A study revealed yesterday that children as young as 12 are drinking more than the government's recommended daily allowance for adults. As a parent, I find this frightening; as a teacher, not all that surprising. Forbidden fruit will always have a certain fascination; you've only got to count the number of children trying to smoke cigarettes on the way to school each day to see the proof of that.
But the problem with alcohol seems to run deeper; it's almost a matter of national character. I forget which Roman historian wrote - before the invasion of Britain - that the natives of this island were all 'amiable, pot-bellied and drunk' but it shows that our love of alcohol isn't something new. And after the ancient Britons, of course, came the Germans (and Belgians) to say nothing of the Danes. And I've always been fascinated - as well as horrified - by the Anglo-Saxon attitude of drinking to get drunk: necking vodka (which tastes of nothing) and drinking super-strength (and super-sweet) garbage which does taste of something, just not the kind of something that you'd choose to taste if you had any kind of choice. I've always admired the civilised continentals with their wine on the table and even - and in front of the children, egad! -a beer with your Big Mac.
But who am I kidding? Rates of cirrhosis are frighteningly high in France; the culture of beer in Belgium and Germany is legendary; and what about me? Am I setting the civilised example I admire?
Well, looking at the (empty) Henry Weston's bottle from last night I think I can claim to drink responsibly. I don't get drunk or vomit up my supper on the pavement. On the other hand, my children see me - us (but mainly me) - drinking regularly. And probably not - as the other empty bottle, the one that had a rather pleasant Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in it at lunchtime - sensibly.
You see, I don't really keep a tally. I do have a couple of days off each week (as recommended by the Royal College of Physicians) but I rather fear I'm adding plenty to the weekly total on units. Am I setting my children a bad example? Well of course, I hope not. I hope, at least, we can have a sensible discussion about it. And it most definitely isn't 'off limits'. There's no forbidden fruit lying temptingly in cupboards, 'cos the bottles are all empty (only joking). Booze is part of life here, but just a part; we can (and do) enjoy ourselves without it.
But I'm still worried. Those figures, in that report - they are quite shocking.
So what do you think is the main cause of the problem? And what - if anything - is the solution?
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