Thursday, January 04, 2007

Column, January 2, 2007

IF you’re reading this while still gently nursing a hangover lovingly crafted from a New Year’s combination of lager, more lager, a selection of unwise cocktails and that single malt you drag down from the cupboard when you’ve truly lost the plot, you probably think Hazel Blears is a genius on a par with Arthur Guinness.
Others with a more sober eye might think Labour’s chairwoman a master of statements of the bleedin’ obvious.
In her interview with a Sunday paper she said the fact that Labour’s loosening of the licensing laws had not resulted in café culture sweeping the country, was dowjn to the fact that ‘we enjoy getting drunk.’
Later in the interview she had some stunning revelations about the religious affiliation of a bloke named Ratzinger in Rome and she revealed her in-depth knowledge of the natural world by detailing the toilet habits of bears.
I mean, given the sedate manner in which most city centre drinkers had gone about sipping a sweet sherry before reading a little poetry to each other before the relaxation of the licensing laws, it must have come as something of a kick in the teeth to the geniuses running New Labour that their reforms were greeted with, who’d have guessed, even more drinking.
Because, let’s face it, when the British are confronted with café culture abroad they greet it with open arms don’t they. Then they usually pick it up and hurl it across a previously peaceful piazza, plaza or place in a demonstration of just how much they like getting drunk.
I say they, because Mrs Blears apparently meant the English, because she said: “Maybe it's our Anglo-Saxon mentality. We actually enjoy getting drunk.”
At least I think she means the English, she cannot possibly have been assuming that we’re all Anglo-Saxon can she? I mean, I know they successfully colonized most of the country, but it was they who christened us Welsh, so most people know we haven’t quite been wiped out just yet.
And I’m not quite sure what she means by Anglo-Saxon mentality, after all, it was the Vikings who had a reputation for headlong debauchery, and even that was unjustified. The Anglo-Saxons were just ruthlessly good at colonization by weight of numbers.
In fact if anything sums up the Anglo-Saxon mentality it is the restrictive licensing laws that Labour finally swept away, although a little too hastily.
I’m old enough to remember when pubs shut in the afternoon and didn’t open their doors again until 7pm, a relic of the First World War when they didn’t want munitions workers spending all day on the beer, and let’s face it you wouldn’t want a chap who was soon to handling a contact fuse to have had a skin-full would you? But perhaps those laws weren’t entirely once we’d fought and won two wars and weren’t all building bombs to drop on the beastly Hun any more.
Those restrictive laws are more typical of Anglo-Saxon attitudes than the British reputation for drunken loutishness, which has been won for the UK by a generation of young men who have gone abroad on cheap holidays and have been unable to handle the cheap alcohol they had access to without getting into a fight.
In fact if Hazel Blears wants to point the finger at anything which causes UK youth to lose its collective head abroad she need look no further than her mate Gordon Brown (not actually sure if he’s her mate, she might be Blairite, I lose track, but then so does most of the Labour party)
On the continent young people grow up with cheap alcohol, so if they’ve got a bit of money to spend they spend it on good stuff, rather than an awful lot of cheap stuff.
In the UK we have exorbitantly high alcohol prices because of the amount of duty the Chancellor levies on it, so you never get to learn the difference between good and bad because the good stuff is beyond your price range.
So when you’re unleashed on an unsuspecting Costa, do you buy a bottle of Chateau Lafitte, or three times as much Headbanger lager as you normally drink of a Saturday night (after which, incidentally, you usually end up in a fight anyway). It’s a no-brainer, and unfortunately, so are those drinking the stuff.
“I don't know whether we'll ever get to be in a European drinking culture, where you go out and have a single glass of wine,” said Mrs Blears, who clearly has not spent too much time putting that question to the hordes of people who crowd into the stripped pine and chrome vertical drinking establishments that have thrived at the expense of traditional pubs under Labour’s misrule.
I know, and the answer is no, we won’t. Because to go out and have a single glass of weine it has to be a decent one, and a decent glass of wine, for the reasons stated above, is too expensive. So people spend their cash on a lot of cheap lager or vodka-based brews that the brewing industry, which has foisted all those chrome bars on city centers everywhere, wants to push down our throats because it is not as profitable to sell decent beer as it is to sell rubbish.
Labour says its reforms have not resulted in the mayhem people expected, but look at most city centres now and they are policed like riot zones.
The cost we will count in 10, 20, or 30 years as the liver disease statistics mount and the queues for transplants grow ever longer and victims wonder out loud on TV documentaries why they were allowed to drink themselves into an early grave.
But hey, don’t blame the Government, it’s your Anglo-Saxon mentality.
Me, I’m a Celt, and a Welsh Presbyterian at that, so New Year’s Eve falling on a Sunday, I’ll have seen it in dry.
Not a drop will have passed my lips…until midnight, at which time that bottle of single malt might have been calling.

A NEW year and good to see that my correspondents whose acquaintance with reality is only the occasional nod are setting out as they men to go on.
Ecclesiastical affairs chief “St Paul” has been in touch again. I don’t think it’s the real St Paul, but if it is I’m in real trouble. Not quite clear on just how this particular Paul was martyred, but given his persistence in telling me how wrong I am, I presume he was killed by a mob of atheist journalists.
Any road up, he’s written to tell me that I should take note that Charles Darwin “who started Evolution” repented on his death bed.
Technical point here, I don’t think Darwin claimed to have started evolution, it was a process that had been going on since the beginning of life, but hey, having a grip of the facts isn’t high on St Paul’s agenda.
So did Darwin recant?
No he blimmin’ well did not, but that doesn’t stop wall-eyed evangelists putting it about that he did.
The story originated from a woman called Lady Hope who said she visited him on his deathbed and he repented.
In actual fact, as Darwin’s daughter, who was there, confirmed, Lady Hope wasn’t there, and he did no such thing.
Now, “St Paul”, what does the Bible tell us about bearing false witness, because my shaky memory of 2nd year RE tells me it was one of 10 big no-nos?
So that’ll be you on your knees for the new year begging forgiveness won’t it?


Huw said...

As the anti-evolution arguments I've heard from evangelists go, 'evolution can't be true because Darwin repented' is probably as convincing as any.

Banksy said...

St Paul writes to me in longhand and given the insane scrawl that it is, I've come to the conclusion he's doing it without an opposable thumb - so maybe Darwin was wrong all along.