A Letter to the (British) Department of Health

Dear Department of Health, Opposition Parties and anyone else who has an unhealthy interest in what I consume.

I have sat in my office with the radio on since returning to work after the New Year break, and I am noticing a recurring theme on the news bulletins, namely that alcohol is about to bring about Armageddon, the end of days and the fall of civilisation.

Now it may just be that you’re all trying to divert attention away from something truly bad, like the fact that the government is useless, or the announcement that Big Brother will not, in fact, be ending his reign this year. But just in case you all do actually believe the crap that you’re coming out with, let me do you the courtesy of debunking a few of the myths that you seem to be clinging on to:

• Alcohol automatically leads to antisocial behaviour –

No, it does not. Now don’t get me wrong ─ it can ─ we’ve all seen some stinking little scrote on the streets puking up litres of Sambuca, or trying desperately to work out which one of the four people he can see in front of him is the real one, so that he can lamp them. We’ve all seen the tramps on the park bench clinging on to a 2-litre bottle of cheap cider like it’s a lifejacket. We’ve all seen the footage of the girls falling over drunk in the city centre and ─ end of days ─ flashing their hooters at passersby. But let me let you into a little secret: these people are a minority. I’ve been drinking since I was around fourteen or so; that’s now sixteen years, and the worst thing I ever achieved while truly out of my tree was to fall in the Lancaster Canal and have to be fished out by two charming young men from the Forestry Commission. Oh ─ and I have had a tendency to talk crap loudly ,and fall off my heels. Not exactly world-shattering. I never ended up in hospital through my drinking, nor did I put anyone else there. This is something I have in common with virtually everyone I know. I still drink now, sometimes to excess, and ─ do you know what? ─ I still don’t start fights in kebab shops.

• People in the UK drink too much because they are confused over the amount of alcohol in what they are drinking –

I realise that our politicos think we all have the I.Q. of a cup of expresso, but let’s get this one shifted right away. We are not confused about the amount we’re drinking, and I’ll tell you why. Because no matter what you write on the bottle of wine, be it units, centilitres, calorie content, or the meaning of life, we don’t take any bloody notice. Most of us measure our alcohol intake in a far simpler manner ─ number of glasses. If we feel particularly mellow after a couple of glasses, we may glance at the alcohol percentage on the bottle to see if it’s a particularly strong wine/ beer/ lager, but that’s not a common occurrence. So, you can adopt all new systems to make units clearer, and bring in all the information you’d like about how many centilitres of pure alcohol are in the bottle, and shall I tell you how much difference it will make to the drinking habits of those who like a glass of wine with dinner, 2 litres of cider on a park bench, or their own body weight in Russian paint stripper, round the back of the town hall after they’ve finished their maths homework? Or would you like to guess for yourself?

• A tenth of the population are now classed as hazardous drinkers –

Now I realise that this sounds like a bad one, it makes it sound as though we’ve suddenly turned from a nation of abstemious Methodists to the sort of people who’ll happily swig the alcohol hand gel in hospitals, but this isn’t the case, is it? The reason 10% of us are now classed as hazardous drinkers is not that we’ve started drinking more, it’s that you’ve moved the goalposts. Previously, if we necked a bottle and a half of cheap Pinot Grigio, forgot your own names and got off with a bloke whose face could scare small children, we were classed as ‘binge drinkers’. Now, if we have two pints of reasonable strength lager, or two large glasses of wine, we’re binge drinkers, even if we can still recite the alphabet backwards, spell ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’, and name every ruler of Britain since AD 500. It’s like if you classed ‘pensioner’ as anyone over 40, suddenly Britain would have a LOT of pensioners. Don’t you see? ─ bandying about statistics like that doesn’t scare anyone when it’s blatantly obvious that they’re fudged.

What I choose to put into my body, as long as I’m not harming anyone, is none of your damned business. I work full time, I pay tax, I don’t hurt anyone, and so, do you know what? If I want to have a glass of wine in an evening a few nights a week, and a brace of vodkas in the pub with my friends on a Friday night, I can and I will, and it has bugger-all to do with you.

The current obsession with ruling every aspect of our lives, from what we eat and drink, to what we look at on the internet, is out of control. If I am theoretically trusted by the state to drive, vote, buy a house, raise a child, and bear arms in the name of my country, then I would say I’m responsible enough to decide when I’ve had enough to drink, and how much is bad for me, without your interference. Why should I be assumed to be stupid and treated like a child because a few teenagers are still doing what teenagers have done for generations by getting pissed at the weekend?

Let me tell you something that you mind find a complete revelation ─ the problem isn’t the alcohol, the problem is the kids themselves. My generation got drunk as teens, my mother’s generation did, even my grandmother’s gave it a go, and were there all these stories about teens beating people to death? Nope. Therefore, logically, the discipline problem that permeates everywhere else is the issue, not the booze. But that’s much tougher to deal with, isn’t it? In fact, you have no idea whatsoever how to deal with that issue, so you’ll just concentrate on aiming for the easy target─ alcohol.

In short, butt out ─ all of you. Sure, make certain that kids are well educated about the effects, and the addictive nature of alcohol, ensure that they know how to drink responsibly and safely, but don’t you dare treat me like a halfwit who is too stupid to judge what I put into my body. And if any of you are a little on the Rubenesque side, then “be afraid ─ be very afraid” ─ because you and I both know that they’ve finished with smokers, now they’ve started on drinkers and you will be next….

Last 5 posts by Vicola England

Last 5 posts by Vicola England