PC 257 Alcohol and the British Issue

In the last few months there have been more and more articles in the press about alcohol and its misuse here in the UK. I admit I don’t read ‘Wine & Beer Digest’ which probably extolls the virtues of alcohol so perhaps I am getting an unconscious biased view? (Note 1)

But …. there is no doubt in my mind something needs to be done to change the way we British use and treat alcohol and the sooner the better. To highlight the statistics:  “Half the cases that our paramedics in the ambulance service respond to are alcohol-related.” FIFTY per cent! (Note 2) “It’s estimated that heavy drinkers” however those are defined (?) “cost the NHS some £3.5 billion a year.” David Aaronovitch, writing in The Times, suggested that “drink kills nearly twice as many British people as drugs (Note 3) and yet we still delude ourselves it’s a harmless part of our culture.” Additionally rising drink-drive deaths are prompting calls for new alcohol limit.

I declared I wouldn’t drink alcohol whilst at school, but before I left that dream lay on the straw-covered floor of the local pub, a victim of peer pressure!! Alcohol became a regular part of normal life.

Historically we Brits have drunk a lot, socially divided between those who drank wine and its derivatives and those who could only afford ale or beer. Then wine became more widely available and it was no longer considered only a celebratory drink. Statistics show wine consumption had a tenfold increase 1960-1990.

We have a reputation for drinking alcohol in a certain way. Whilst we can admire the French for the way they can drink small amounts, a large section of our society can’t see any point in drinking alcohol, without an aim of getting completely hammered/drunk/trolleyed/unconscious/irresponsible. So embedded in the national psyche is this view that any form of celebration must be accompanied by alcohol – as if you can’t have fun without some stimulant.

The association of sports and alcohol is hard to fathom, given the health needs required for the former. “Congratulations Steve on winning the village/town/city/league football title.” says the BBC sports commentator and then asks: “What are you planning to do this evening, have a few?”Yer of course! Probably get hammered.” (A few drinks yes, but hammered, senseless?) And the fans are no better. Does anyone think it acceptable that Leicester Square in London, after the Football World Cup final, was trashed by drunken individuals in a demonstration of mindless hooliganism?

And when it comes to ‘going out’ in the evening, it seems that the advent of drinking ‘shots’ has become standard; the quickest way to lose it!

Alcohol and drugs featured in a piece of television drama this month. Students got ‘off-their-faces’ in an after-course party and one ended up strangled with a scarf and her body dumped in a river. Two individuals were charged with her death; one pleaded guilty to disposing of her body, the other simply stated over and over again she couldn’t remember, ‘I have no recollection’. The jury acquitted her – we thought she was guilty – but alcohol and drugs had killed someone.  

Fortunately the millennial generation don’t want to have a headache or a hangover and are demanding lower alcohol or non-alcohol drinks. “Typically I would have been wasted. Not drinking I didn’t do anything I’d regret and I’m glad I get to remember it all.” Chrissy Teigen on Instagram.

Looking for an alternative to alcoholic drinks one turns to ‘00’ beers and wine. The latter is, I sincerely believe, not there yet although with 0.5% ABV a glass of red wine provides a slither of fond memory. Funny how some countries are picking up of this but for instance in Singapore the Marina Bay Sands hotel thought the alternative to an alcoholic drink to have with a meal was something sweet – this is just nonsense. Remonstrating with the barman in The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath someone had to go scurrying off to the local 9/11. (See PC 164).

From books I have read this year:

From ‘This Charming Man’ by Marian Keyes: “Bridie stared, clearly wondering what kind of peculiar religion forbade alcohol. To be Catholic, it’s practically obligatory to have drink problem.”

From ‘Everything I Know About Love’ by Dolly Alderton: “I always saw alcohol as the transportation to experience, but as I went through my twenties I understood it had the same power to stunt experience as it did to exacerbate it.”

Sales of Lyre’s non-alcoholic drinks have been exponential

I admit it’s possible that, because I do not drink alcohol any more, I am overly sensitive to its portrayal in our society. Recently a couple of good dramas on television suggested that every time an individual arrived home, irrespective of the time of day, they reached into the ‘fridge for a beer or bottle of white wine, or picked up a glass from the ‘drinks tray’ (Who has these anymore?). A staged play we saw three years ago had the same directions: ‘When you arrive on set, either from stage-left or from stage-right, head for the drinks trolley.’ Is the director simply reflecting modern life or his own?

Maybe Generation Z and the Millennial Generation’s approach to alcohol, more restrained and less habitual, will by the osmosis process permeate up through the generations. Do I personally miss alcohol? Absolutely not, although some others would wish I did.

Richard 19th November 2021


PS This PC has simply focused on the British obsession with alcohol. The other issue for every society in the C21st is the growing use of drugs, whether recreational or habitual. For some this seems OK but for others it leads to destruction. Just today a headline caught my eye: “US overdose deaths pass 100,000 a year in epidemic of opioid use.”

Note 1 The Times articles that may be of interest:

‘Rising drink-drive deaths prompt call for new limit’ Paton               27/08/21

‘It’s a smart move to quit booze, Boris.’ Robert Crampton             16/08/2021

‘Welcome to half-drinking; not on the wagon, not off.’ Gunn            15/08/21

‘Our addiction to alcohol isn’t a bit of fun.’ David Aaronovitch               10/08/2021

‘Drunk Nation; why do British people drink so much?’ Josh Glancy 25/07/2021

Note 2 The knock-on effect of this is that those in need of an ambulance in an emergency for non-alcohol related health issues have to wait longer for one to arrive and then longer to be seen in the A&E Department.

Note 3 In 2020 this amounted to 7400 individuals.

One thought on “PC 257 Alcohol and the British Issue

  1. good one the US is struggling with Fentanol, Dr’s prescribe it for pain relief and then the patients get hooked, become addicts and then death follows… I’m gasping for a drink just thinking about the travesty of this… Eddie 


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