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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I'm under pressure to have a drink on my birthday on Wednesday. It's that bottle of single Balvenie malt I wrote about last year, which is still jostling for space in the glass-fronted 1950s cabinet. I swear it can talk and it keeps saying: "Drink me, drink me...I'll be 27 soon."

It'll never catch up and be half my age, but it nearly will.

There's that, then there's lunch out somewhere with my 82-year-old mother that is bound to be on licensed premises. I know she'll dissuade me, but then there's a friend who's threatening to call in the afternoon and there's always the local pub called The Jolly Hatter that I see is to let...It's a day of drunken pitfalls.

On a sobering note, I see Alcohol Concern, Europe's biggest drink abuse outfit, has come up with some statistics to make your eyes go glossy.

They say drink-related illnesses are about to destroy the world and cause 33,000,000 deaths every year, that sort of thing and no one is listening.

Most people who go to hospital casualty departments have two heads and injuries to do with drinking too much. More than four pints a day gives you a triple hernia and makes hairs grow on the bottom of your feet and so on. Perhaps they didn't actually say all that, but you get the drift?

Our anaesthetic of choice may be doing us harm, but the trouble with all this (and I could tell you some more things not to take in) is that we don't really care because we're in denial about it. It goes right over our heads as we go under the table. It really doesn't matter what they say because we're going to carry on drinking and so we don't take any notice. It's a written report for the blind, a football for the disabled.

"In Denial." Think about it for a moment. It means everywhere the world is full of people who put off until tomorrow what can't be done today because they've had a drink.

I have several friends who have drink problems and don't seem to have a problem. I suppose that they don't really. As long as they can afford it and don't crash the car or beat the wife it doesn't matter. Their livers are still working and they are holding down good jobs as well as most of the drink. Anyway, they don't do drugs.

Of course, by the time they start pissing blood it will be too late. It'll all be over. But they'll have had a good life, won't they?

Well they will if they haven't been too ill along the way and their minds haven't gone a bit bleary long before they should. Perhaps they never did manage to afford to take the kids to Ibiza, but what the hell!

I don't normally carp about other people drinking, but it's the weeds on the hissing lawns of suburbia and this report and the fact I've been to too many funerals too soon. And there's the whispering bottle and it has all combined and got me edgy.

Why won't the government at least acknowledge the problem? It doesn't encourage voters. Why is there no news of a national alcohol strategy, by which I mean a joined-together programme of education and help? There's lots for drugs and I see night-clubs are being urged to have nurses on standby. It would be too expensive and make it look like a nannie state. And why won't that bottle shut up?

No doubt our politicians are in denial as well. Strong drink is an accepted part of our society after all, like ice cream vendors selling drugs to children.

We are the only people I know who don't mind being drunk in front of our mothers and I suppose that would be just as bad on a birthday as any other time. I'll let you know when I've answered the Balvenie back.

Sinclair Newton