Could a 100-bottle limit help me cut down on drinking?

My New Year’s resolution is to cut down on my drinking. I’m not talking about bringing it within the NHS’s recommended limit, obviously. I’ve never met anyone who confines their alcohol intake to 14 units a week, which amounts to a bottle and a half of wine, ideally spread over many days. I’m thinking of something more in the region of two bottles a week. Why not simply stop altogether? Partly because I’ve tried that before and don’t have the willpower. The longest stretch I’ve gone without a drink was in the two years leading up to my marriage in 2001, because I didn’t think Caroline would go through with

In search of a second epiphany

When I go home to America next week for Christmas, I’ll go to church – the one my family and I used to attend every Sunday, a few towns over. I visit intermittently throughout the year when I’m back home, but I always go on Christmas Eve. The routine is the same: I sit quietly in the pews, sing along to the carols, and hope to have a second epiphany.   I had my first epiphany – that God exists – when I was a child. This, I’m sure, is the result of having two religious parents who raised me in the church. When I tell my British friends that I

Rishi’s smoking ban inspired me to light a cigarette

What has Rishi Sunak’s government achieved in its first year? The highlights include a renegotiated Brexit policy and setting more practical net-zero deadlines. But Sunak asked the country to judge him on his ability to deliver his pledges set out at the start of the year. If polls are to be believed, voters are preparing to do just that. Inflation is falling, but that’s largely due to interest rate hikes announced by the Bank of England. The economy is growing, but barely. The NHS waiting list keeps rising – 7.6 million now in England alone. On this last point, no doubt the six-figure salaried consultants who keep striking deserve part

I’ve turned 60 – but all is not lost

By the time you read this I’ll be 60, having passed that milestone on Tuesday. My older friends tell me that turning 60 is like having to give a speech in public – the anticipation is worse than the reality. Once it’s in your rear-view mirror, you quickly forget about it and instead start looking ahead and thinking about the national speed limit. But as I write it’s looming like the horror of the shade, to quote William Ernest Henley. I’m loath to bellyache about this because I can imagine being incredibly irritated when, in 20 years’ time, I read a column by some young whippersnapper complaining about turning 60.

How do I know I’m an adult? I’m given unsolicited feedback

Adulthood was once determined by age, but now we’ve extended childhood far beyond the teenage years. If the government gets its way, the next generation will never grow up: there are reportedly plans to ban cigarette sales to anyone born after 2009. This would mean that, come 2060, 50-year-olds could be begging their elders to pop into the local corner shop to buy them a pack of 20. We need a new metric of adulthood, and I have a proposal. The real mark is not an age or any particular milestone, it’s really when you receive your first piece of unsolicited feedback. It’s a grim but unavoidable rite of passage: having personal

Could I be pregnant?

At the age of 59 I thought it was time to get my body thoroughly examined. So last week I trotted off to a health clinic in west London. Not surprisingly, I got a mixed report. Mostly As and Bs, a couple of Ds, and several must-try-harders. The health check consisted of an hour with a man in green hospital scrubs, who I think was a nurse, followed by an hour with a female doctor. It was all trundling along nicely – my weight and BMI were both within the ‘healthy’ range – when something unexpected happened. After attaching electrodes to my body for the purposes of carrying out an

How many Britons smoke?

Puffed up Just 12.9% of Britons smoke cigarettes, figures out this week showed – the lowest on record. How does the UK compare? – The highest smoking rate is in Nauru (48.5%), the lowest is in Ghana (3.5%). – 24.5% of people in France are daily smokers compared with 11.5% in the US. – In Germany, the overall smoking rate is 34%, an increase from 26.5% in March 2020. For young Germans aged between 14 and 17, this has almost doubled between 2021 and last year, from 8.7% to 15.9%. – Maybe it’s the price of a pack. The average cost of 20 cigarettes in the UK hit £14.47 after

How to train like Taki

Gstaad Here’s a tip for you young whippersnappers: don’t get old, but if you do, you can fool Father Time by training the smart way. By this I don’t mean you should follow all that bull that floats around online. I don’t use social media, but I’m told that a system exists, which reaches millions across multiple platforms, that spreads misinformation about health, and then some. The wellness industry means big moolah, and is as phoney as Hollywood morality. Take it from Taki: all you need in order to feel good and be able to enjoy yourself is a little exercise before breakfast, and some semi-hard training in the afternoon.

Why won’t my British friends see a GP?

Having lived in the United Kingdom for almost my whole adult life, I like to think I’m well assimilated. I stopped trying to make pleasantries with strangers a long time ago. I skip dinner to stand outside the pub in the dark. Apart from my accent (though Americans tell me that’s changed, too) I think I can just about pass as British. But never for long. At some point, someone starts talking about a health worry or new ailment, and I tell them to see the doctor. Suddenly, the jig is up, and I’m an outsider again. I’m now very familiar with the British aversion to seeking medical care. Still,

The rise of vampirism in Silicon Valley

The Immortals, which begins on Radio 4 this week, is not for the faint-hearted. While it professes to be about the human quest for longevity and the elusive ‘cure’ for getting older, it focuses largely upon the transferral of blood plasma from healthy young people to reluctantly ageing people, or, as anyone with good sense might put it, the desperate descent from vanity to vampirism. I was on the verge of switching over to something more anodyne when a 46-year-old tech entrepreneur began talking about being injected with plasma from his 17-year-old son. Bryan Johnson, who sold his company to PayPal for $800 million in 2013, does not even sound

