Posts Tagged ‘beer’

hogarth drunkennessThere are five public houses in my village. One of them, a mile away, spent the day booming out music so loud I could hear it indoors through the double glazing. But it was the Bank Holiday weekend, party time, the year’s last gasp, and all that – so live and let live – or die as the case may be. Unlike me, frolicsome folks were flocking to it for beery socializing and fun. Judging by my brief evening recce, social distancing they were not – and especially not after a long sunny day of drinking.

I do not know to what extent Covid 19 is prevalent in my locale. The track and trace apps, now ubiquitous in other nations seem to have passed poor old Blighty by. Thus, we’re giving it every opportunity to settle in and thrive. If those apps should ever appear, they’ll certainly be needed.

Nor do I know to what extent Covid 19 is considered a killer now. I look at the extraordinary economic and social wreckage of the past five months and conclude the virus scared the be-jasus out of everyone. Then I look at the beer-garden of that pub and I conclude it’s gone away, or it’s become a different virus altogether. Sure, it’s nothing more than a dose of flu. But then the world always does look different from the bottom of a pint pot.

I have no reliable data upon which to decide if any of this is a problem, but my gut feeling is it can’t be good. Were it purely a matter for the biological sciences, I’m sure every individual would have a well-informed idea of the risks they’re taking. But since it’s also a political and economic issue, to say nothing of news-fodder, and since both politics and the media have a rep for playing with a decidedly wonky bat, there’s a feeling of rushing headlong into the year’s back end with no more idea of what we’re dealing with than when we began.

Of the politics, my sense is our leaders have been winging it all year, telling us everything is fine, until it’s not. And then the media plays it for sensation, or, at times, as the nudge-nudge, wink-wink of the politicians they have symbiotically subsumed.

What I do observe, objectively, is that objectivity is fading as the nights draw in. But then I’ve also observed people don’t act on objective facts at all. Our motivations are much deeper, psychologically speaking. Indeed, I suspect few of us act at all, under any circumstances. More we re-act to emotional cues, and the nature of that reaction depends on our personality type. This means some people are still scared, while others are bored and don’t give a damn any more.

We were powerless to stop it, and for a variety of reasons. Its novelty and its virulence rank highly of course. But other factors cannot be ignored – our laissez faire leadership, the antagonistic and chaotic state of international affairs, plus the now chronic levels of public provision have all played their part. But by any measure, the UK has fared badly.

As for what comes next, your guess is as good as mine. But we should be mindful of the fact that just because we’re encouraged to go out and do a thing, it doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe to do so. Indeed, I find calls to invoke the spirit of John Bull and to “do your duty” by propping up the hospitality “industry” is crass and hypocritical. Yes, the world looks ever so rosy when we’re in our cups. But remember, the dawn is coming, and with it, the hangover.

Engineering, steel and textiles, all were left to rot throughout the eighties and the nineties, when the going got tough. Millions of jobs were shed, shredding communities that had known the confidence and comforts of a decent wage, to say nothing of humane, unionized working conditions. Now all there is is this ragged-trousered dog-eat-dog grafting, reminiscent of a Dickens novel. I admit I am no stranger to the all-be-it transient Bacchanalian delights, but why must the giant brewers and restaurant chains, and the sandwich shops be saved at all costs, even at the risk of life and limb?

There are frightened people who have not left their homes since March. Coaxing them back into any sort of life beyond four walls will be difficult. High levels of anxiety and agoraphobia will blight the lives of many well into the future. They should not be taunted by the tawdry bait of a half price meal. Thus, the reckless tell the timid to get out, to get a life, go drink some beer. But without faith in what’s true, it’s inevitable the sensible will take a more cautious approach, and swerve the beer gardens.

But it isn’t all bad news. I feel sure another world is still possible. I know this because the one we’re living in now was unthinkable just a year ago. But the lights are still on, and we’ve kept going. So, what would you happily see never return? What, among the many lifestyle changes we’ve seen, would you  keep? Or are we merely to heave the creaking carcass of conspicuous consumption back towards some semblance of its pre-covid normality? Are we merely to return to that time when we look once more upon “key-workers” as no longer vital to life, but as a faceless precariat, trapped in thankless, zero-hours work, and poverty pay? A glance in the brewer’s beer garden perhaps says it all.

