Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Sorry, Prof: it may well be fatal, but mine is still another pint

I yawned on Sunday when I glanced at the story in the press digest I receive each morning, After all, it was hardly a surprise to learn that I am more likely to die of cancer if I drink more than two pints of beer a day.

But then I looked at the piece more closely. It was actually suggesting that the safe limit, for those of us who do not actively fancy a horrible death, is two pints of beer A YEAR.

Death. This is what it looks like.

Actually, it said “drinks”. So it might have meant halves. Let’s not get carried away.

This joyless appraisal, according to the Sunday Express, came from one Professor Peter Anderson of Newcastle University, whose dinner party guests are presumably not encouraged to bring a bottle.

His prescription is for the European Commission to step up the marvellous work it has already done on cigarette labelling, and plaster all drinks bottles with warnings that they cause cancer.

As if rapacious pub companies, cut-price supermarkets, the drink-driving crackdown and smoking ban were not enough, the few remaining rural pubs would presumably be forced to display on their pump clips: “Old Badger Ale, 4.0% ABV. Oh, and it will GIVE YOU CANCER.”

Somehow, I cannot see this providing a boost to sales.

Now, life is a continuous process of risk assessment and it is important never to lose sight of the important fact that even those who never drink or smoke, and subsist entirely on organically grown lettuce leaves, still die eventually. Quite possibly of boredom.

I also write as one who has consumed significantly more than two pints of beer a year for the last 44 years. In fact, I would still be in serious trouble if the suggested limit had been two pints per day, as I originally imagined.

But if we all took to heart every bit of the health advice with which we are bombarded by science each day, we would surely be afraid to eat or drink pretty much anything at all.

Even breakfast is a minefield. Bacon and eggs? Don’t be ridiculous: cured meat is a proven carcinogen, cholesterol blocks your arteries. Cereal with milk? A great cue to worry about “Frankenstein” GM maize and all that fat in dairy products.

I have little doubt that if alcohol were a newly invented product, it would struggle to make it past the regulators and onto the market. But since it has been around for many hundreds of years, it is perhaps more appropriate to accept that it is going to remain part of our life and assess how much serious harm it really does.

Oh yes, it now fills our city centres with the revolting spectacle of mass drunkenness almost every night of the week, and keeps our overstretched A&E departments busy dealing with the fallout.

A typical night in the Bigg Market

Will slapping health warning labels onto bottles of lager have any impact whatsoever on this? What do you think?

It would surely be more productive to focus on recreating the sort of sensible licensing laws that were designed to deal with this sort of problem in the first place, and which our politicians have bafflingly spent the last 15 years or so dismantling.

As for Professor Anderson’s report, I have been giving it a great deal of thought as I have spent the last two nights in small hotel rooms in Berkshire and London with two over-excited small boys making their first visit to the capital for a packed programme of royalty, dinosaurs and toy emporia.

Hampton Court
Changing of the Guard
Duke of Edinburgh's 92nd birthday gun salute
Natural History Museum

I have considered, on the one hand, the fact that they are both under four and I am pushing 60, and really ought to make an effort to stay alive as long as possible to fulfil my paternal responsibilities.

On the other hand, there is the stress associated with taking the two of them out anywhere in public, particularly now that the older boy has taken to pretending that he does not know me when we are left alone together, and I look so much like a silver-haired candidate for an Operation Yewtree investigation.

And the firm conclusion I have reached, with my sincere apologies to the Professor, is that mine is most definitely another pint.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

"Yew" are too much.
Thanks for this morning's laugh...imagining Charlie pretending he doesn't know you when
both of you are alone together in public.

Hope the dinosaurs, royalty and toy stores are lots of fun.
Some of my favorite things in London along with pints in pubs.