Unfortunately I didn’t hear the radio programme that dealt with this matter. I received it second hand from Sophie, but when I heard it, it was so obvious, I was amazed that I hadn’t realised it myself, as basic common sense. I can remember in the 70s we used to drive after going to a party and I have seen men who had to have their hand actually placed on the handle of the door of the car so that they could get in and drive home, which they did. Now, as we have seen the error of our ways, the pendulum has swung almost in a circle, crushing the pubs out of existence. ‘Not drinking if you are driving’ has been the greatest killer to social drinking. The fact that one member of a party has to be TT, has a knock-on effect to the rest. The fact that taxis are hard to come by at two in the morning has been part of this effect.
Drinking in Ireland is a serious business, drinking in England, in my experience, is generally a social routine. There is the lunchtime drink on Sundays which used to be a ritual throughout England in the 40s, when I was in the Navy. Public houses were clubs, had a steady clientele, where some even retained a tankard and a set of darts, behind the bar for the regulars. I remember taking Sophie into a pub in Hampshire, where I and my friends were playing bar billiards, and the owner came over and took Sophie off to join the group sitting round a fire, and put a sherry in her hand. Television films are forever using the pub for a social atmosphere in which to stage some discussion or other in a calm atmosphere. They do so because their viewers will be comfortable and relaxed from habit.
We are finding continuously that the tail wags the dog. In this case, because parents are not taking responsibility for their teenage children, or even younger children, the whole country, casual drinkers, pubs, even alcoholics, are being selected for special taxation, by a misguided government. I think it will have little effect whatsoever on children and young people drinking, or drinking to excess. If they have the urged, or in some cases the need, the young people will find a way of getting the money and getting a drink, while the rest of us will probably slow down on our drinking, stop going to the pub, and our whole way of life will be turned upside down because people either don’t want to, don’t intend to, or simply can’t control their children. If the government can’t control drug abuse, what chance has it got of controlling excessive drinking?
My eyes were opened by that one incident, in that English pub; to the calm, relaxed, friendly atmosphere that is the seal of the English pub, especially those in the rural areas. To see this all taken away, at a time when television, poor transport, and the rush of modern living is making us all more insular, when alcohol can be bought over the counter at grocery stores, and at prices far below those at the pub, an allegedly caring government should not be scrabbling for a few more taxes under the pretence that it is for the good of our young people, when any sane individual would know that it would take considerably a more than the increased cost of alcohol to achieve a result. Why does this government constantly try to hoodwink us, when we are now so apathetic and so weary of its perpetual changes, and above all sceptical? It is just possible, that alcohol like drugs, will be forced underground, and these young people will be drinking bath tub gin, that will blind them in the long run. If bath tub gin is not already available, it soon will be, as it is so easy and cheap to make, I saw it in the 50s.