It’s not just the young who have a drink problem | Ian Jack

I consume 100 times more alcohol than my dad did. Now I’ve learned that harmful drinking affects older people most, I feel I need to do better Recently I calculated that every year I drink about 100 times as much alcohol as my father did, and at least 200 times as much as my mother. The annual total in dad’s case came at most to a dozen small bottles of beer plus a whisky at New Year, while over the same 12 months Mum might have two or three glass of advocaat mixed with lemonade, and at New Year a couple more of sherry. These tiny amounts have to be measured against my own domestic intake of getting on for three bottles of wine a week, or let’s say 150 bottles a year, which takes no account of the uncertain number swallowed outside the house at restaurants, farewell parties, funerals and the homes of friends. I console myself with the fact that I hardly ever drink spirits or beer, rather like the brandy-befuddled shepherd whom Richard Hannay meets in The Thirty-Nine Steps , who can’t understand his condition: the shepherd considers himself a teetotaller because he “keepit aff the whisky”. In truth, compared to the good and sober habits of my parents, my consumption is shameful. They would be worried by the ritual that occurs more evenings than not: the squeak of the corkscrew, the glug of wine into glass, the question: “Oh, shall we have another?” In their day, the alcohol that was kept in the house hardly ever left its little cupboard. A bottle of cognac and a bottle of Glenlivet, given to my grandparents at their wedding in 1899, lay there unopened. Slowly their gilt labels (“Bruce & Glen, wine merchants, Dunfermline”) turned black with the passing years. Continue reading...