24 March 2012

Alcoholic fog

Yet again, the powers that be seem to be totally blind to the problem of alcoholism. The latest brainwave is to increase the price of alcohol per unit to prevent binge-drinking. When will they ever learn? Do they not know that a true alcoholic would sooner go without food than alcohol, so increasing the price of alcohol will just reduce their available income for food and thus make them even more drunk. In the absence of food, the alcohol will do even more damage to their liver. As for teenagers and students, they will still get their vodka somehow before they go out for the weekend. Raising the price alone is about as useful as a hedgehog helping out in a balloon factory.


Imagine someone suggesting just raising the price of drugs to stop people taking them. Imagine too heroin being on sale 24 hours round the clock in supermarkets, clubs and petrol stations. There'd be an outcry. Yet alcohol can cause just as much damage as heroin to your brain, your health, your life. I watched my husband dying a slow and horrible death, going from normal to dead within 6 years of his alcohol addiction starting. Unlike drugs, alcohol is legally available any time of the day or night and obtainable from a corner shop near you.
New Labour introduced 24-hour drinking to this country during their last term but they failed to appreciate that as a nation we cannot handle our booze and don't always know when enough is enough. I am not prohibitionist or anti-alcohol. I admit I love the occasional glass of wine or even on high days and holidays the occasional Baileys or vermouth, but when I think about it, why? It is not to quench my thirst because water or fruit juice would make a far better job of that. It has become the norm for people to drink wine with meals, but again, why? Does it seriously make a difference to the food? Did Mr Caveman suffer by not drinking wine with his food? Have we conned ourselves into thinking water with food would just not be acceptable? The trouble is, once it becomes the norm, one glass of wine or beer is not enough. I have even heard some people drink a glass of wine while they are cooking the food and of course go on to drink more with the meal. Before you know it, you have finished one or two bottles every day. Once your drinking escalates, it is not easy to stop or get out of the habit and all too soon you are addicted. With the addiction comes damage to liver and the brain, not to mention internal bleeding. So even these silent drinkers (ie not the official binge-drinkers we see on the streets) are aided in their drinking by alcohol being too readily available. In the supermarket? Then gather essentials.... milk, bread, fruit, meat. Oh and how about a bottle of wine? Getting petrol? That'll be twenty litres of unleaded and a bottle of whisky. Not only is the nation facing a problem of obesity (currently one in four are obese and soon will be one in three) but we are creating a whole new young generation of alcoholics with liver disease deaths rising faster than heart disease or cancer. Surely a sobering thought , not to mention the pressure on already stretched NHS resources..

Whilst the debate continues ( it may now seem that imposing a minimum price on a unit of alcoholic drinks is illegal under EU competition law), I would like to see the return of sensible licensing laws with pubs and clubs shutting, like they used to, at 11pm or midnight. Anyone drinking too much would be refused a drink by the landlord. I would like to see supermarkets and petrol stations banned from selling alcohol at all and I would welcome the return of off-licences open only for a few hours in the evening. I appreciate the counter-argument that it would make life difficult for the "sensible drinker", but isn't that a small price to pay to stop the drunken louts on our streets and to deter Aunty Mabel from succumbing to the daily bottle of gin behind her lounge curtains, certain of a slow and painful death if she continues? We managed with stringent laws like that in the past. Why not again?

12 March 2012

Win Some, Lose Some

I have blogged before about the fact that I occasionally sell stuff on ebay. My relationship with ebay started off by accident when I offered to buy something rare for a friend who did not have a computer. It then progressed into selling when Kay was going on a school World Challenge trip to Latin-America. World Challenge stipulated that part of the challenge was that she had to fund the trip by her own means and I stretched that condition loosely into selling off some old toys and clothes for her on ebay to provide extra funds. I got quite good at judging the kind of things that would sell and the level of pricing (not too high to scare people off and not too low to secure a bit of profit). The purchase of a cheap digital weighing scale for my study meant I could weigh things exactly and accurately calculate the correct postage in advance before I typed the advert. I quite enjoyed doing this. I think it appealed to the hidden entrepreneurial spirit in me. I also used to love helping out on the Christmas Gift Stall at Kay's old school and always felt extremely bereft when the end of the Fete came and my sales help was over for another year. Selling was obviously in my blood.

Recently I have been sorting through/clearing out storage boxes in the cellar and unearthed loads of Kay's abandonned toys.... enough Polly Pocket houses to construct a whole street; a whole classroom of Barbie dolls; more Barbie clothes than at London Fashion Week; toddler games that would make the whole 2-week Olympic Games look boring. You name it.... she must have been the most spoilt child in the world (although every time she had a birthday party under the age of 8, she used to invite nearly the whole class, so ended up with a lot of small presents from that era!)

My ebay sales (£3 here and £5 there) soon added up. Now I know many of you are going to say that it would be easier just to give it all away to charity shops and I do give a lot away, but, as I say, I enjoy the thrill of watching things sell, the price mount at the auction, the wrapping up and the knowledge that they are going to a good home. I imagine the Barbies in their new home in Cardiff or my mother's vintage crocodile handbag in Chester or the jigsaw puzzle in Southampton or the board game in the Highlands of Scotland. I've even recently sent an item to China and another to Russia. I know they are going to be useful to someone specific as opposed to a nameless person at a charity shop.

This last fortnight I managed to make about £80. I was feeling so pleased with myself and had been musing what luxury to spend my little fortune on. All sorts of ideas sprang to mind and it was a struggle to decide which one was best. Then two days ago, the dog and I jumped into the car to drive to our nearest park for a walk. I turned the key in the ignition. The car coughed and spluttered and made a sort of death rattle sound. I tried again. This time just a squeak and a sigh. To be honest, I think the sigh might have come from me: from the car there was absolutely nothing, nada, zilch. To cut a long story short, one AA man (Automobile Association not Alcoholics Anonymous!!) arrived later to confirm my worst fears - the battery was as dead as a dodo. He managed to get the ignition started for me and I limped over to my nearest car part supplier who put in a new battery for me. The price? £82.

That was the bad news. The good news? The battery was the original one that the car manufacturer had put in 13 years ago when it was made. Both the AA man and the car part shop were amazed the battery had lasted so long. With any luck, this new one will see out the car for as long as I need it. Otherwise I'm going to have to start selling a heck of a lot more on ebay!

06 March 2012


29 April 1949 - 6 March 2010