Eddie Mair’s woken up to the perils of drinking – and maybe I should too

A new study has claimed that the link between the length of the working week and alcohol abuse 'cannot be ignored'

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The Independent Online

Two years ago, almost to the day, I gave up alcohol. I did 11 months as a sober, mentally alert, physically fit individual. I had more money to spend, more time to devote to things I liked and was invariably early to bed. What was not to like? Don't ask me why I chose to return to a life of late nights and fuzzy memories, but, having thought that I would be a lifetime non-drinker, it seems that I am now precisely the opposite.

I have a few friends who are doing the dry January thing, and I toyed with following suit. But I soon talked myself out of the idea: it's my friend's 50th next week, and the month, strangely, is peppered with parties. Apart from anything else, I've renewed my close friendship with alcohol and I've not got enough reason to sever ties again.

But then I read what Eddie Mair had to say on the subject, and I thought again. The host of Radio 4's PM programme, and Britain's best broadcaster (trust me), wrote in the Radio Times that, at 49, he'd decided enough was, in fact, enough, and no longer would he subject himself to “the indignity of stumbling on to trains and slurring at taxi drivers”. He forswore booze last summer and has managed to stay sober since.

“When I was in my twenties,” he wrote, “I could knock it back, get a good night's sleep and be bright as a daisy in the morning. Painful experience in my forties told me that was no longer best practice.” True say, Eddie. He added that even restricting his intake to weekends had little effect “thanks to hangovers lasting through Sunday and sometimes Monday.” Blimey. Whatever we could accuse Eddie of, it's not being a lightweight.

When it comes to his on-air presence, the marvellous Mr Mair is a genuine heavyweight. He's the best interviewer around, persistent without being confrontational, courteous yet forensic, never allowing his interviewees off the hook, but neither interrupting them. (His TV encounter with Boris Johnson - “You're a nasty piece of work,” he told the London Mayor in his polite, softly-spoken Dundonian tones - is a classic of its type.) He gives his guests time: as he told his listeners recently, he's not afraid of silence.

More than that, however, is his self-effacement. He hardly ever is interviewed himself, and believes that a presenter, like a football referee, should go about his business unnoticed. That's why his confessional on drink was noteworthy.

He will have been interested in the news we reported yesterday that people who work long hours are more likely to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol. A study conducted across Europe, and published by the BMJ, said that the link between the length of the working week and alcohol abuse “cannot be ignored”. And if you work 55 hours or more a week, you are 13 per cent more likely to have a problem. I would imagine that Eddie would fall into this category. Me too. So at least we now know what's to blame for our dependence. And this is my answer: instead of giving up drink, I'm going to work less and see what happens.

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