The International Writers Magazine:Lifestyles: Excess
DRINK and DRIVE AND BE MERRY THIS HOIDAY SEASON
James Skinner retraces his
in the late forties and early fifties, Britain was still suffering
from rationing brought on by WWII. You were only allowed a certain
amount of liquor and tobacco per person per week. Petrol (gasoline
in the US) was also hard to get let alone trying to buy one of
the few available cars that were around and that could hardly
muster up 60 mph anyway.
It was fairly common
therefore that the majority of people in the United Kingdom could hardly
afford to either smoke to death or drink and drive causing possible
damage to themselves or other fellow citizens. The Marshall plan instituted
by the United States that injected billions of dollars for the reconstruction
of Europe after the war changed all that.
Europe moved on from the fifties and into the sixties affluence
began to grow. Apart from the restoration of destroyed cities and
industry, the plan included the rebuilding of dilapidated and outdated
infrastructure, such as railways, roads and seaways, the latter
in the form of upgrading of all port areas. Another phenomena were
the growth of a new industry relatively unknown to the working masses
of the British Isles. Europe opened its doors to tourism.
Slowly, but surely,
the Brits began to venture across the Channel to The Continent,
this time without guns but with screaming children and thermos flasks
full of tea. As they now had sufficient income to buy a small car and
bored with digging up the garden eleven months of the year, their new
holiday adventure was to take a ferry boat from Dover across to Calais
or Bologne, France. Who knows what they could find on the other side!
The Automobile Associations at the time seriously recommended to beware
of the water and take a proper kerosene primus stove to heat the
same before drinking. They also suggested placing meshing across the
radiator because of mosquitoes and carry an abundant supply of bread
because the French equivalent was unsuitable for cucumber sandwiches!
Im not kidding! (It still isnt) Ed
As time went by, rationing came to an end, but purchase tax took over.
The price of cigarettes and booze was prohibitive. You could not smoke
yourself to death nor bash a few pedestrians whilst driving under the
influence because you could just not afford it. But the good old Europeans
invented the system of Duty Free when you went on holiday
abroad. So there you had the Joneses, Smiths, Roberts and others going
straight to the bar on the Ferry to tank up on pints of beer and dozens
of packets of cigarettes before arriving on the other side. The French
drive on the wrong side of the road, so our dear British holidaymakers,
despite being tanked up, was cautious anyway, as they ventured forth
into the French countryside. Probably doing 30 mph just in case.
But then came lunchtime.
Either they stopped off at the next restaurant around noon, or they
drove off a side road for a picnic lunch. Being in France, the meal
had to be accompanied by a bottle of Beaujolais or Cabernet Sauvignon
and followed by an after lunch coffee and a brandy. But as time went
by our British tourist became even more adventurous. He made his way
towards Spain. Generalissimo Franco, that smarty-pants Dictator knew
his onions all right! In the very early sixties he appointed a new Ministry
of Tourism as he sniffed the potential of Europeans coming down to the
sunny coasts of the Mediterranean and enjoying what was a real cheap
holiday. He made sure that more and more would turn up as years went
by. He was right. Another factor that helped Spain and tantalised our
British tourist was that not only was alcohol very cheap, specially
wine and Cognac but that some restaurants offered wine for free and
the bars did not conform to any licensing laws thus avoiding closing
But what about the dangers of smoking and the drinking and driving?
The problem was not even identified.
Commuting in the UK, or going to the local pub for a pint was entering
a lung cancer trap. Railway carriages were impregnated with
tobacco stench and bars looked as if they were fog bound. Getting behind
the wheel or jumping on a motorcycle with two or three pints of bitter
in your belly after a night out was very common. The added problem was
that it continued to grow, not only due to post war relaxation and tourism
but also thanks to a growing economic European boom.
By the time the seventies arrived, Europeans had more purchasing power.
New roads and motorways were built and the automobile, that four wheeled
monster grew in size, speed and power whilst the beasts price
came down and down relative to average income. The European car industry
grew exponentially. Hire purchase was introduced in the sixties- thus
allowing the lower level income earners to join the bandwagon of the
rich and wealthy. More people were smoking, drinking and driving and
being merry like never before!
One day, someone, somewhere discovered that smoking was bad for your
health and that driving a vehicle with alcohol in your blood impaired
your reactions and could cause an accident. As the saying in Spanish
goes, they discovered America!
If I am not mistaken it was the United Kingdom that first introduced
the Drink and Drive law, whilst the United States came down
hard on smoking habits. Thus the infamous breathalyser was invented.
Laws on smoking, especially in public places took a while longer to
Nevertheless, Europeans continued on an upward trend in smoking habits
and took risks in drinking and driving whilst having a night out. On
a parallel front, governments and other institutions began to produce
statistics. The death toll due to both habits were alarming. Their next
battle was a proper publicity campaign against the evils. Media and
direct advertising entered every household. The latest editions enter
into the gory images of cancerous infected organs or mutilated bodies
on the tarmac. Although inconclusive, the results seem to show little
effect of any significant reduction. The European administrations therefore,
have reverted to their one and only last resort.
Enter the law
by the European Union, slowly, but surely ,the member states are
beginning, similar to the United States to ban smoking in public
places. Be it the workplace, a shopping mall, an airport or even
a restaurant and bar, you will not be allowed to light up a cancer
stick in public. As for the drink and drive, whilst the European
police are increasingly on the look out with their inhaler bags
for drunken culprits, within a short period of time a new system
of driving infringement points on your license is being introduced.
If you are stupid enough whilst driving to even sniff at a bottle
of hooch in the future you are liable to be shackled and thrown
in jail for life!
Are both laws having
My local tobacconist where I buy my Cuban cigars says he has not noticed
any drop in sales. As for drinking and driving, my corner restaurant
is always full in the evening and most tables have an uncorked bottle
of wine shared amongst the eating party, or a coffee and a brandy whilst
the customer is lighting up his cigar. Usually me!
It might take a while yet
© James Skinner. December, 2004.
See also Greenpeace
on the Ocean
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