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February 07, 2007



Other than to escape the fact that life is a continuum of pain and suffering ending in death? Well, because life is funnier when you're wasted. It's the only state when 'I can't feel my legs'is deemed a hilarious punchline.

I read something interesting about drunkenness in Katie Fox's 'Watching the English'. She observes that the things people do when drunk are different in every society because the social expectations for drunken behavior differ in every society. So the English, she concludes, behave in certain (wild) ways when drunk because that behavior is permissible in English society, but only among drunk people. On the Continent, people drinking the same amount of alcohol behave in a completely different fashion. Never occurred to me before. I've always thought substances alone caused behavior.


Check out this cool documentaryabout stupidity:



Great art, music, drama are created by drunken artists and innovators. And drug use isn't all negative, I agree. We're just going through a time when society deems it economically viable to course drugs through the blackmarket (someone's gotta profit from all this, just not me, tant pis).
Great man Tolstoy!


Carla -- Alcohol and the Brits, what a subject that is. In my nearly 10 years in Manila I have seen fewer than 5 Pinoys who were obviously drunk. You probably have to step over that many to leave your house on a Saturday night.

I agree with what Kate Fox says, but doesn't that beg the more interesting question of why charging down the street yelling like a wounded gorilla is "permissible" in England and not in more civilized countries? The standard explanation is that the Brits are so inhibited and straight-laced that they need the release that alcohol provides. There's something in that, but the picture is really much much more complex. People in Scotland drink in different ways to those in England, for example, reflecting deep-rooted histoical differences.

Mr Stick -- Ha, ha, that's a good one. I particularly liked the Republican who said of Bush "he is definitely not a moron". I'd like some of what he's on.

Mila -- I guess that could be right but wouldn't the state and capitalists benefit more from legalization? I do agree though that drug use, legal and illegal, is a huge economic issue. The British state would go bankrupt very quickly if the populace stopped swilling heavily taxed booze as though their lives depended on it (which perhaps they do).

mayumi masaya

drinking in england is part of their culture as much as hip-hop is in LA.

useless comment really, just trying to justify yet another hangover....

Pinay in Barnsley

I have ALWAYS, ALWAYS felt this as a valid observation, long before I came to England. I have never known a more Jekyll & Hyde group of people. Having lived here for as long as I have, I can now totally emphatise as to why people need to 'drown' their sorrows with copious amounts of alcohol. I only need to look out my window. (Asbos in their full glory)

It's nothing short of hilarious when I see the same people who would not dare venture to discuss anything beyond the 'weather' in their sober/inhibited state turn into sub-humans howling on all fours around about midnight after a few pints. It used to be hilarious, I'm afraid the novelty has long worn off by now.

Brittania certainly rules the drunken waves...

Pinay in Barnsley

"The standard explanation is that the Brits are so inhibited and straight-laced that they need the release that alcohol provides"

That's the 'observation' I was on about.


Yeah, it does beg the question of why ape-like behavior is acceptable among the drunk in England. You're the Englishman, you tell me. :-)

I used to think it was a new development owing to the prosperity of the last decade, the 'rehabilitation' of city centers, etc. Then I saw an editorial cartoon from the 18th century showing drunken Londonders in "Gin Alley". You've been pissed for centuries!

The only other places where I've observed comparatively serious boozing are Japan and South Korea, though drunks in England are a lot more threatening. I've been in parties where normally sedate professors engage in slanging matches or snogging (yikes). And I avoid city pubs during weekends, esp. when I'm with a very Spanish-looking man who smiles at everyone when drunk. Brawl magnet.

mayumi masaya

i reckon it's because its so bloody grey and miserable all the time...

mayumi masaya

shall we all meet up for drinks at the pub for further discussions ?

...when it gets warmer? spring, anyone?



Pinay and Mayumi -- I certainly agree that the weather has a lot to do with it. In fact the weather can explain most things about Britain, including why I'm not there.

Carla -- Actually I'm Scottish, but I'll forgive you.

Yes, Hogarth's prints show how long public displays of drunkenness have been part of British life. To my way of thinking (and this is an attempt to answer PinB's point too), there is a deeper political meaning to all this, which is the notion of the "mob" in British life and the (related) rejection of the bourgeoisie. This sets the Brits apart from many of their European neighbours, who place bourgeois values at the heart of the national life. There is a huge British bourgeoisie of course, but even its members are often uncomfortable with it -- hence the "ape-like behaviour". This has positive side effects too, and largely accounts for the dominance of British pop culture in Europe.

I don't know if people still read it, but E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class is very good on the historical background to all this.

Again, please note the "English" in the title. The Scots are slightly different (not always better). I remember the chief of Stockholm's Police during the Euro 92 tournament saying that he found it hard to believe that the English (violent hooligans) and Scottish (blissfully happy even when the team lost)supporters were from the same planet, let alone the same island. Both groups were pissed as farts of course.

Mayumi -- My commiserations on the weather, spring and longer days are not far away ... enjoyed the Trentemoller on your site.

mayumi masaya

Three cheers for the Scotsmen! (clap clap)

'Scotland. The only country that measures annual rainfall in pints.'

I live with one, by the by. He's from Oben, Scotland. Gay as a rainbow. Fabulous as hell.


Englishman. Pwe, I'm mortified. (Ask frayed what Pwe means.) How could I? Do forgive me. Kate Fox's book is about the English, by way of an excuse.

I'm not sure I know the difference, mind. Just that I don't understand what Scots are saying half the time. (It's the BBC's fault.) Anyway, I'm not sure what "British" means, either. Everyone except the Irish? And I hear the Cornish and the Yorkshiremen are also demanding autonomy. You're not even an archipelago, you have no excuse!

Drinking and class in Britain. Woohoo! Curiouser and curiouser. Do you mean drunkenness as a way of renouncing class, no matter how temporarily? Alcohol as social equalizer? Man, you ought to write a thesis.

Blameless Caterpillar

'Green Shadows, White Whale' by Ray Bradbury describes time spent in Dublin writing a screenplay for John Huston's 'Moby Dick'. Much of the book is about people who drink more than some people think they should. Thorazine is cheaper than booze, but booze doesn't require a prescription.


I once heard that in the Middle Ages, Britons drank ale and wine instead of water because it was safer. Maybe this is why binge drinking and the behaviour that follows more accepted here - it's been passed down through the generations.
I also think it has something to do with a culture of excess and the way we choose to relax. After a hard week of work where do you go to relax? One of the many pubs on the high street but we don't just have one pint, we have lots.
The weather is a good point, after all, in mainland Europe binge drinking is most prevalant in chilly Scandinavia and least in warm, sunny Italy, France and Spain.

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