Notebook: Healthy lifestyle? He'll drink to that

Click to follow
The Independent Online
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)

Comments