Wednesday 25 August 2010
Julie Burchill: Booze is as evil as fags. But not as evil as indulgent mothers and their brats
The number of teenage girls who blame drink for the loss of their virginity has doubled - but not one blamed cigarettes
Everyone's got their own Something Nasty In The Woodshed, and mine is Madonna's muff. Not in the flesh, you understand – rather, hand-held in black-and-white, glimpsed a whopping EIGHTEEN YEARS ago when some commissioning clown thought it would be a right laugh to give sensitive, sheltered me her book SEX to review. Visions of that greasy muff, which one could easily have fried an egg on without the benefit of oil, haunt me till this very day. However in recent years I've started to come round to the old bird. She hangs out in Israel, and now she's allegedly been seen with booze in one hand and a fag in the other as she celebrated her 52nd birthday.
BOOZE AND FAGS! The twins pillars of hedonism, demonised as heartless killers in the press, Booze and Fags are like a pair of fugitives who need each other but don't really like each other. I envision them on the run from the PC Police, each blaming the other for their pariah status.
"It's all your fault for giving people cancer!" yells Booze, fair chucking it back as they run. "You fat ignorant brute," replies Fags, stopping to light up. "If you hadn't got all those kids chugging down alcopops and beating each other up in the town centre of a Saturday night, we'd be laughing. Oh no, but YOU had to go and create an 8.5 per cent-proof low-calorie lager, didn't you?"
"You lowered the nation's sperm count and made my nan's breath stink!" retorts Booze. And on they go... together yet apart.
As a non-smoker who loves to drink and whose friends all smoke, I can see both sides of the story. There's no doubt that Fags gets the worst rap when it comes to shunning. I've just received an e-mail telling me that One Aldwych hotel, for a decade my home-from-home in London – a place where over 10 years I've probably spent enough money to literally buy a house – will get rid of its small number of designated smoking rooms from 1 September.
Meanwhile, down in the Lobby Bar where I've spent so many happy hours, people will continue to pay handsomely to ruin their health, as they will be doing in pubs and clubs all across the country. These drinkers may or may not go on to wreak havoc in cars, or they may take it into their heads to beat up or murder some innocent bystander – yet we still see adverts in which alcohol is portrayed as some magic potion, one sip of which will bid us enter some sexy, sparkly wonderland of fun and games. No one shows you photos of ruined livers on bottles of booze – yet no one ever went and mowed down a pedestrian or urinated on a war memorial because they'd smoked a whole packet of Benson & Hedges in one go.
While Fags is seen a cold-eyed professional killer who must have the full weight of the state mobilised against him, Booze is your crime-of-passion thug who causes havoc in his wake. A recent survey by University College London looked at the sexual and alcoholic habits of 25,000 people aged 16 to 44 over 10 years, and found that the proportion of teenage girls who blamed Booze for the loss of their virginity has more than doubled over the last 60 years – not one, to my knowledge, blamed Fags. Women who drank more than 14 units a week were 1.8 times more likely to have needed the morning-after pill at least once over the last year, and were 1.4 times more likely to have had an abortion in the past 18 months. Hmm, so much for all those "If you want to get pregnant, stop drinking, as drinking ruins your fertility" homilies; I had a feeling they were wrong, because, when I was at school in Bristol, I distinctly recall that it was always the girls who drank the most who got pregnant and had to go and live with their auntie in Shepton Mallet.
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that smokers and drinkers combined have never come half as near to ruining nice days out for me, be they in restaurants, museums or parks, as other peoples' children have – particularly the sort of entitled bourgeois brat whose moron of a mother is liable to say, as one cretin did in Waitrose a while back when her spawn came out with an ear-splitting scream: "That was a VERY good noise, darling – do another, even louder!" I'm NOT joking! Yet increasingly there is no place to hide from the creatures – they eat for free in formerly civilised establishments, and turn decent pubs into crèches. Come back, Booze and Fags – all is forgiven!
Tipping: Halitosis is the stinginess of the soul. So get it out!
Some people want to be remembered for their intellect, good works or unimpeachable moral character. It's highly unlikely that I will be commemorated for any of these, but I DO think I have a chance at being remembered for one of the things I love most about myself. Namely, that I am A VERY GOOD TIPPER.
It's always around the 25-40 per cent mark, and I definitely tend to tip girls more for extreme prettiness and men for personality. Unusually, I tend to tip more for bad service than good because I'm aware of how wearing a job like that might get and how annoying customers are.
People who work in restaurants just tend to be so much more attractive and civilised than people who eat in restaurants, and I'm including myself here, so lavishing them with cash seems to rebalance an unjust situation somewhat. And of course stinginess IS the halitosis of the soul. So come on – get it out!
Oh, and before the bed-wetters' chorus starts up about Zionist imperialist insensitivity to the poor, may I add that OF COURSE I'm only talking about those people who can afford it. So waiters of the world, spill stuff on me and see your tip double. Make sure it's not TOO hot though – I'm not that much of a masochist.
Reality TV: It should have been me on Big Brother, not Germaine
By the time you read this, Big Brother as we know it will be no more. My fellow Bristolian, the glorious Josie Gibson, will I hope have been crowned victor and entered the Ultimate Big Brother house. I'm backing Brian Belo for the big one.
Regrets, I've had a few, but the main one was not going into the Celebrity Big Brother house that time I was asked. They got Germaine Greer instead and I remember watching her vomiting on a roundabout with a colander on her head having just waded through manure – and feeling a real flash of envy, a rare emotion for me. I've pretended till now I was glad it wasn't me – but actually, I was JEALOUS. That's how much I loved Big Brother.
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