Alcohol – ‘The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s little problems’?

Alcohol – ‘The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s little problems’?

Recently Paul Whitelock wrote about coffee. Now he turns his attention to that other popular stimulant – alcohol…

Homer Simpson famously quipped that beer is ‘The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s little problems.’

And I recently spotted this poster in a local bar in Ronda:

Both are true, aren’t they?

Seriously, though, let’s explore the backstory of alcohol a little more closely.

Banned by most Muslim countries, it is readily available, however, and heavily consumed in the Western World.

A legal “drug” in most countries throughout history its production and consumption have been controlled to a greater or lesser extent. Prohibition in the USA was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages that lasted from 1920 to 1933. Naturally, it was driven underground where the whole process from production to consumption was controlled by the Mafia, making the” Mob” more powerful and wealthier than ever before.

In most countries you have to be 18 to purchase and consume alcohol on licensed premises. In some US states you have to be 21, yet you may go and fight for your country and perhaps get killed, but you can’t legally drink alcohol. You can get married too and drive a motor vehicle, but no booze! Doh! As Homer Simpson might have said!

Despite this “taboo”, historically alcohol was drunk instead of water. In the Middle Ages water was so polluted it caused millions of deaths from water-borne diseases like cholera. So the solution was to drink ale, beer, wine or spirits, as the alcohol purified the water, the main ingredient in all alcoholic drinks.

In the 19th century the Welsh government banned the sale of alcohol on Sundays and all pubs in Wales were forced to close on that day of the week. Later councils were able to decide for themselves, which led to Wales consisting of “wet” and “dry” counties and people who lived in a “dry” area travelling to a “wet” county for a Sunday lunchtime pint.

During the First World War drinking became such a problem among factory workers in Great Britain that licensing hours were introduced to curb afternoon drinking. Those rather quaint hours (typically 11.00 am to 2.00 pm and 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm) survived until the late 80s when pubs were allowed to open from 11.00 am – 11.00 pm. Further loosening of the rules occurred in November 2005 during the second Tony Blair government.

There were still controls, however, some of them ridiculous. I remember a curious incident that occurred back in the 90s when our children were young. My son Tom was a good swimmer and member of a swimming club. Each week he had several early morning training sessions before school. I used to take him, but watching kids swimming up and down a pool for an hour is only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry. So I used to go to the 24-hour ASDA supermarket nearby and do a bit of food shopping. On one occasion I needed a present for someone and put a box of liqueur chocolates in my basket. At the checkout, the nice lady refused to let me buy them. It was 7.30 am and therefore outside licensing hours – the chocolates contained alcohol!

So, I’ve done coffee and alcohol, what’s next. We’ll have to wait and see!

Paul Whitelock

About Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock is a retired former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, who emigrated to the Serranía de Ronda in 2008, where he lives with his second wife, Rita. He spends his time between Montejaque and Ronda doing DIY, gardening and writing.