So finally, and with apologies to A E Houseman:

Beer man, that’s the stuff to drink,
For fellows whom it hurts to think.
Go on, look deep into your pint pot,
And see the world as the world is not.
Such faith, man, sure it’s pleasant ’till it’s past.
The problem is, see? It never lasts.

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Image1They look a bunch of toughs,
these guys, red-cheeked,
strutting, chests out, like cockerels.
Already drunk, by noon
they laugh in pork pie hats.

Their eyes are bloodshot, noses swollen,
pockmarked with the corrosive booze
of long years. Their jokes are coarse,
take cheap shots at women
and immigrants.

Self importantly they cruise
the public houses,
puffed up,
in search of inanity,
exchanging pithy barbs,
and seeking revelation,
In the bottom of  another glass.
Meanwhile while their bodies turn their beer
To gas and pee.
The landlord smiles his sly welcome,
rolls out his bonhomie,
and cheers them on.

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big assDo you drink alcohol? Have you ever tried giving up? I’m finding it’s very hard. I like wines and spirits, also the occasional glass of beer. I try to stick to the UK government’s health guidelines for consumption which is about 4 units per day for a man, but I do exceed this sometimes. Now, however, I’m trying to kick the bottle and the reason is this: I’ve discovered I’m  alcohol intolerant.

 I wrote a little while ago about how I’d noticed a glass of wine would cause me to lose my sense of smell. The reaction took only a matter of minutes. I would start out with, for example, a nice glass of Merlot, being able to smell it, but by the time I’d finished, my sense of smell was gone – gone for days. I wrote whimsically that I had a choice – I could either go on smelling the wine, or I could taste it. I resolved not to taste it of course, because that was the sensible thing, but signing the pledge hasn’t proved at all easy.

I find myself still drinking – even telling myself I’m experimenting to see which wine or spirit causes the problem, if it’s something other than the alcohol I’m intolerant to. It isn’t. Alcohol – in any consumable form – causes the inside of the nose to swell – this is a well known fact. If you have other problems in there, as I do, with say polyps for example, you can lose your sense of smell and it can take ages to come back. Drink regularly, say every day, and you can quickly become entirely anosmic.

So why can’t I stop, since I clearly want to?

This week my sense of smell returned, after having been absent for several weeks, and I immediately celebrated the fact, with a small glass of wine, which led to another glass of wine and the eventual loss of my sense of smell, again. I’d apparently forgotten I was intolerant and that was really stupid.

The long term health issues of consuming alcohol are of course, quite terrifying – anosmia being the least of the potential troubles it can cause, so clearly it’s in all our interests, as with smoking, not to indulge at all. But how realistic is that, given the amount of exposure these legal mood enhancers get? One of the things I’ve noticed, while trying to keep to the pledge, is the number of reminders we get  that alcohol is available, and that it’s socially essential. TV soaps are a terrible source of this subliminal messaging. They appear in the early evening, and no matter what the plot or who is doing what to whom, everyone is also drinking while they’re doing it.

I think to myself, I’ve not thought about alcohol all day. I’d be quite happy to settle down with my laptop and a cup of tea, but then I’ll glance at the telly and the alcohol is flowing as freely as at some Bacchanalian orgy. So I start to think about trotting off to the corner shop for a bottle of chilled white wine.


It’s also hard when others around you are drinking as I’ve noticed the tendency is for friends and family to look up sharp when you refuse the drink and go for the fizzy water instead, and then you have to trot out the explanation, and endure all the cooing and the quack cures for your dodgy nose.

It’s easier to just take the drink.

I shall be redoubling my efforts in future, but there’s a bit of Big Ass Chardonnay left in that bottle in the fridge. I’ll just have that first because it’ll be a shame to waste it!

Only joking. I drank that ages ago.

4 days without breaking the pledge, and counting!

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