Notebook: Healthy lifestyle? He'll drink to that

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THE Government's Chief Medical Officer, Kenneth Calman, is not happy with British Man. Too much drinking and smoking, not enough exercise, believes Dr Calman, author of a report on the health of the nation published last week. A strong allegation, that, and no better place to test it out than the world-famous Embassy Club, one of East Manchester's brightest lights, debonair base of the city's chief philosopher and epigram turner, Bernard Manning.

Manning is not a natural ally of Dr Calman. 'I do 40-a-day smoking, I eat what I like, I like a drink, I'm 20 stone, 63 years old and I've never seen the inside of a hospital.' It is his view that women make themselves ill worrying about things like health, diet and fitness.

He is waiting to go on in a loose- fitting, floral, short-sleeved shirt. The cigarette smoke smog is building up nicely as his waiters serve the first of the 1,500 pints that go down on a good night at the Embassy. Next door, in the leisure bar, burgers, pies and sandwiches are on sale.

''Actually, I do have a drink problem,' says Derek Kerr. 'I've got two hands and only one mouth.' Bernard is not the only comedian in tonight. Derek is a sales manager with Campbell's, the distillers. But he goes on to reveal that drink reps now drink much less, that he has alcohol-free days, that he runs 30 miles a week and does weights on a Saturday. One of the waiters, Peter, turns out to be a teetotal lifeguard at the local baths. Dr Calman would be encouraged.

Manning takes the stage. 'A lot of people say I look like Mel Gibson,' he says. 'I can't see it myself.' Much of the routine is routine Manning, atrocious jokes about blacks and Jews, Asians and gays. 'F--- Roy Castle,' he says, 'let's have a smoke. Do you know that 100 per cent of non-smokers die? If you like chips, eat them, if you like a drink, have a drink, take no notice. Drink and drive. There's nothing worse than having a smash if you're stone cold sober.'

In the audience, Kevin, 40, drinks 40 or 50 pints a week, is 17 1/2 stone and 'since I started work I've never had a day off sick'. Kevin is a policeman. There are a lot of police in, from a training course in Wakefield, laughing like drains. There are nurses in, too, including Carol, a senior ward sister and 'health promoter'. What does she make of Dr Calman? She takes a drag on her cigarette and puts down her drink. 'Well, it's got him to 63, hasn't it?' she says, pointing to Manning.

The man himself, putting on a cardie against the Manchester rain, is off to Leeds for another spot. Exercise? 'I wind my watch.'

(Photograph omitted)