ALCOHOL - TWO
There's so much one might say about alcohol. The subject can be approached in different ways. For example, one could address it coldly like an academic, supplying bald facts and figures or one could dramatise it - deliberately stoking emotional reaction like a storyteller. However, I want to start this blogpost by asking a simple question: Why do people drink alcohol?
Leaving aside the fact that there are many countries in this world where drinking alcoholic beverages is very uncommon, I think there are six principal reasons why drinking alcohol is quite common in The West.
- Enjoyment of it may be inherited from previous generations of one's family. We may have grown up with it - observing role models consuming it and so it seems natural to make the step up.
- Advertising and sponsorship by alcohol brands can be very hard to ignore. It is meant to be persuasive and it works. The notion that it is cool to drink is put about and it figures in films as well as on pretty much every restaurant menu.
- Addiction. It is easy to get hooked on alcohol - rather like a drug addict getting hooked on heroin. Not everyone is susceptible to alcoholism but it can creep up on you to a point where you crave it every day as the rest of your life begins to fall apart. Untangling yourself from this physical and mental dependence is almost always exceedingly difficult.
- Social pressure. Meeting places like pubs and parties invariably involve alcohol. It brings people together and loosens them up. It's there at weddings and even when little ones are born. "Wetting the baby's head" means celebrating their arrival with alcoholic drinks.
- Fun times. It is easy to focus upon the evils of the demon drink but it should be remembered that alcohol can act as a social lubricant. It makes jokes funnier and songs louder. Inhibitions are relaxed. Who doesn't want a good time? Alcohol, can take you out of yourself and help you to create happy memories.
- Antidote to worries. Drinking alcohol can help you to forget your troubles so that for two or three hours your cares appear to fade away even though you might realise they'll be back with a vengeance in the morning.
I could join my personal and most noteworthy memories of alcohol into one coherent story but instead I choose to voice them without connection.
For part of my time at The University of Stirling, I lived in an on-campus flat with five other guys who all happened to be Scottish. One of them was called Hughie and he came from Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. He was twenty when I first met him and even then he had big problems with alcohol: his main problem being that he could not get enough of it. Cans of lager beer for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pints of lager at night and then home with what Scots used to call a "carry oot" to drink in his room before slipping into unconsciousness.
Often when he reached that stage inside his locked room, he would have left a record on his turntable at a loud volume and with the arm over it would keep repeating itself well into the early hours. No matter how much we hammered on his door, we could never rouse him. He was highly intelligent and could dash off a required 2500 word essay in an afternoon. After leaving university, I heard that he became a street drinker in Glasgow and died there in the late nineteen eighties. Such a waste.
Though I wasn't in the same tragic category as Hughie, I had some awful alcohol-fuelled episodes at university. There was a lot of forgetfulness when I woke from the night before with terribly vague notions of what had happened or had been said.
Once I must have collapsed on the grass by one of the campus paths and a kind young woman helped me to my feet and took me back to my flat. On another occasion with my Icelandic girlfriend - who was also very drunk - we were in such a passionate clench that we began to partially disrobe right there and then on the lawns that led down to the lake, overlooked by the best campus restaurant. It was in the middle of a sunny afternoon. Two uniformed members of the university security force arrived to disunite us and I vaguely recall looking up at them and advising them they were"just jealous!"
When I entered the noble teaching profession my drinking reduced considerably and it was rare for me to have a skinful or lose control. However, I recall the night of my twenty sixth birthday with a residual sense of horror mixed with shame.
I visited "The West End" pub where I had become friendly with few hospital porters and a couple of nurses. It wasn't a wildly excessive night of quaffing ale. I might have had four or maybe five pints. At closing time, one of the porters - his name was Martin - invited me back to his family home for a final birthday drink. That drink was Pernod.
I was pretty clear-headed when I left Martin's house where I had charmed his mother for half an hour. She had lent me a rare copy of a book called "Letters To A Golf Club Secretary" which she assured me was very funny. I was clutching it as I made my way on foot through the suburb of Broomhill.
