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Monday, 25 January 2016

The Return of the Column


It's a sign that the Editor's on holiday again!  They've given me my own column (for one week only) in the Derby Telegraph (see below)


and here's the content:

Many people regard Oliver Cromwell's brief Puritan reign in the 17th Century as just a blip in English history, but I'm convinced that he was tapping in to something deep in our national psyche, which the Cavaliers never successfully eradicated. 

If you want proof of this, you need only look at the newspapers and magazines circulating in January.  Throughout December, all of these had full colour photographs of lavishly rich food and drink as suggestions for your consumption over Christmas (which now seems to start at some point in August).  Now they're sporting pictures of a lettuce leaf and a couple of radishes alongside earnest advice on how to count the calories and remove that post-Christmas bulge.  At the same time, there are a plethora of adverts pushing various aids to quit smoking, along with charities urging people to consider, ironically given the levels of flooding , a 'dry' January.  In addition, the government are reviewing the official alcohol guidance, and you know that will only be going in one direction.
I think the media know full well that we're never happier than when we're beating ourselves up for enjoying ourselves and so, having urged us on with word and deed in December, they're only too keen to scourge us now that the party's over.

We seem to need to have rules and regulations to keep our wilder side in check.  Remove them and we tend to get a bit carried away.  For example, the liberalisation of the licensing laws, which it was fondly hoped might generate a Continental café-style culture, has allegedly led to binge-drinking amongst the younger generations and just shifted the night's entertainment back by an hour or so for everyone else. 

It also means that we no longer have anything to push against.  If closing time is a moveable feast, you can't justify 'having a quick one before they close' as you could be there all night.  I've mentioned before about one chap I knew whose wife wouldn't let him go to the pub before 10.25 (in the days when they closed at 10.30) in an effort to curb his drinking.  All that happened, of course, was that he ordered four pints on entering and proceeded to consume these with vigour before the end of drinking-up time, by which point he was barely capable of coherent speech.    Nowadays, in the absence of a closing time, he would probably vanish through the door of the Public Bar and never be seen again.

If you need proof of our inherent need for rules and regulations, just look at the smoking ban in public places.  I felt sure that this would be really difficult, if not impossible, to enforce, particularly in the wilder bars and clubs but no.  One day we had pubs where it was difficult to see from one end to the other, the next a complete absence of smoke.  Admittedly, this was a mixed blessing in those establishments where the smell of cigarette smoke was hiding a multitude of sins emanating from the carpet…and elsewhere.  Nevertheless, a more or less unenforceable rule was adopted, without question, in the blink of an eye.  Social pressure is clearly more effective, in some circumstances, that any number of 'bobbies on the beat'. 

I think that even those on the losing end of this legislation actually quite enjoy the restrictions.  Those people standing outside in the rain, dragging lustily on their cigarettes as their extremities turn blue with cold and dodgy circulation, are enjoying themselves hugely.  They are both pandering to their addiction and being penalised for it at one and the same time.  It doesn't get much better than that.
What would be nice would be if the 'nanny' element of the 'nanny state' could give up nagging and just let us sort things out for ourselves.  I'm pretty sure most of us know that an excess of anything is not good for us over the long term, and that probably includes lettuce leaves and radishes, but if we're hemmed in by overly-onerous guidelines and restrictions, we'll just rebel (like my bloke drinking four pints in 25 minutes).  We may be puritan at heart, but can't we be a little cavalier once in a while?