Monday, 26 November 2007

One of the great mysteries - Alcohol and the British

I have never understood the British attitude to alcoholic drinks. I've been thinking about it more and more, partially because LBC this morning was reporting a 12% increase in two years in ambulance call-outs in London related to alcohol consumption.

Two years ago, the Government liberalised licensing laws, enabling pubs and bars to stay open to whatever hour they have nominated on their licence application - so called "24 hour drinking". It's easy to blame the change in licensing laws, but I don't think that is the real problem. I think it's the "getting drunk for the sake of getting drunk" culture that exists in this country. In many circles, saying "I was so drunk on Saturday...." and then elaborating on some act of stupidity is a socially acceptable boast.

I've been pondering this for a long time and I don't think I have a solution or an explanation for the drinking culture in this country. Changing the licensing laws back to something more restrictive will just drive drinkers to downing more pints of beer in less time and then going outside to throw it all up. Or the pubs will return to the culture of illicit lock-ins.

I don't think it's a new problem, either. 17 years ago, I worked in the Accident & Emergency Department of a major suburban London hospital; 18 months earlier, I completed my second stint in the Casualty Department at a major, inner-city, Australian hospital. In the UK, we would receive our daily delivery of "PFO's" or "pissed, fell over"; two or three would delivered by ambulance during each day shift, more at night.

You didn't get that in Oz. We would get the odd drunk admitted on a Friday or Saturday night, usually with major injuries, and the occasional hard drinker, often derelicts from local shelters who were regulars known to staff.

I think one big difference in Australia is that people expected to drive to/from their social events - usually there is no alternative. Maybe it's the stringent drink-drive laws, or the daily publication of alcohol related road deaths. Also, the Mediterranean culture of eat-whilst-you-drink has taken hold - most pubs serve food as a matter of course and have facilities for children. Drinking at home is at least as common as it is here, if not more-so since it's the one place you can drink without having to drive afterwards. But people don't seem to get as drunk and I'm not sure why.

Don't get me wrong; I like a glass of wine or a shot of whisky. At last count, we had over 20 bottles of different whiskys in this house, 60 odd bottles of wine and 10 or so different vodkas, as well as numerous other bottles of individual spirits not already listed. However, I drink but I don't like getting drunk. I do not understand it's attraction, nor do I think it is a desirable outcome for an evening out. It seems I'm in the minority.

Can anyone enlighten me?

- Pam


Mother of Chaos said...

No, I really can't offer any enlightenment. It still puzzles me that people here in the States will preface stories with, "Dude, I got so s---faced last night and then I..." {incredibly stupid and potentially lethal thing ha ha ha how funny}

I like to drink, but I don't like being *drunk*. I just have way too many control issues for that whole "Dude...I got soooooo..." part. (Also I throw up. Which I hate.)

PipneyJane said...

I like to drink, but I don't like being *drunk*. I just have way too many control issues for that whole "Dude...I got soooooo..." part. (Also I throw up. Which I hate.)

You and me, both. Also I have this built in "anti-drunk" mechanism: after a couple of drinks, I just crave water. Nothing else will do and more alcohol just turns my stomach.

- Pam