Saturday, September 03, 2005

Booze and the oldest democracy

Harry Hutton wonders whether you're four times more likely to get punched in the chops in England today than 10 years ago.

Now there's a grand hoo-har over relaxing licensing laws to distribute chop-punching activity more evenly through the night and give the vomit on your porch less time to dry before morning.

It's maybe a good time to point out that your average Briton chinned 9.2 litres of pure alcohol in 2002 (link, info on page 2). Pretty impressive. Booze is surely one of the pillars upon which the oldest democracy stands.

On of the arguments for relaxing licensing laws is to encourage a more "continental European" drinking culture. The hope is that pallid yobs who like to follow seven pints of cheap lager with a fight and a kebab, will become tanned sophisticates sipping wine and strolling through the boulevards. I fear this is wishful thinking. Take a second look at this: link, info on page 2. In 2002, Britain boozed less than Luxembourg, Hungary, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Portugal and Spain.

I was carousing in Spain last night and it is certainly possible to get staggeringly drunk over a long period of time in this fine land. But Spaniards aren't nearly so terrifying when drunk.

The British drink more recklessley, take more drugs and steal more road cones than any other country in Europe; always have done, always will. A stroll through the Victoria and Albert museum is like strolling through a British student's bedroom on Saturday morning, full of the spoils of past excesses.

"...and the priceless treasure on your right turned up in Lord Elgin's possession while the British Ambassador to Constantinople was on the outside of six pints of lager and a bottle of Metaxa. It is a sorry loss for history that Elgin couldn't remember the exact provenance of the vase but reckoned he must have swiped it from somewhere between the Good Times Taverna, where he fell into the arms of a syphilitic maiden, and his offices, the steps of which he woke up on at six in the morning having lost his keys. Elgin later attributed an otherwise inexplicable bruise on his shin to the same night out."