Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

It's Not Our Fault We're a Nation of Bad Drinkers

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

It's Not Our Fault We're a Nation of Bad Drinkers

Article excerpt

Every now and then, I remember that not all beverages contain alcohol. It doesn't happen often, and I don't count water, as even a dedicated dipsomaniac remains aware of the need to stay moderately hydrated, death being the ultimate booze-free regime. On one of these rare occasions, I distracted myself by dividing such drinks into three types: unpleasant, mixer and foreign. (I'm excluding hot beverages on the grounds of injustice to tea.) It would be remarkably self-defeating of me to have anything against tonic water; even soda water and bitter lemon have their uses. But they are not much fun alone.

Most fizzy drinks are vile, yet some of those still do duty as mixers--the point here being, presumably, to cancel out one horrible taste with another. I don't think most good spirits taste horrible; but then, I don't mix them with fizzy pop. I did, though, a long time ago: at the occasional nightclub, bent on misspending a portion of my youth, I'd order Jack Daniel's and Diet Coke. I don't remember any more why heavy drinking seemed such an essential part of the Saturday-night experience.

Partly, I suppose, it is the English way, and teenagers--at any rate, teenagers such as me, convinced that everyone else stood solid on what seemed such slippery social shale--do so want to do things right. The only upside of all that boozing is that I remember so little of the socialising I did in my early youth that nothing since has had to suffer by comparison.

Foreign, though, is something else. Several years ago, I committed to a month without alcohol and decided to compound this unoriginal decision by beginning my suffering on 1 January; that New Year happened to be spent in Singapore. Four delightful days floated by, as I sipped at a variety of delectable fresh fruit cocktails. …

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