24 hour party people


Last week, the UK’s antiquated licensing laws were scrapped with the application of the new 24 hour drinking laws. Pubs actually closed at their usual time on Wednesday night, but after midnight were allowed to reopen. About a thousand pubs were granted the 24 hour licence but some 70 thousand pubs and clubs  were permitted to stay open a couple of hours more than usual.


The policed braced themselves, but despite the panic and dread felt by everyone, the first few nights passed without incident. Well, nothing more than the usual brawls, vomit in the streets and so on. Only time will tell, but according to the British culture secretary the Labour government are hoping that the laws, which also give the police more power to deal with troublemakers (including handing out on the spot fines to drunks), will encourage people to drink more responsibly and help the authorities crack down on “yobbish behaviour”. Yes, she actually did say the word “yobbish”.


There are many who disagree with Ms Jowell. Roger Williams, the physician who treated George Best for free in recent years, said "Every medical body, every scientific body, says if you make alcohol more freely available... you will have a greater number of people drinking very heavily and damaging themselves” and added that Best himself would have opposed the new law.


Who knows? What I do know is that In Scandinavia, where it is notoriously difficult to buy alcohol, alcoholism is rife. In France and Italy, where people drink all day long and stay up all night, one rarely see the same kind of behaviour as in England, where there always seems to be an urge to cram as many drinks as possible before the pub shuts.


I remember, when after my 21st birthday dinner, my friends, wanting to thank me, took me to a pub in Norwich some twenty minutes before last orders and proceeded to buy me drinks. They placed each glass in front of me, eight or ten in all, singles, doubles, cocktails, and so on, and I, wanting to please them, downed every one before closing time.


I do not remember much of what happened later, except that I got home alright and had a rather heated debate with a neighbour. The next day I was almost too afraid to greet her. As she sat down for a coffee at noon, I asked her, with some trepidation whether I had made any sense the night before. She told me she couldn’t remember. Then she asked if I had any Paracetamol.


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