Thursday, 9 May 2013


Recently a noisy section of the population has been spending a lot of its time nagging the rest of us about not wasting food. The presumption is profoundly annoying, to me at any rate. Speaking as a person who, having brought home a chicken, has never allowed it to feature in fewer than four meals minimum - ditto any other morsel of edible substance brought into the household - I am insulted at the suggestion that I throw money around at the supermarket just so I can throw food in the bin at home. I do not need chiding or advice on this subject, but I get it anyway. and it drives me mad, especially as I thought I'd escaped the phenomenon by leaving Great Britain to return home to Australia as soon as Gordon Brown and his meddling interfering cohort began lecturing the populace on their wicked foodwasting ways.

But now the hectoring has reached our shores. It's enough to drive you to drink. Except that that too is off limits. The notion that the odd alcoholic beverage might help get you through the stresses of life seems to be considered barbaric in some vociferous circles these days, (and yet no-one can explain to me what alcohol is for if it is not for easing strain). Someone has even written a book about how horrid people were to her when she decided to lay off the bottle for a year. I know this because the book was discussed solemnly last night on the First Tuesday Book Club, (a programme that is in itself an argument for alcohol - I only saw it inadvertently and I doubt I'd have survived it if my husband hadn't kindly supplied me with strong drink [well some wine]).

What concerned me about the discussion of the book - which is called High Sobriety, although I've no idea why I'm giving it free publicity - was the fact that not one person on the panel questioned the decision of the book's writer to drink nothing and to let it be known that she was drinking nothing. Clearly, just as it is annoying if vegetarians when invited to dinner don't just pick out the broccoli and avoid the steak on their plate but instead insist on ringing you up before they come to your house to inform you that they are vegetarians and ensure you make proper arrangements for them, so, if you don't drink but do make a song and dance about it, it can feel to others that you are challenging their decisions, throwing down the teetotaller's gauntlet and expecting a response. If on the other hand, you simply order something non-alcoholic without pointing out that it's non-alcoholic, no-one even notices. And anyway why not just drink in moderation?

But I'll leave the last word to Alice Thomas Ellis who, in a piece called Drink Up in her collection called Home Life, wrote much more perceptively about this subject than me:

"...I once took a child to see a doctor about a verucca. The doctor was bored stiff with the verucca. He looked keenly at me, enquired what was wrong and on hearing that I had sustained a bereavement pressed upon me an unsolicited prescription. Being half-witted, I cashed it in and started on a course of pills which had to be approached warily - one a day for two days, two a day for three days - that sort of thing. After a week of this I found I could no longer read newsprint, my mouth was as dry as a dog biscuit and every time I stood up I fell over. Vodka never did that to me.

Nothing does anything much for grief, but just a little alcohol helps just a little, especially at funerals. A wake would not be the same with everyone standing round, carefully timing his anti-depressants."

Mind you, she goes on to mention that her husband believes women "don't need to drink because they're drunk already." That is a very sobering thought.


  1. I entirely sympathise with your view about the hectoring.

    Mind you, I also entirely sympathise with the woman who'd given up on drinking. The amount of shit I had to put up with when I crawled out of the bottle the second time would have made a saint spit. One good thing about the anathemising of drinking and driving is that it's now OK to not have a pint or a whisky chaser in front of you all the time.

    1. Yes, it's a tricky one because alcohol does cause so many problems. My objection is to hectoring and to attempts to draw attention to one's own abstinence, as if it were a virtue. I often don't drink when out (mainly because I'm driving, rather than anything else) but nobody notices because I don't say I'm not drinking. Having had High Sobriety on the telly the night before last we are now, as I write, being entertained on the radio by an interview on a current affairs programme (not even a book programme) with an author from Toronto who has written a book called Drunk Mum, about how she was completely out of it all through her child's infancy. Spare me. Why do I need to be put through this squalor? I suppose some people get a curious pleasure from imagining the depraved life they never lived.

  2. I'd also argue that Muslim civilisation was at its peak when they had a more liberal attitude towards drinking wine:

    A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
    A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
    Beside me singing in the Wilderness
    Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

    Omar Khayyam

    1. I might send this to the Australian Wine Export Authority and see if they can get to work, in the interests not only of Australian winegrowers but also of world peace.

  3. I saw that Tuesday Book Club for the first time this year. I was astounded that they either were, or were pretending to be, people incapable of enjoying a sensible amount of alcohol – that they were all proud refugees from a drying-out clinic. Not only that, that they assumed every other human being on the planet was in the same boat.

    I dearly loved a good red, or white, or a beer or G&T, and it's only a medical condition unrelated to fear of being carted off to a place to sober up that prevents me from indulging in a decent Cabernet from time to time. But that Club looked like it had more in common than a desire to talk over each other about books.

    I'd use an "iconic" word to describe it, but I have the feeling our entertaining blogger dislikes that abusive word as much as I do. Nudge nudge.

    1. The presenter is the one who really drives me nuts. I won't enlarge as I'd only start being gratuitously mean. I will just say that I yearn to witness a discussion about a book that does not involve gurning.