Price does matter

I’ve been worring I might be an alcoholic.

Only this morning there was yet another feature on the radio, explaining how kids are turning into binge drinkers in their teens. What was being described was exactly how I behaved as a teenager. Growing up in Gloucestershire, the tipple was cider, and the age-old technique was to get an older lad to buy it for us. We would drink a flagon each and then spend the evening somersaulting down the Cotswold hillsides.

It didn’t happen often, though. We didn’t have any money and we had loads of other pursuits like sport and music.

The next stage of my relationship with alcohol was also one which persists today: a dissolute life of student-dom. On a Saturday night, the format was to go out with two shillings, which was exactly enough, in the student bar, to purchase eight pints of Red Barrel and twenty Number Six cigarettes. And because we could afford eight pints, that’s what we drank. But only on Saturdays.

Then I spent a number of years in Germany, and that’s where I learned to love lager, which is what I drink to this day. At weekends, I would get through a great deal of this frothy stuff. But I was working as a teacher, which meant that early mornings and general alertness were essential. So once again, Monday to Friday were always drink-free.

The same applied in the twenty-two years I subsequently spent teaching in Winchester. At the weekends, it was off to the Willow or the Railway, but in the week, sobriety reigned. It was habit, really. It never entered my head to have any drink at home.

Even after becoming self-employed, and thus theoretically not needing to worry about a clear head in the morning, drinking during the week or at home simply didn’t happen. That is, until the prices started tumbling. I suddenly realized I could afford a whole box of Carling or Budweiser, displayed temptingly cheaply near the entrance of Sainsburys. And so I started keeping a supply in the shed, which in turn meant that I was tempted to have a can – or two – every evening. Eventually, I realized that this too was now a habit. I didn’t think I physically “needed” a drink, but it was simply something I did, like having a shower or switching on the TV. I consulted my friends, and, to my amazement, all of them (middle-aged and respectable) admitted they did exactly the same thing.

Last month, I witnessed quite a young man suddenly dying of a heart attack. And the media barrage warning about the dangers of drinking continued unabated. I decided to find out if I was dependent and vowed to return to not drinking at home during the week. To my relief, I had no withdrawal symptoms at all. Instead of a can in my hand, I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. I don’t miss it at all – until Friday evening, that is, when a genuine craving comes over me as I head pub-wards.

So I’m back to being a weekend drinker. I guess it would be healthier to stop altogether, but at least it’s a start.

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