One resolution that did not appear on my recent retirement list was to cut back on / give up alcohol. It seems like a foolish venture to me. I mean either ‘they’re’ never satisfied or the health message is incredibly confusing or both. I remember when my diabetes was first diagnosed I made the mistake of asking my GP what my weekly number of units should be. He said, 12. I said don’t be bloody silly and never asked for his advice in this matter again. It’s the same old story, a colleague of mine when asked by his doctor how much he drank, halved the actual amount. The doctor told him that was twice as much as he should be drinking. You can’t win. Also they keep changing the number of units that’s acceptable. It was, a few years ago, 28 for a man of fair size build (that’s me). I managed to get it down to just about that level and then they changed it, downwards of course, to 21. And, in the article (right)that prompted this blog, bugger me, if it’s not down to 14 this morning or none at all. I gave up – the attempt, not alcohol itself. And, like every other food item, the research shows that such and such is bad for you then new research comes along and suddenly whatever it was bad is now good for you. Yes, I’m being a bit polemical but ooh, it makes me so mad that I’m driven to thinking (and writing) silly things. You know the classic, well I’ll show them, I’ll drink twice the recommended amount and live for ever. Yes, I know I’m being silly.
This focus on alcohol was brought on by a recent article in one of the weekend papers. The headline, as you can see above, was about us baby boomers. ‘They’ are always having a go at us boomers because they believe we are unfairly lucky to have been born when we were and have so much going for us. Well, I’m sorry, it wasn’t my fault / idea, and if you’re me you always find something to worry about, some aspect of life that’s not right, no matter how fortunate we might be. I digress.
The latest attack on we boomers comes in the form of reports in the media of us stretching the finances of the NHS because of all the treatment we need as a result of not just being ill, but because of our ‘heavy drinking’. And here was me thinking it was the bloody Tory government cuts that was screwing the health service and all the time it’s us boomers drinking too much. I’m close to Basil Fawlty’s oh, it’s my fault, silly me, all the time I thought it was your fault and it turns out to be my fault all along, or something similar. And don’t get me started on how many units in a glass. It used to be there was one unit in a glass of wine and two in a pint of beer but now it’s forty in a glass of wine and 120 in a pint of beer. I think that’s right but I may be slightly exaggerating. But it’s my blog and I’ll exaggerate if I wish.
The article states, ‘the number of older people (over 65) drinking unsafely and unhealthily is rising at an alarming rate, putting their health at risk and further strain on NHS services.’ Well, excuse me for being over 65. Later in the article, it says, ‘the number of 60 to 74 year olds treated as in-patients for mental and behavioural disorders – including alcohol dependency and withdrawal – has almost doubled over the past decade’ and, just to hammer the point home about what a bunch of shits we are – ‘more over-60s are being hospitalised for alcohol-related brain damage’, than what? It doesn’t say, than I’ve had hot dinners? Who knows, but we’re clearly bad people and so much worse for being born with the silver spoon in our mouths which we insist on chewing on.
Anyway, reading the article did set me thinking about why it should be that we over 65s are drinking so much our heads are likely to fall off. I came up with a number of possible reasons, but you may be able to think of other explanations. My thoughts were 1) Because we can and if we want to we will. For large portions of our lives we did as we were told, primarily through our jobs, and now we’re going to do a bit more of what we want, even if (especially if) it does piss other people off. 2) Maybe it’s a lifestyle we’ve always aspired to and now we can afford to do it. 3) Maybe we do it simply because we enjoy it, it’s fun and relaxing and retirement should be about having fun and being relaxed. 4) Maybe we don’t think the consequences will affect us because we’re so bleedin’ old what harm can it do? 5) Maybe we’re sad about being old and alcohol helps dull the pain, perhaps even physical pain, it’s more enjoyable than paracetamol and just as effective. 6) Probably we think with the limit being set at ridiculous levels (and women don’t even think about a drink, if you do that’s probably exceeded your limit), why bother even trying to drink sensibly or ‘responsibly’ as seems to be the word of the moment. To quote my own children at a younger age – am I bothered? Or Katherine Tate’s naughty school girl – suis je bothered? Very pleasing to be able to echo these sentiments at 65+.
At one point in my life when I thought it might be a good idea to reduce my alcohol intake, I decided to apply some psychology to the challenge. I reasoned it thus – my drinking, wine anyway, was tied up with eating, meals pre and post. What, I asked myself, was the only meal at which we didn’t drink? Answer, breakfast. Ergo, if we made our evening meals like breakfast we would be less inclined to drink. So, for a period, we had a big increase in beans of toast, poached egg on toast, egg and bacon, egg and chips, sausage and chips – not strictly breakfast I know but meals we didn’t drink wine with, a cup of tea being the right thing (I know you’re thinking well you’re going to kill yourself with all that unhealthy food, never mind the alcohol), on occasions cereal even. It worked pretty well for us, certainly enabled us to meet the recommended target of not drinking two or three days a week. Unfortunately for us, it meant we felt able to drink twice as much on the remaining days. So, not entirely successful as a project, but we felt it had something going for it.
So now I’m retired the question is, am I drinking more than I used to? Am I / we an alcoholic baby boomer as in the article? The answer is no, we are not. Perhaps a little more likely to have that pre-dinner glass of white wine but this balanced by fewer glasses of red with the actual meal. I shall continue to hang on to that research that shows (how do they know these things?) a couple of glasses of red wine every day is good for you, especially as a retired person. Am I right? Do I care? I’m retired.
PS And what about sea salt? That’s another confusing area – better or not better? Who the hell knows.