After that everything was a blank until about three o'clock in the morning. I woke up on a sofa in an unfamiliar flat with a blanket over me having no idea who had kindly provided this accommodation. I found my way to the exit door and went down the brightly lit stairs then back out into the October night. I still had no idea where I was. I didn't even know if I was still in Sheffield.
I came to a main road which at that time of night was deserted. Should I go left or right? Fortunately, I decided to go right down the hill and after a few hundred yards things began to look familiar which was quite a relief I can tell you. Soon I was back in my own bedsitter but to this day I still have no idea what happened or indeed what happened to that precious copy of "Letters To A Golf Club Secretary". Incidentally, I have never drunk another drop of Pernod since that lost night.
And that's alcohol for you. I can sense a third instalment coming.
I've always been curious about Pernod and absinthe but never felt I could afford them. Maybe that's a good thing.ReplyDelete
Pernod is like rocket fuel. Best to keep well away from it.Delete
Google : Is alcoholism a mood disorder ?ReplyDelete
Jack Lemmon played a hard-drinking public relations executive in the film that made his name as a dramatic actor, Days of Wine and Roses.
The girl he dates (Lee Remick) does not understand why anyone drinks.
*Because it makes you feel good,* he replies, and knowing her fondness for chocolate, buys her a chocolate brandy before dinner.
In the final scene they are living apart; she is a daily drinker; and he is sober and taking care of their daughter.
*The world looks so dirty when I don't have a drink,* she tells him.
Henry Mancini wrote the song, lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
I remember that movie.Delete
Oh - it exists then! I thought that Mr Haggisty had made it all up.Delete
Haggisty = Haggis.Delete
Younger readers & those with a delicate constitution should be warned that haggis consists of a sheep's stomach tightly packed with a boiled mix of animal parts including liver, heart, lungs, and possibly kidneys & brains, all held together by rolled oats.
The Scotch savage, invariably male, commends the butcher who retails a well-seasoned haggis, nicely flavoured with pepper & spices.
This pouchy object is then boiled in a pot and served with mashed potatoes and mashed turnip along with a glass of whisky and depending on taste a glass of black Irish stout bearing a creamy head.
The humble haggis is served at the traditional Burns' Supper and may precede a juicy Aberdeen Angus T-bone steak.
Bagpipe music is played throughout.
Robert Burns our national poet never attended a Burns' Supper, never wore a kilt, and may never have eaten a haggis.
Our ploughman poet from Ayrshire was well-schooled in Latin & Shakespeare.
He was an active Freemason, adored the ladies, and sired a number of illegitimate children.
*Open HD/ Days of Wine and Roses/ Warner Archive.*ReplyDelete
*Leaving Las Vegas* (1995) is a film about a man who can't stop drinking.Delete
Written and directed by Mike Figgs, it stars Nicholas Cage & Elizabeth Shue.
Closing song, My One and Only Love, sung by Sting.
Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane made an iconic recording of it much earlier.
Is all of this a deliberate diversion from your relationship with alcohol?Delete
Michael Shnayerson's life of Irwin Shaw has a sad moment near the end.Delete
His friends were worried about his drinking and begged him to stop.
*I can't,* he said.
On the rare occasions I drink, I do so only in social situations as a social lubricant and to fit in, much like I would try the fertilized duck egg when in a Filipino group. There has never been a time when I have drank enough to "black out" or get myself in some sort of dangerous situation. The worst episode was drinking enough once that I fell asleep in the chair I was sitting in and woke up the following morning with a very stiff neck. That was over 25 years ago.ReplyDelete
Sounds like you have nothing to worry about with regard to alcohol. You are totally in control.Delete
I am fortunate and blessed with genes that don't make me crave the stuff. Others aren't so fortunate.Delete
Alcohol is promoted and if there was any move to limit or control alcohol more there would be rioting in the street. Many of us have done the same as you as young men. Most of us have been lucky and survived. Interesting posts.ReplyDelete
I heard that Canada is suddenly becoming more strict about alcohol consumption and advice.Delete
When I was a young woman I didn't weigh much, about 7 stone, and I was very shy. I discovered that I was no longer shy when I drank and I would drink five or six drinks and black out. I also loved to dance and found that alcohol made me much less inhibited, which lead to it's own problems with men. Fortunately the last time that happened was probably forty years ago, the blacking out I mean. I also get horrible hangovers and caring for Katie with a hangover was sheer hell I learned very quickly.ReplyDelete
My ex husband was a pilot and a horrible alcoholic. His favorite drink was red wine and I still can't stand the smell of it. One of his complaints about me is that I didn't drink enough. My present husband is also an alcoholic, although he hasn't had a drink in nine years. I rarely drink but when I do, it's with girlfriends and I do have a good time.
