Thursday, June 07, 2007

Boozed Up Britain

OK, let's get my dental problems out of the way. I saw the dentist today and he confirmed my suspicions that I've got an infected tooth. The good news is that he's put me on a course of antibiotics and the infection is already clearing up, resulting in a vast reduction in pain levels. The bad news is that the tooth is too far gone to be saved and, once the infection has gone, will have to be extracted. Not something I'm looking forward to, but it has to be done. I'm not saying I've got a phobia about dentists, but I had a very bad experience with a previous local practice (which resulted in the damage which allowed this tooth to become infected). Plus, when I was a kid, they still used gas as an anaesthetic for extractions, and I once had a 'bad trip' when under its influence. On top of all that, Doc Holliday was a dentist, and it has always disturbed me that the skills required for dentistry could so easily be transferred to gun fighting. According to Western legend, Doc had already killed nineteen men before he took part in the Gunfight at the OK Corral. What they don't mention is that he killed them in the dentist's chair...

Anyway, I seem to have strayed away from the topic I actually wanted to discuss here: alcohol abuse. Or, more accurately, government campaigns against alcohol abuse. Whilst reducing such abuse is truly a noble cause, the authorities really are going about it in a half arsed way. Take this latest proposal to label alcohol containers so as to make it easier to ascertain their alcohol content in terms of your safe weekly consumption of units. All that is going to do is make the situation worse. The habitual alcohol abuser actively seeks out the strongest beers and spirits. Why make it even easier for them to identify which brand is going to bet them most smashed, quickest? Also, it's no good adopting this nannying position and tut tutting to them over how much damage they're doing their bodies - they know they are doing themselves damage and don't care! Binge drinkers do it because they enjoy it. What got me really enraged over these proposals was hearing some recovering alcoholic on the radio praising the scheme and patronisingly telling us all about the evils of booze. We know about that already! Now, normally I have great admiration for people who have tackled their demons and managed to stay clean. It isn't easy. But this guy really pissed me off. I found myself ranting at the radio: "Just because you can't bloody handle your drink, don't assume the rest of us are just as weak willed! I know when I've had enough!" But, of course, many people don't seem to know when they've had enough.

But what alternatives are there to combat alcohol abuse? There's always that old fall back of educating people from an early age on safe drinking. But let's face it, do you really think teenagers will buy that message when they see their elders and 'betters' busy going down the pub and getting completely legless every night? What really needs to be done is address the whole drinking culture that has grown up in this country, encouraged by the tabloids, TV and magazine. When I started drinking it was see as a primarily social activity. Getting drunk was an occasional side product. Nowadays the whole point seems simply to get drunk as quickly as possible. Which explains the rise in popularity of crap, but strong, lagers. For my generation (God, I'm sounding like a right old git), beer was drunk for pleasure, emphasising qualities such as taste. Alcohol content was of secondary importance. Nowadays, it is all that matters. Maybe that's what they should do - ban draught lagers from pubs! If nothing else, it might discourage the piss head elements who currently blight lounge bars up and down the country.

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