Drink Talking: Chris Maclean

Related tags 21st century

It's high time that people took notice of all the good that a decent local pub can do says Chris Maclean of the Plough & Harrow in Bridge, Kent.I...

It's high time that people took notice of all the good that a decent local pub can do says Chris Maclean of the Plough & Harrow in Bridge, Kent.

I sometimes wonder if, in 2080 when Channel 4 does its "One Hundred Worst Inventions of the 21st Century", binge-drinking will be in the top 10.

It should be. It's a handy way to explain an appalling behaviour pattern. My dictionary defines "binge" as "a drunken or unrestrained spree". Simple. The cultural standard of the 21st century. It appeared from nowhere and, presumably, it'll disappear the same way. Funny thing, these trends.

The frightening thing about the binge-drinking "phenomenon" is it is exactly the same behaviour pattern I enjoyed 20 years ago, the very same that has occurred since alcohol was invented. I'm sure that Neolithic man, fresh back from a successful woolly mammoth hunt, would seek solace in a few jugs of fermented juice and get a bit loud. (How else do you explain those cave paintings?)

There's nothing new about binge-drinking. WC Fields. Dean Martin. Veritable giants in their field. What is new is the way it is seen. By describing people who have drunk too much as "binge-drinkers" a catalogue of responses can be created.

Police, local authorities, magistrates, residents' groups and health authorities can be seen to "tackle" issues that aren't there - or have always been there but have simply and quietly been dealt with. Now the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group has decreed that investing in breweries and alcohol-related industries is unacceptable because of binge-drinking.

But I would like to make an appeal for people to recognise the good in what the licensed trade does. None of us ply our customers with alcohol until stupefaction, or throw them on to the streets and ignore the consequences. But we've been subjected to this relentless accusation for so long that some of us believe it is true.

Look at your pub right now. There are nice people in there. Gentle people. There are many with problems. Some are sad or lonely. But with a kind word, a bit of encouragement and a friendly chat these people can be restored. How many of you have lent a customer money? Or listened to their problems? Your pub can be a crucial part of the community. A focal point for the people around you. A place where they can feel valued and belong. You are in a place where you can make a more positive impact on the people around you in one night than the Bishop of Worcester could in a month of Sundays.

Related topics Legislation

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