The best alternatives to Diet Coke

British media wouldn’t be British media without endless stories of possible health risks in food and drink. The news cycle turns and we land on whether butter is good or bad, or whether having a glass of red wine in the evening is toxic or therapeutic. Another long-running, oft-studied and frequently-discussed topic of debate is aspartame, the artificial sweetener found in the likes of Diet Coke and Coke Zero. The latter is a favourite drink of mine.  Aspartame has suffered its fair share of derision in the past, but it is now being officially declared a ‘possible’ cancer risk by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health

Let us pray for the NHS

Why was there a service in Westminster Abbey thanking God for the NHS today? Some 1,500 NHS workers, many in uniform, packed into the Abbey along with politicians to mark 75 years of the service. As a celebration of the work those people have done, it was a good event: the Dean of Westminster, David Hoyle, paid tribute in his sermon to the ‘sheer bloody-minded persistence of tired, stressed, wonderful people in the NHS’. There were testimonies from healthcare workers who had treated sickle cell patients and children with cancer from Ukraine. And of course there were readings from Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer and an address from NHS chief

Is the glucose monitoring craze really so healthy?

At £300 a go, the Zoe is a reassuringly expensive accessory. It has a recognisable logo and even had a 200,000-strong waiting list at one point. That wouldn’t be so unusual if Zoe was a must-have handbag or jewellery, but it is  a continuous glucose monitor that you stick to your arm. Some charities ask non-diabetics to donate their wearables to be reused by people who actually need them Continuous glucose monitors have been available to diabetics for a few years, but now non-diabetics without any particular reason to worry about their pancreas are also getting in on the act. Like the fear of gluten a few years ago, glucose

Wuhan clan: we finally know the identity of the scientists in the lab linked to Covid

That a pandemic caused by a bat coronavirus started in the city with the world’s largest programme of research into bat coronaviruses was always intriguing. That among the first people to get ill with allegedly Covid-like symptoms in the month the pandemic began were three scientists working in that lab was highly suspicious. Now that we know their names, we find one of them was collecting what turned out to be the closest cousins of Sars-CoV-2 at the time, and another was doing the very experiments that could have created the virus. These revelations make it almost a slam dunk for the coronavirus lab-leak hypothesis. These guys are not some

My life as a meth addict

I’ve spent most of my adult life addicted to amphetamines, including crystal meth. I first tried speed when I was 17 at a techno party while visiting Germany. I had been struggling with my A-levels and always found school hard because I was constantly exhausted, sleeping for 12 hours a day and still falling asleep during lessons. I was depressed and sometimes felt like I didn’t want to live any more. Speed changed all that. For the first time ever, I was motivated, I could concentrate and I felt that I could deal with life. I went from failing school to becoming a straight-A student, and I honestly don’t think

Stop demonising cyclists

If you were to ask me how many bicycles I’ve had in my life, my response would be about as precise as Boris Johnson’s to the question of how many children he’s fathered. In my case, so many bikes have been stolen over the years – including one attached to a signpost (which vanished along with the bike) and another that I left unlocked for 45 seconds outside Nicolas on Holland Park Avenue. That turned out to be the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever taken to a dinner party. (In fact, that was the same bike that had previously been harvested of 90 per cent of its components after

Will public sympathy extend to the junior doctors’ strike?

Next month, junior doctors in England will walk out for three consecutive days after an overwhelming majority voted to strike over pay and conditions. Just under 50,000 doctors were entitled to vote in the British Medical Association ballot, and 78 per cent did. Of the votes cast, 98 per cent voted in favour of strike action. The term ‘junior doctor’ refers to newly qualified foundation doctors, as well as all those doctors ranked in between, up until and including senior registrars. These doctors are hoping for a 26 per cent pay rise – a figure they say would amount to ‘full pay restoration’ after the BMA concluded that junior doctors

The Whale is a work of art

If the 20th century was the age of the common man, the 21st is the age of the common man’s confounding. Between shambolic politics, culture wars and actual war, nothing is turning out quite as well as anyone expected. What was meant to be an era of freedom and enlightenment seems to have become the opposite.   Nowhere is this more evident than in the way we interact with one another. In what feels like the blink of an eye, discourse, and by extension society, has taken up residence on the internet. The pace of the outrage cycle has gathered such speed that we must always be finding something new

The dark side of laughing gas

In his memoir Spare, Prince Harry has revealed he ‘enhanced his calm’ during the birth of his son Archie in 2019 by taking ‘several slow, penetrating hits’ of the canister of laughing gas in his wife Meghan’s hospital room. He described how when a nurse returned and tried to give Meghan a dose for pain relief, there was none left: ‘I could see the thought slowly dawning. Gracious, the husband’s had it all. “Sorry,” I said meekly.’ He is far from alone in enjoying the high that comes from laughing gas. Also known as nitrous oxide, it has become the second most popular drug (behind cannabis) among 16- to 24-year-olds, according to

Happy Excessmas: why shouldn’t we eat, drink and be merry?

Christmas is coming and it isn’t only the goose that’s getting fat – so are you. That’s according to the skinny, pie-dodging miserable lot who make up the public-health lobby. For these people – who are living proof that a lack of sugar makes you cranky – the countdown to Christmas isn’t an opportunity to excite kids about Santa’s sack or splurge on gifts for loved ones; no, it’s an ideal time to freak people out about the dangers of eating and drinking too much. Every year it’s the same. It starts in November. An alcohol-awareness group (a fancy term for the neo-temperance movement) and obesity experts (a grand title