The West End is not the most salubrious of environments in which to work in the run-up to Christmas, but the rest-of-the-year benefits of its central location far outweigh the depressing nature of the month of Hogarthian debauch that gets worse every year. Don’t they?
Much of what we’ve experienced daily this past month around Oxford Circus happens in every major urban centre. The drunkenness. You all know what I’m talking about. However we package it up as “Mad Friday”, last Friday night (Saturday night, Thursday night, Wednesday night…) should be cause for national shame.
How did we get to a place where we accept it’s normal to need a “booze bus” temporary Alcohol Recovery Station in town centres like Bristol, where £500,000 has been spent on a 65ft-long trailer equipped with beds and showers?
Why do we shrug off as normal doorway after doorway being filled either by a slumped reveller – often a young woman – or vomit? The “dad of daughters” in me is left praying that those young women have a good friend to help see them home safely.
Yes, I know I sound like a hectoring old fart. Of course, we used to go out on the lash in my salad days, but the two major differences today are the sheer volume of drunks about and the proportion of those drunk to the point of collapsed that are women.
Survey after survey this year into what foreigners think of us highlights our propensity for drunkenness as a puzzling, depressing British trait. Never mind foreigners, just listen to the average cabbie explaining why they would rather go home at night than risk the potential “aggro” of vomit-filled cars.
There’s a much greater cost of course. According to the NHS, more than 10 million hospital admissions in England alone over the past year were “alcohol-related”. And the economic cost? £1.3bn.
Consider the human stories that lie behind so many of those admissions.
Yes, I know that I sound like a badgering Scrooge, but we can’t just keep laughing off Britain’s drink problem. So, enjoy your families this week and a drink or two. But, perhaps not three. We don’t have to be “mortal” or “mullered” to have a merry Christmas.