Archive for June 5th, 2007

How to stop the middle classes vomiting in our streets

I quite like wine. Not an excessive amount by any means, but the odd glass here and there. Perhaps I might share a bottle or two one evening with my three housemates. Maybe one will get uncorked [1] if I’ve spent time preparing a decent meal [2]. Maybe it’s just been a really stressful day and I just need to put my feet up with a good book and a glass of white. And it’s always worth keeping a couple of standby just in case an old friend pops round. There’s nothing like a good red to accompany a good catch up. And maybe some really good cheese, if I’ve not scoffed it all already. No I don’t have a bottle every night, or even every other night. Maybe 2 or 3 a week tops. More if I see a lot of old friends, less it I’m busy, as I frequently am, or just simply not in the mood.

According to the government, or more precisely Health Minister Caroline Flint, I’m most probably well on course to be a middle-aged, middle-class hardened drinker.

Now, if you’ve ever walked through a city centre at 2am, you can probably understand why the government wants to challenge this country’s drinking culture. It’s not actually the daftest idea in the world to try and encourage a more mature approach the alcohol. But frankly targeting the middle classes isn’t going to win any favours among, well, anybody.

This kind of initiative is the kind of thing that makes you start sounding like a Daily Mail reader. In fact, my feelings on this probably aren’t a million miles away from what I’d expect them to get outraged about.

Naturally we home-wine drinkers (or even those who pub down the pub for a quiet pint or two) are so utterly incapable of judging how much we’ve drunk, and so incapable of being able to look after ourselves we need ‘guidance’ at home.

And not just guidance but proper education, but possibly controls so all the 25 pluses don’t accidentally go too far and have that extra sherry after dinner. In fact, many of them are probably force feeding Pinot Grigio to their children foie-gras style right now.

We’ve moved on a bit from 14-year-olds drinking White Lightning in the park, I like to think. But perhaps we’re easy targets from policy. Easier than trying to take White Lightning off a 14-year-old at any rate.

Tim is cutting as ever:

No, a serious problem you’ll have to agree. People simply cannot be allowed to choose their own path to perdition, that’s entirely unacceptable. We’ll have to ban wine cellars, as this allows people to have too much alcohol in the house. All wine racks will have to be replaced so that only one bottle in a 24 hour period can be used, corkscrews fitted with a timer so that again, only one use per 24 hours is possible.

Quite. My house, my liver. Neither of these are public property. If I vomit on the curtains, its me, not that tax payer, that’s got the clean it up and possibly buy new ones. That’s why I’ve never vomited on my curtains. Or, for that matter, anywhere else in the house after a few glasses of wine. At worst, I get a bit sleepy and snore a bit too loudly.

Then there’s costs. Chris has a nice basic calculation:

Costs to the NHS?

Tax year 04/05, revenue raised from alcohol (VAT and excise duty): £14billion.

NHS expenditure on alcohol related conditions 2005-06: £1.7billion, for England and Wales.

But what’s really got me reaching for the Cabernet is this little gem from Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker:

“It is unacceptable for people to use alcohol and urinate in the street, vomit and carry on.

Quite right. I’m not big fan of stepping out my front door into last-night’s curry as the next man but, you know, when I hit the town for a night out I see so many middle-class drinkers who’ve necked a couple of bottles of wine at home, then spilled out onto the streets spoiling for a fight and depositing various waste products everywhere.

After reading the proposals, I’ll still be uncorking the wine at home as much as I do now, and will probably continue to do so now even if five years from now the unlikely event occurs of colleagues frowning at me and I say I’m going to wind-down with a nice crisp white [3].

If getting through a couple of bottles of wine makes me a closet alcoholic, then I’d like to stand up and announce to the world I’m an alcoholic. If, on the other hand, iust makes me an average bloke with an average level of alcohol consumption over the course of the week then I’ll raise a glass to that.

DK and Not Saussure are also unhappy. The latter also has some excellent calculations:

According to the chart, ‘A 175ml glass of red or white wine [represents] around 2 units.’ Now, I have no real idea what a 175ml glass looks like, but a bottle of wine is normally 750ml, so that means there are 4.28 of them to a bottle. So according to my calculations, a woman who regularly splits a bottle of wine over dinner at home with her partner is already getting pretty close to twice the recommended daily amount, and if she accompanies this with a decent sized pre-prandial sherry or gin and tonic, she’s well over twice the recommended daily amount and thus, according to HMG, a regular ‘binge drinker.’

[1] I know there’s no real difference in quality between real corks, plastic corks and screwcaps but I’m a bit of a sucker from traditionalism in this case. You just don’t get the same pleasure from undoing a screwcap as you do popping a cork.

[2] Not unheard of. Some people go to the pub to unwind. Others go to the gym. I cook. That’s my evening therapy. Unless I’ve been to the gym, in which case I bung a pizza in the oven, undoing my good work. I feel Aristotle would approve, though.

[3] If anything, they might want to look at why we’re so stressed as a nation that we turn to the booze. Not that I’m overly frazzled at the moment, but some days its just nice to come home to a good meal and a glass of the stuff.


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June 2007

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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com