The government acts as if booze is the root cause of all our social problems, says Leah McLaren, but it’s not. Drinking is an important part of British culture, the pub is the hub of the community, and health warnings can even be counterproductive‘No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
It is very difficult, watching a Thomas the Tank Engine dvd with your young children, to escape the suspicion that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry was anything other than a thoroughly vindictive and authoritarian old scrote, with a spiteful streak the width of the Fat Controller’s stomach. You would not leave your kids with him in person. The errant rolling stock are subjected to ghastly punishments and humiliations — including one engine being bricked up in a tunnel for months on end while the others laugh at him.
There has been general shock at the attempted downing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 over Detroit. It isn’t just that yet another aeroplane terrorist atrocity was averted only by luck and courage after US and British intelligence were caught with their pants down once again. Nor is it just the lax airport security. No, the real amazement has been that the perpetrator, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is a Nigerian who apparently got his orders from al-Qa’eda in Yemen; that the genesis of the pants bomber’s radical journey lies not in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor in Israel/Palestine, but in Africa.
Outside my local pub it says in big letters ‘£500’, and underneath: ‘This is the fine if you take your drink out into the street.’ What law imposes this fine, no one knows. It could be something to do with 24-hour drinking legislation, or even anti-terror laws.The reason people want to take their drinks into the street is that they’d like a cigarette, which they cannot have in the pub, under another law.
Anatole France described his literary criticism as ‘the adventures of my soul among masterpieces’. We cannot all be critics, in the sense that France was, but he surely spoke for everybody, reviewer or not, who takes reading seriously. Books do furnish a room, and the best books decorate a life.Although reading is an interior activity, as a book speaks directly to one person, one of the greatest joys in a well-lived life is reading in agreeable public places.