I was coming home the other weekend – a Saturday I think – about 3 in the afternoon, and the sun was shining while I waited on the station platform. It was all very pleasant, and my attention was grabbed by one of those pop-up food markets taking place adjacent to the station. I observed it, peering over the station wall to a courtyard below where young mums and their toddlers were eating and chatting and young men were sitting at picnic tables, drinking, probably just one beer, all very responsibly – and not in the sort of way I remembered drinking when I was their age. Or any age.
Nearly six years sober now, I had no desire to be in that scene. I simply couldn’t see the point of having a beer in the middle of the afternoon. The activity struck me as absurdly pointless. What was ‘just one beer’ going to do other than to give a little buzz that would soon fade away leaving a dehydrated head-achy feeling , a lethargy and irritability that, however mild, would only be cured by several more beers, or a lie-down back home. Where is the fun in that?
I’m sure I’d get a similar effect from a small cup of lighter fuel!!
More and more I am convinced that alcohol doesn’t really offer anything at all, not at any level, whether it’s an epic night out or a quiet sociable drink on a Saturday afternoon. British ‘law’ decrees we engage in drinking as a mark of respect – respect to the occasion, to our friends, to ourselves. Consequently, we reach a point where we don’t really know what we’d do if it was taken away. Even without ‘just one beer’ we feel exposed, unprotected, unable to relax and most importantly, unable to enjoy.
It’s a trap. Those who get caught up in the drinking thing, perpetuate the drinking custom. Those who don’t enjoy it are forced into social customs that are unnatural to them. They don’t get many chances to experience alternative ways of doing things – without alcohol.
Where did all the pubs go?
The alcohol industry is inadvertently making it easier to turn away from alcohol. When I was growing up, it was possible to get drunk in pubs on a low budget. But capitalism, now in its overgrown grotesque phase, has infected the decision-making of alcohol executives, the same as all others, and is destroying itself like a cancer. Pubs are disappearing off the face of the earth and the ones that remain are surviving on expensive food sales – or freak footfall, due to tourism or special events. PLC companies have to keep returning higher profits -standing still isn’t enough – and now there is nowhere for them to grow. They have merged to the point of monopolism. They have inflated their prices so much that they have destroyed the most loyal of all customer bases – pub-goers.
Long may it continue. If young people are encouraged to find their self-confidence through other means than alcohol, then there is hope for civilization, for the future happiness of our children.
I say that with a heavy heart, because I had a great time in pubs over the years. But I did it too much. Just one beer was never an option, and the machinery around me made damn sure it stayed that way!