I wrote this in August last year. It's now a little out of date, but still relevant. I can't remember why I didn't post it originally - too busy to proof-read and perhaps I'm a little coy about some personal content?
As a young working man I remember some of the lads going on a stag night. I worked in a big place in those days and although I knew some of the guys they were in a different department to me. I knew the groom-to-be to say hello to, but no more than that.
The central Lake District was the venue for this happy last fling. It all sounded quite civilised for a stag night and perhaps I was a little envious that I didn't know the crowd better and be able to tag along. I could certainly tell that the group were thoroughly looking forward to the night. Friday, as we left work, there was the usual anticipation about the weekend, everybody was full of talk in the locker room about what they were going to get up to. Monday morning, of course, through a haze of fuzzy hangover weariness, the tales would be joyfully recounted.
Monday morning and gloom dominated. It seemed that there had been a good idea late on Saturday night. A swim in the lake, why not? It'd be fun. But the groom to be didn't make it back to shore alive. Not the only story like this I have heard where a stag night celebration ends up with the groom defaulting on his promise to his bride due to the delicate fabric of his mortality being broken. I still wonder how terrible a fate jilted bride must feel on hearing the news.
I used to lead a very active lifestyle, which I miss, but that's another story. I have climbed mountains, been in the bottom of a crevasse in an Alpine glacier, canoed white water and generally done a few silly things that involve an element of risk. Death was always possible although part of the fun was to manage the risk so that death was unlikely. One of the biggest problems was my mother worrying that I might not be at her funeral because I'd already be dead. I tried my hardest to make her understand that I was doing something that I enjoyed so much that life would not be worth living without it. Sadly, I did make her funeral, somewhat earlier than either of us would have wished.
I have known people who have died whilst engaging in the sport or pastime they have enjoyed. Be it motor racing, rock climbing, mountaineering, white water canoeing or simply enjoying a ride out on their motor bike. Or perhaps drinking a little bit too much.
Is life worth living if you don't have fun? "NO" would have to be my answer.
And so to alcohol. There is a dichotomy in our society about how we deal with this integral part of our socialising. Everyone needs a release. Everyone needs to relax. I'm sure in our youth we all exceeded our limits and behaved in a way that was antisocial and perhaps risked our health and safety to unreasonable levels. There is an argument that would state we all need to go through a stage of finding our feet. I've done it. I've woken up and not known where I was or how I got there. I've felt on occasions I've overdone it and needed to learn how to control myself.
I've written before about alcohol disorder and I don't think my views have changed. Looking back I notice a comment from Curmudgeon about how it's difficult to educate sociable drinking when there is so much blanket anti-alcohol talk. Tandleman posts about Roger Protz on the Panorama program about Oldham and so follows a few comments, but still leaving a hole in the discussion, somehow.
I'd like to bring out a point that the ever interesting Cooking Lager mentions. "....asking the question why cheap booze is considered the problem rather than the people causing the problem". I'd like to reiterate what I believe; it's about education. It is not the alcohol's fault, or the price that it is sold at or even, dare I say, the fact that there are not enough people drinking real ale.
It would be useful to understand how we get this education sorted. I'm sure that a documentary about town centres, when we already know that they are a problem, is not going to help. The party goers who are having their well earned release after a week at work are not going to be put off by such programs. But, I think the point that Roger Protz makes on his blog has some merit; that this sort of reporting is biased. The program is about happy hours and so inclusion of the GBBF, as Roger would have liked may not be relevant, but alcohol is rarely aired in a good light on T.V. or wider media and I feel that is not good, so in part I agree with Mr Protz.
In my time here in my own pub I feel that our own disorder problems have been largely stamped out. I suggested to a customer recently that really the problem of alcohol related disorder was on the wane throughout the country. I got disagreement and the response that his town centre was worse than ever. OK, a poll of one is perhaps not representative, but it does seem that many of the public are still concerned. Is it then the case that there is a hardcore of town centre places maintaining a hardcore of revellers and the rest of society are turning away from alcohol as a release from the troubles life brings us?
Have the problems I have had in the past with alcohol related disorder reduced significantly because I have worked to eliminate them? Is that why I now have some negative reports on web sites, because I don't tolerate inconsiderate behaviour? Is there still a problem out there in the wider world? Maybe there is a place for town centre revelling which keeps it from the nice pubs.
Climbing mountains, riding motorbikes, smoking, eating lots of fatty foods, drinking and doing stupid things when drunk all carry an element of risk. Telling a young man he shouldn't buy that fast car because he'll kill himself is unlikely to stop him buying a fast car. Banning happy hours is unlikely to help as revellers will drink at home first and hit the town already half cut resulting in further drops to the on-trade. Minimum pricing will increase the amount of booze cruises and boot leg trade damaging both the taxation system and the domestic licenced trade.
In summary, we all like a party. Everybody deserves to let their hair down, at least those lucky sods who have hair. Perhaps Roger Protz is right, the solution to alcohol related disorder isn't just to show it on the T.V. but also to show options for responsible alcohol consumption as well. What different people think is the best format for sensible alcohol consumption and even where the limits of respectability are will vary considerably. Kids will be kids, after all and stag nights are still going to happen.
I also wanted to include a link to Jeff Pickthall's blog post where lego toys are animated drinking beer in a fairly loutish way spewing and falling over. It makes me laugh and is saved for the times I feel down. I've even shown it to my children, which is perhaps not sensible as I've probably corrupted them. I now worry that including the link might corrupt my readers. But it makes me think, perhaps we are becoming a little too touchy about the whole issue, alcohol is part of our culture, it's got some good points and some bad ones. Like your best friend, perhaps we should accept it worts and all.