session - it being the prospect of good well lubricated company rather than the booze that attracts. 

The casualties have fallen away. An exceptional raconteur and indefatigable drinker, a man of warmth humour and erudition, lost first his solicitor's partnership then his marriage. Another collapsed in debt. A girlfriend who was a secretive and devious drunk and though I loved her it destroyed us. Dan Farson, Bacon's biographer, immensely talented, was a monster anytime after 11.00am. I think it was Farson who recounted the anecdote about he and Bacon visiting a subterranean afternoon drinking club in Soho; as they descended into the noxious gloom one of their party asked "What's that smell?" "Failure" responded Bacon, quick as a whip. And indeed the Colony Room Club, the French House and those other Soho haunts that have given me so much joy, such gales of laughter, such fine friends and lovers, are also peopled with the flotsam and jetsam of lives sunk by alcohol. 

Many men find a sort of semi-disciplined equilibrium with booze, like a car with engine running continuously at idle. But it never takes much for them to hit the gas and I've delighted in many unexpected and ad-hoc sessions this way; we seem to recognise eachother in much the same way that I suppose homosexuals do, and in no time you get a trio, a four, a sextet of middle aged men with voices rich as dundee cake and gravelly with smoke all equipped with a full wallet and an inexhaustible supply of quips, anecdotes, bonhomie and smile-creased eyes all chuckling and boozing away at half throttle as we create our own club wherever we are.   

Those that remember the days when pubs had to close by law in the afternoon - a pernicious restriction and a needless one - may also recall the few remaining signs in bars that ordered 'No Treating'. I was puzzled for years as to the meaning of that until I found in the PRO, whilst looking for something else, the original 1915 Alcohol Control Orders and correspondence. The same laws that closed pubs in the afternoon also banned the buying of drinks for others, rounds or 'treating', all in an effort to reduce alcohol consumption. One of the cases in the file referred to the prosecution by the police of a man who had bought a drink for his wife.   

It didn't have to be like this, our joy constrained by Great War measures to keep munitions workers sober, as I found as a youngster when I visited a chum newly up at Edinburgh University. He met my London sleeper at Waverley Street and at 8am, not five minutes from the platform, we were in the Halfway House, drinking dark ale and scotch chasers in a throat-stinging fug of smoke. Lazy afternoons, when English pubs were closed, were spent in bars around the Regency new town watching videos and quaffing. I was blown away by Scots liberality - this truly was the city of the Enlightenment, whilst my poor England was like some Calvinist theocracy.    

But no longer. 

Over more than forty years of drinking, years during which alcohol has been a good friend to me (given my immunity to its addictive effects), when alcohol has enabled, coloured, enhanced every major event of note in my life, I cannot think of any circumstance in which minimum pricing would have lowered consumption, either mine or of those about me. It will work no better than did those 1915 measures - when also, incidentally, spirits were reduced in strength by law down to 40% abv. That's still one century-old restriction with which we are lumbered. 

16 comments:

DeeDee99 said...

I watched a friend descend into alcoholism. Her marriage failed; every subsequent relationship; her son cut her off completely when he was 19; friends were alienated, one by one....... including me, eventually.

She became reclusive; groceries, including the booze, were delivered. I have no idea if she's still alive - with the combination of alcohol and heavy smoking I doubt it.

Raising the price of her booze wouldn't stop her: I doubt if anything would. Her mother was also alcoholic: it's in her genes.

As a Brit with Scottish and Irish ancestry (they call it the Irish disease and it isn't just cultural), I guess I'm fairly lucky that I'm a social drinker, who very occasionally has a bit too much, but can go all week without a drink without caring and finds Dry January no problem whatsoever.

We have a very stressed and in places, miserable, despairing society. The puritans who want to increase the price of alcohol aren't doing anything to change that.

miker22 said...

Wise words, even poetic, Radders.

leila said...

Wonderful piece beautifully written, Raedwald It resonates completely.

English Pensioner said...

The USSR had a problem with Vodka drinkers, they made it more expensive and harder to obtain but the number of drunks down and out in the streets steadfastly failed to change. Extra taxes won't make any difference to someone determined to drink; they go without food, new clothes and anything else as long as they get their drink.

Poisonedchalice said...

I doubt it will work but only time will tell. The trouble with politicians though, is that when new measures are deemed to have failed given time, it's the devils own job to get them repealed. Repealing such a law, would be an admission of failure and no politicians are humble enough to admit failure.

Dave_G said...


We have a multitude of existing laws and legislation that could curtail excessive consumption (and the attendant disruptive behaviour) that .gov seems only too willing to address but fail miserably in applying.

Whenever there is an opportunity for revenue there will be a new 'reason' to legislate for it - regardless of sense or sensibility.

Anonymous said...

