Saturday, 8 September 2007


Where would we be without booze? Healthier, I dare say, but less happy. I have been enjoying it for more than half a century, but I have decided that it is time to cut down, partly because a recent check showed me that I have been taking 32 units a week and the suggested maximum for a man is 24.

Wine is not too difficult: now I either buy cheap plonk, which isn’t very nice so I don’t want to drink much, or really good stuff of which I can’t afford to drink much. Medical opinion differs, and changes from week to week, on whether red wine is bad for you or (in moderation) good.

Gin-and-tonic is more difficult and I am trying to reduce my intake; not the frequency—there are many occasions or situations when a modest snort is absolutely essential to my feeling of wellbeing—but the strength. Perhaps I shall eventually get used to a weaker mix.

My children, being half-French, were introduced sensibly to alcohol at a very early age and the happy result, in spite of my bad example, is that as adults they are very moderate drinkers, so that’s all right.

In the mid-eighteenth century the effects of gin-drinking on English society makes the use of drugs today seem a small problem. Gin started out as a medicine; it was thought to be a cure for gout and indigestion. But most attractive of all, it was cheap. In the 1730s there were in London more than 7,000 'dram shops': Drunk for 1 penny, Dead drunk for tuppence, Straw for nothing. Ten million gallons of gin were being distilled annually in the capital, and the average Londoner drank fourteen gallons of spirit each year.

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