A title that should really be followed by posts called 'Feck!' 'Arse!' and 'Gorls' but not today. Today I am miffed at once again missing Smoky-Drinky because of work while simultaneously being pleased at the volume of work currently coming in. It's a one-man Smoky-Drinky this evening, just me, some baccy and the Bowmore. Oh, and a DVD called 'Universal Soldier Regeneration' for when the work and blogging are complete. I enjoyed the first one and hadn't even realised there was a second.
I've done a few Smoky posts lately so it's time for a Drinky.
The idiots of the Scottish Grocer's Federation, not content with having their members' profitability hammered by laws that say they can't admit to selling cigarettes, are now delighted to embrace minimum alcohol pricing.
I suspect they believe that this will mean the grocer's price will be the same as the supermarkets', and that this will mean that instead of buying at the supermarket, the chavs and winos will all now buy Red Stripe and Lambrusco at the local grocer's instead.
It's not far from Glasgow to Carlisle, nor is it far from Edinburgh to Berwick-upon-Tweed. I've done both trips by train. Really, it's not far at all. The local Man with a Van will be glad to organise day trips.
Or, as Rab notes, the local criminal gangs (Glasgow Council and satellite groups) will be happy to set up back-alley off-licences undercutting Aldi and selling mysterious brews in unlabelled bottles. The cost of drinking to the NHS will skyrocket once the Toilet Duck drinkers start going blind, and they won't be getting the duty to pay for it.
So, Oily Al and Nicky the Fish, you have screwed up massively on this one. You have given the drinks trade to the underworld and to those English towns who are laughing at you across the border. They can put up their prices now and it'll still be cheaper for the Scots who visit them. Watch those illicit stills reappear, and not just in the Highlands. Watch them appear in the council estates where the police dare not go. Watch as your population become staggering blind men, each with an apparently highly argumentative invisible friend.
Wonder, Al and Nick, how this can be happening when alcohol sales are routinely decreasing.
Criminals love bans. Make something illegal and smuggling it becomes a growth industry. One that, unfortunately, recognises no taxation nor regulation.
Meanwhile, Oily Al, remember that EU that you plan to sell the Scots to once you've 'liberated' them from England? They have declared minimum pricing illegal. Didn't you know? You have just enraged those you hold in such high regard while simultaneously enraging many of those who voted you into office.
Oily Al, I am really, really glad I am not you today. Well, if I'm honest, every day.
This 45p per unit barely affects me because I don't buy that low-end stuff. I have tried Tesco own brand whisky and it's probably useful as a disinfectant but it's as drinkable as Dettol. There are those who like it, certainly, otherwise it wouldn't be on sale at all. There are also those who will drink anything with the sole objective of becoming insensible. What does it mean to them if the price goes up? It means they'll find another way. Glue. Lighter gas. Feeding John Prescott a curry and standing behind him. They will do anything to lose contact with the horrors of reality and when you sit and think about it, it's hard to blame them.
It will affect me in cases like Clan MacGregor, a decent and low-priced blend. If I have to pay £15 I'll never buy it because for that price I can get a Grant's Sherry or Ale Cask Reserve and for £17 I can get Ledaig or Glen Grant.
Well, it will affect me less than it will affect sales of Clan MacGregor, put it that way. Because those who save up for one bottle of whisky once in a while will have to save longer and by the time they reach the minimum price, there are better whiskies to choose from. It'll be goodbye to low-end decent blends as well as supermarket own-brand varnish remover. It will make no difference at all to Angus McShitfaced because he'll be supplied by Greasy Tony McMafia from the back of a van with the words 'surgical spirit supplies' hastily spray-painted over.
We all know it's not going to stay at 45p a unit. That is just the start, it is that one non-smoking carriage on the train. Once it starts it escalates. It will take time to really affect those of us prepared to fork out £30 for Ardbeg but it will get there. Then Greasy Tony McMafia will be selling imported decent cheap blends at single-malt prices.
I don't drink for the purpose of getting drunk. I outgrew that phase decades ago. It was a student thing and I have noticed that these days, it is not a student thing so much any more. Students don't drink as hard or as often as they used to. They like a drink still, but when it comes to public disorder offences the student presence is lower than it once was. Now it is the preserve of the 'it's me rights, innit' brigade, deprived of education but provided with a sense of entitlement instead. A poor substitute but they have been educated to not notice.
Sure, I drink more than average and to levels that would have any doctor pre-signing a death certificate but that's because doctors are no longer interested in real medicine. Only in witchdoctor-style propaganda. I remember, years ago, reading about a study done in the Scottish islands, those scraps of land in the frozen wastes off the tip of Scotland. Medics were mystified as to why the men of these islands all lived into their eighties and then just dropped dead. No lingering illness, all perfectly okay and then one day - gone.
The conclusion of that study was that it was their diet. Primarily, salted fish and whisky. The salt tried to harden their arteries, the whisky tried to loosen them. The whisky tried to destroy their livers, the salt mitigated the effect (I have forgotten the proposed mechanism) . After about eighty years of this, with excess salt competing with excess whisky while each cures the other, their bodies just gave up.
It sounded like a good way to live and a good way to die. Perfectly healthy until the day you die and no messing about at the end. No drawn-out deathbed scene. One day you reach for that last dram and pop, it's all over. Although I would prefer it to happen just as I put the empty glass on the table. Otherwise I'd spend eternity in a bad mood.
The medics will have none of it. You have to live a Puritan life and then keep them employed for years while you suffer dementia and brittle bones and all sorts of painful and protracted illnesses. If you are perfectly healthy and then just die, where are the profits for the Pharmer? Where is the justification for the onion-like layers of bureaucracy we call the NHS?