As with all these people the minimum price is the start not the end. Tame statisticians will prove the minor success, then it will be calls for price increases, more tax, greater duty, funds for the nhs, plain lableing, warning labels, photos of diseased lovers, smashed cars, broken marriages, ban on advertising, finally full “de-normalisation” attacks. All accompanied with dodgy studies and call for greater funding.

Sackerson said...

Rod Liddle on QT this week pointed out that minimum-price on alcohol and various restrictions on smokers hit the poor disproportionately. I think it's just tax-gathering disguised as caring - imagine if it really worked and all the class C2/Ds stopped booze and fags in one go! I suppose the taxes would be reversed PDQ.

But I do accept - as some of our blogfellows do not - that these vices kill in large numbers, though of course some are more susceptible than others. The Big Dopers used tobacco and alcohol as exemplars to justify legalisation of other drugs; I'm not sure they'd be happy if the government said we agree, and clamped down on drinking the way it has on smoking, and really went for pushers and users in the illicit drug market.

They won't, of course. There's too much money to be made - by the government and the entrepreneurs who sponsor them - from quietly encouraging people's weaknesses. Look at gambling and money-lending, too. They'll wave the flag of Liberty as they help people shackle themselves with addiction and debt. Shouldn't the libertarians who resent being "nudged" by the faux-Nanny State also oppose the huge commercial encouragement in the other direction?

Who is truly the poor man's friend?

Anonymous said...

Glasgow isn't far from Carlisle, Edinburgh isn't far from Berwick, without one of those EU 'hard borders' it looks like a good opening for white van man/woman/transperson.

John M said...

Of course it's not going to make any difference to alcohol use, but grandstanding politicians will be able to smugly pat themselves on the back because "something had to be done" and the current generation of alcohol prohibitionists can now rest secure in the knowledge that thier Government funding is secure for years to come.

I guarantee it won't be long before they start campaigning for the price floor to be lifted - it gives them something to do. Also attention will turn to moaning through the press at the British Government, who will be accused of ignoring the shining example in Scotland and be accused of "failing to do something". Not that taking wee Jimmy Krankie's policies as precedent is ever a way to conduct Government.

And in the meantime, the M74 is just going to turn into a new silk road for cheap booze up into Scotland, and the spirits isle at Tesco in Berwick is destined to become the biggest in the UK.

Anonymous said...

It's political virtue signalling and cant.

The British political claque. You know it is funny that, how they claim that their hands are tied - 'concering the green menace' emissions laws, Islamification and at other times - they can do as the bloody well please with or without the people's assent.


Addicts will get their fix, most politicians should understand addiction and craziness, megalomania and ability to 'fixate and 'fix' those things which need leaving well alone. All the while politicians are given to ignoring - crapistan grooming gangs and the insidious creep of sharia slowly smothering Britain though political facilitation, the yuman rites laws, along with, a purblind police some would call 'em complicit 'police service'..............

nope just demonize, then stick some pennies on bottles of booze which in case you haven't noticed, like tobacco is still a legally purveyed substance.

The fuckwittery of it all astounds, boggles and appals in equal extent and yet the sheeple continue to vote for ritual slaughter, why?

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, minimum pricing was basically what we had when booze could only be had in a pub or off licence, and it is the supermarkets that undercut that price, so it is just a reversion to past pricing, in a way.

Would I drink less if the price went up? Eventually, I suppose. But would I drink more if it was cheaper? No. I drink the amount I'm comfortable with when I want to. It's like the price of car fuel. I wouldn't drive an extra mile, if it were a tenth of the price, and it would have to be very much more expensive to stop me driving my essential mileage, although there is a point where I'd just stay at home.

I suppose that I'm insensitive to tax-driven price on these commodities.

Peter MacFarlane said...

And after booze, what next?

Do you think the do-gooders and virtue-signallers will sit back and say "job done"? No, nor me neither.

Very soon some fake charity will be agitating for a minimum price on mars bars, or burgers, or cheese, or butter, or whatever is the boo-food of the moment.

And before long we'll have the State (ie the SNP) deciding the price of everything in your supermarket trolley.

Elby the Beserk said...

Scruton's good on booze. (Good on everything, truth be known!). Very good on how it oils the wheels of social gatherings.

Budgie said...

It reminds me of another government crusade - the one against animal fats. And before any militant Veggie froths, of course you can eat sensibly without animal fat.

But very many low income people without a proper education in nutrition (also with feminists pushing young women away from domestic duties), subsist on a diet high in refined white wheat flour, refined white sugar, and salt, with a leavening of vegetable fat and chemical flavourings.

Their bodies crave the nutrition easily available in animal fats but they can't get it on their diet, so they over-eat, becoming fat, and more unhealthy. This odious government policy based on a false interpretation of a 50 year old study, produces what it purports to avoid.

john savage said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Glasgow isn't far from Carlisle, Edinburgh isn't far from Berwick, without one of those EU 'hard borders' it looks like a good opening for white van man/woman/transperson

Would that include a tranny in a Tranny?