Thanks for your honesty Nurse Pixie. Sounds like you have thought it all through before. Kudos to The Big Guy for staying sober all this long time. That takes real will power.Delete
I have no idea what Pernod is, but it doesn't sound good for you. I have memories of some of the younger apprentices at a factory, stumbling in to work on Monday mornings, still hungover and bragging about what a great weekend they'd had. When I asked one what they had done on this "great weekend" he said he couldn't remember any of it, they were all too drunk. Seemed like a waste of a weekend to me.ReplyDelete
It is a shame. Life can be beautiful without even a sniff of alcohol.Delete
Loneliness is a big key to why people drink to have somew to go to meet and socialise. Especially when you are young and you have no place of your own. Pubs can be the hub of the community. Wish I lived near one.ReplyDelete
When you live in humble accommodation, visiting the pub is I think more attractive.Delete
I won't embarrass myself on very youthful misuse of alcohol. Moderation in most things now but have to admit to Pernod with Gin ONCE.ReplyDelete
Good heavens! Pernod with gin! I can guess why you only had that once!Delete
"Some" people in Canada are having a snit over the latest health report that anything over two drinks a week puts you at risk for several types of cancer. Apparently, there is now pressure on the government to put health-warning labels on all alcohol. There goes my dream of having my very own wine cellar in the basement. It takes the fun out of serving a nice bottle of wine to friends and family when there's a big health warning label plastered on the bottle.ReplyDelete
You could steam off the labels and put some new ones on - "ChateauDelete
Melinda 2021"! It was a very good year.
I am glad I quit drinking in 1994 and haven't missed it at all. I wasted a lot of time and money getting wasted in college - what a waste! Ugh!ReplyDelete
The cost of alcoholic drinks is not something I have addressed. I hate to think how much I have spent over the years - certainly a king's ransom.Delete
There was very little alcohol in my parents' home. When I was about 17 I went with the juniors in my department to the pub for our monthly night out. I recall being in one pub and then we moved to another. When we got to the second one I realised that I couldn't recall the journey and that I was drunk. It scared the shit out of me. That was the last time I had too much to drink. I have an inbuilt stop switch.ReplyDelete
It’s a dangerous drugReplyDelete
I guess I have that inbuilt stop switch, too, that Graham mentions. Although I have been what I'd call tipsy, I have never drunk to the point of passing out or not remembering the next day. What point is there in drinking when you don't even remember the fun you were (or were not) having?ReplyDelete
Of the six reasons you list for why people drink alcohol, I guess 5 and 6 are often - but not always - related. Reason No. 7 would be "Because it tastes nice". I really enjoy sparkling wine on its own, or wine with a meal, because wine can really enhance the taste of cheese, meat or whatever you're having with it. But I although I have tried a few different brands, I have never come across an alcohol-free sparkling "wine" that tasted good. If I want to have something tastier than water but no alcohol, a rose lemonade or a well chilled coke or fresh juice does it.
Is Pernod like absinthe? I've never had either one, which is probably partly why I've never had a "blackout" from alcohol. Even at times when I got pretty drunk I never passed out. I think I must have a HUGE liver.ReplyDelete
I was inspired to try to look up that rare book. I found a copy on AbeBooks -- at least I think it must be the same book, with the title "Letters to the Secretary of a Golf Club" by George Nash (1935). It can be yours for only £150!