Funnily enough, Obo spotted something similar concerning lawyers.
As for whether it's about health or party politics, well... if you still think it's health you are either a moron or an MP. I'm not sure which is worse. Or whether there's a difference.
Minimum pricing will do nothing good at all. If the Socialists weren't so keen to ignore history, they need only look as far back as prohibition in the USA. The only ones who wanted it were the criminals and the criminally insane Righteous. The outcome was obvious even before it started.
Now we have close-to prohibition on tobacco and Smoky-Drinky, the equivalent of Speakeasies, are already here. Prohibition on drink will swell their numbers and Man with a Van will become Organisation with a Fleet of Trucks. We will still smoke. We will still drink. We just won't be paying duty on any of it.
Those for whom drink is an escape from real life will drink or use anything at all to achieve their chosen end. It will kill them but they have long since ceased to care. If booze becomes more expensive than heroin, they will switch to heroin. Legal? We are not talking about people who have 2.4 children, a house that looks as if nobody lives there and a Range Rover. We are talking about the street people who are wearing all they own, and in some cases, many things they don't.
Have you ever sat down next to a stinking, pockmarked piece of street refuse, handed him a pound and struck up a conversation? I have because I've been down there in the past. The reasons for their existence have not changed and their wariness of 'the normals' has not changed. You won't get a conversation unless you pay for it. They appreciate another pound at the end. Sound expensive? You'll hear a story that will affect you more than any £20 Blu-ray DVD ever will.
The street people are not the 'entitled'. Almost all recognise that they are there through their own bad choices and most are convinced they can never get out. It can be done. I did it and it is not, and never will be, easy. The State will not help in any way. The only ones you will come in contact with are Righteous and it is in their interests to keep you there. The only way out is to associate, as loosely as possible, with dark and dangerous people. They don't care about you and they have no interest in keeping you as pets. There are plenty more out there they can use. They will let you go. The Righteous never will.
They will pay you, and you then have to steel yourself against the temptations of oblivion. Save and move up until you can step out of that world. You don't have to do unsavoury things with your body (mine isn't much worth doing those things with anyway) as long as you can stamp on Jiminy Cricket and forget your conscience. Give them convincing phrases and creative accounts and don't flinch at the uses they are put to. It is best, whenever possible, to not know. The street can be escaped but it does mean a suspension of humanity. The State allows no other way.
Many street people can't do it. They are too decent. It sounds odd, doesn't it? Yet the more kind and merciful you are, the less likely you are to get out of that world once inside. Speak to them and find that, like smokers, they are just human beings like the rest of us. If you hand them a bottle of decent, even though cheap, whisky in payment for their story, the gratitude will be embarrassing. For me, now, ten-twelve pounds means little. I remember the time when it was untold riches. I have been at zero and it is an unpleasant though educational place to pass through. Would I go back? Not voluntarily. If it happened, I know how to survive it now and that is something I consider well worth the pain of learning.
Criminals are human beings too. Yes, some are more dangerous than Tony Blair but they are at least human. The psychotic Blackthorn family that feature in some of my stories are based on a family I once knew (names were changed to protect me) although I have exaggerated their lunacy somewhat. Very nice people if they liked you, very not-nice if they didn't. They employed people and paid well and probably still do, somewhere in the back streets. I have had no contact for years and have no wish to but still, they were human.
The criminals are human. The angry muttering alkies are human. The street people who drink to forget the revulsion of their existence for a few hours are human. Old Ciderman with his web-strewn tolley full of his entire Earthly possessions, he is human too. Look again. He really is. An old saying begins 'There but for the grace of God...'
The criminals do what they do because it is profitable. It is comforting to think that all criminals are slope-headed morons but believe me, I've met them and they are far from that. They have found a way to make massive amounts of money without paying any to the Government. So who is stupid?
The drunken low-lives we despise are drunk because reality is horrific and inescapable for them. If reality was inescapable and horrific for you, what would you do?
No you wouldn't. You would take any way to escape it that was available. At first. Would you shrug off your conscience to escape? Would you turn a blind eye to interesting methods applied to a little quiz in order to escape the mire? You can say 'that's horrible and disgusting' from the comfort of your centrally-heated room with its leather sofa but try saying it from a bed of tarmac insulated with cardboard and newspaper.
Some do, and I have to respect them. They will not take my route out. They are better men than me. They have too much regard for their fellow men to assist the Blackthorns with their dark and dangerous ways. I escaped but it cost me a lot, not in money but in humanity. Those who will not do that are the same as those you spit on or pass by as scum, while you vote me second best blogger in Scotland. I have done things those street-corner beggars would consider horrific. Think of that while you sneer at them.
They can't get out of their dilemma because they will not do what it takes, and what it takes involves being friendly with extraordinarily dangerous people and playing a careful balancing game. When they ask you for one pound - not even half the price of a beer and not enough to buy brown swill at an alleged coffee shop - what is going through your head? 'He is disgusting, he is filth, he will spend it on booze and drugs'.
What were you going to spend it on?
Minimum pricing affects only those at the bottom of the ladder. Those who use booze as an escape from the horrible world they are trapped in. Those who have no other release.
For the dedicated pisshead it will make no difference. They will drink or smoke or inhale something else. Whatever Tony McMafia can provide.
For those who have tried to avoid the meths and the hooch, it is a trap. Another Righteous control group.
Nice one, Oily Al. You know, there was a time I thought you intelligent. Turns out you're a politician.
For the rest of us, it is that one non-smoking carriage all over again.