The destiny of all today's children, according to the Righteous.
(Picture brought by high-speed leprechaun from here)
(Picture brought by high-speed leprechaun from here)
When I was a very small and revolting child, I was occasionally allowed a taste of beer from a little glass. Never whisky, my father was never a spirits drinker and even now rarely touches the stuff. I learned about the firewater after moving to Scotland. I'd never get enough to get drunk, just a few sips, but later when I was able to go to pubs (at sixteen - they didn't often ask for ID in those days - so there was a bit of a fuss the night the bar staff found out I was celebrating my 18th birthday) I already knew what beer tasted like.
I also knew that even a small amount could make your head feel loose, so when I had too much of it, I had enough knowledge to stop, and cut back next time until I grew accustomed to it. The reason I can now polish off three quarters of a bottle of whisky on my own and still type is that with pacing, I can cope with it. It will get me drunk, yes, but it won't make me incapable, incoherent, nasty or sick. It might make me talk nonsense but I've never started a fight or vandalised anything while drinking and I have not called Huey on the great white telephone since those early limit-learning episodes.
There are people in my street, in their forties, who still go drinking with the sole aim of getting plastered. That's an attitude I left behind in my student days. Drink is for enjoyment. If it hurts in the morning, it spoils that enjoyment. If you feel like crap all the next day, you're doing it wrong. Sip it, pace it over the evening and you can still work even if you do need to make rather more use of the spellchecker than normal. Tonight I won't be drinking much because today I set up twenty incubations each of Salmonella, Campylobacter and Clostridium difficile which I'll have to deal with tomorrow, and I can't risk being even slightly fuzzy for that. I won't be working on Sunday so have booked a smoky-drinky for Saturday night. I'll make my own way home afterwards, pleasantly drunk but not Rowley Birkin QC drunk. There is one smoky-drinker who actually does talk like that as the evening wears on. I'm glad it's not me.
Pacing your drinking is something you learn. The earlier you learn it, the better. Otherwise you end up roaring and shouting and puking and pissing in the street and next morning, you can't remember any of it and wonder why you've woken up in a cell and why your face is all battered and your head feels like it's been stuffed with barbed wire.
That's why I'd say it's a good idea to let kids try booze when young, under parental supervision. I don't mean giving them six cans of Red Stripe for their tenth birthday. I mean a small glass of wine or beer once in a while. Let them get used to the taste and they'll be less likely to splurge, the first time they get into a pub. Take away the mystery and that magical 'it's forbidden' temptation and they won't see any need to hide away and get tanked up. It's just something you have with a meal. No big deal.
Someone, and I think we can all guess who, has paid for a study which has discovered that most teenagers get booze from their parents. Well, good. Their parents have control over how much they get and when, which is better than a gang of hooded and incapable yobs throwing empty bottles and cans around and being serious pains in the arse. Right?
Not right, according to the Righteous. Those parents are forming the addled-headed park-bench sherry drinkers of the future. Not demystifying and normalising alcohol so that their kids don't see it as something to hide away with. No, just as one cigarette is alleged to cause addiction, one sniff of the Demon Drink and you're on your way to sleeping in a phone box wearing Eau de Urine and shouting obscenities even Labour MPs have not yet voiced aloud.
Less than a fifth of parents - 17 per cent - said they had thought about what they would do if their child drank too much, while 80 per cent said they would “deal with it when it happens”.
How many have thought about what they would do if their child was hit by a truck and rendered paraplegic? How many have agonised over the right course of action to take if their child were attacked by a demented swan? How many have an action plan in case of meteorite strike?
Some things just don't happen all that often. I don't have a standard operating procedure in place in case of aliens contacting me and trying to scrounge a fiver. The eighty percent who shrugged and said 'If it happens, we'll deal with it' have the right attitude. I'd be more worried about the seventeen percent who spend their time dredging up every possible combination of events and writing out action plans and stocking up on hangover cures because every child is a potential booze monster and every bottle has 'Drink Me' written on it in child-friendly letters.
Here's Vern the Croaker's attempt at making it a big issue:
“The research shows that parents underestimate their influence over their child's drinking and attitudes to alcohol,” he said.
“Yet a quarter of young people have never spoken to their parents about the issue.”
Possibly, just maybe, that's because for most families it is simply not an issue. Frankly I'm surprised it's as low as a quarter of young people who have not had the Drink Talk from their parents. It could just be timing, Mr. Croaker. I mean, they have to have the Smoke Talk, the Dirty Paedo Talk, the Knife Talk, the Racist Nazi Bigot talk, and many others. Perhaps they just haven't reached that part of the agenda yet. There used to be only the Sex Talk but parents will find the schools have beaten them to that one.
How many people are tea-total or of the one-glass-at-Christmas persuasion? Could that quarter who have never discussed alcohol be part of non-drinking families?
Mr Coaker said there were less young people drinking now, but those who did drank more.
Well, if there are fewer of them drinking it, there's more to go round. More to the point, it's likely that those who tried it just to see what it was like didn't become hardened drinkers. Only the hardened underage drinkers are left and they are not drinking more. They are drinking as much as they ever did. The light drinkers have moved on and stopped bothering. Most likely they can get an occasional beer at home so they don't need to hang around the park swigging from a communal vodka bottle.
But if there are fewer underage drinkers now, and the numbers are still falling, why bother to do anything? The problem is going away on its own. There will be a core of drunken yobs who will still cause damage to something, but they can be dealt with under current laws when they break them. There's no need to set up a whole new system to criminalise absolutely everyone. Well, that's what they plan to do anyway.
Local authorities will be handed "good practice guides" to help them work with other services, such as the police, to stop under-age drinking from becoming a problem in their area.
To 'stop it becoming a problem' means clampdowns where it's not currently a problem. Where they can pick up easy targets like the seventeen-year-old who's had one glass of cider rather than have to deal with that gang who are tanked up on Special Brew.
It also means, and you antismokers should really have seen this one coming, preventing the 'problem' at source. Where is that source? Where are the underage drinkers coming from and where will the action be taken to stop those children before they even think about taking a drink? The article makes it clear where the source of the 'problem' lies.
In their homes.
Good, isn't it? Even if you don't have a boozy teenager, they might get drunk one day so you'll have to be checked. Regularly. Without warning. Just in case someone is drinking in your house when they shouldn't be. Even though it's not actually illegal to let your own child take a sip of beer. So far.
Once they have carte blanche to extent lifestyle legislation into private homes, which the smoking-ban-at-home will allow, they will extend the remit into other areas. The antismokers will support the first stage.
This study paves the way for the next stage.