Saturday, May 28, 2005

Drowning Man

This bloke is trying to give up alcohol for one year but I wonder if the doubts are starting to kick in. I linked to his blog 'cos I really admire him for trying. The Irish drinking culture is a running joke the world over, which we seem quite happy to live up to given half a chance. Our drunkenness is pretty much a badge of pride. At least the Russians get on with slamming vodka without making a song and dance about it. The History of Alcohol and Drugs blog contains a section dedicated to Ireland (and, seemingly, most other countries in the world).

I've often thought about giving up the demon drink completely. I don't drink much by any means, but I am a binge-drinker according to the accepted medical understanding (although who isn't by this measure). I certainly had more than four pints of beer on Wednesday! I actually do abstain regularly, in that I tend to give up in January (after Christmas) and for a month in the summer (before my holidays). It's strange - drink is definitely a depressant and makes me feel lethargic (I remember writing this last year), and I always feel great after being off for a while, but the truth is I have no compulsion to give the stuff up long-term. The reason? Because I'm always bored when I'm off the booze.

It's not that I don't live an active life but Ireland is just a difficult place to live if you don't want to drink. I'm not someone who can sit in a pub all night drinking mineral water because a) it's expensive, b) it's hard work nursing soft drinks the way you can nurse a pint, c) it's easy to get impatient and irritated as your mates start slurring and talking shite and d) you do lose your inhibitions with drink (singing, dancing, talking to people you don't know, saying what you feel/believe), which is very liberating at the time. Furthermore, the few tee-totallers I know never look relaxed at around midnight when all their friends are well on their way to getting plastered. Despite their protestations to the contrary, they always look like they just want to go home. How can you enjoy your weekend nights in this country without being exposed to the booze? You can only go to the Theatre or the Cinema so often. One friend of mine who gave up the booze recently (because he thought he was getting man-boobs) developed a small gambling problem!

There are two main reasons for Ireland's casual drinking problem (and it is a problem) in my opinion. One is affordability, the other is weather. Expenditure on alcohol, as a percentage of disposable income, has been stable since the '70s, which implies that, if people are drinking more (the assumption) the cost is going down in real terms (which absolutely no one believes when I tell them!). The weather is a huge factor and might explain why alcohol consumption figures for Northern Europe are always higher than Southern Europe. What the hell else could I have done yesterday evening, for example, other than go to a pub or sit in. It was windy and lashing rain and it's supposed to be summer. No moonlight walks or barbeque or out to watch a sporting event or fishing or anything.

So that's it. I drink because I can't think of anything better to do, I'm going to be stuck indoors anyway and enjoying a drink is what all my acquaintances do. The solution for the Irish? Without thinking too deeply about it, what about double the price and force us to do something else in our free time other than get rat-arsed and fall around the streets at 2am. Like any government would have the balls to do that!
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