The Rules of Drinking Review: Nothing Changes

TIMESHIFT – THE RULES OF DRINKING: Wednesday 11th January, BBC4, 9pm

If last Saturday night resulted in a haze of boozy glory, followed by a hangover from hell and the inevitable declaration that you’ll never ever again let another alcoholic beverage pass your lips (and this time you damn well mean EVER)… don’t worry, it’ll soon be Friday! What’ll it be? Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please mate?

Don’t feel too guilt-ridden, this inevitable weekly ritual happens to the best of us and apparently, despite some big bad media types preaching about ‘booze Britain’ and that lovely ‘binge-drinking culture’ of ours, according to Timeshift: The Rules of Drinking, it has been going on behind the doors of public houses for decades. This rather interesting BBC Four doc explores the drinking culture of Britain since the days of First World War; charting the nation’s ingrained and often complex relationship with alcohol whereby “a deep love of rules and an even deeper love of drinkâ€? has seen us socially-awkward Brits let loose and become happily immersed in its inhibition-quashing effects ever since.

Each decade is defined by its relationship to drink; from the days when an end-of-the-week trip to the pub was a chance for the working man to put on his best clobber and quietly enjoy a few with his pals (a fact for all you scruff-bags out there who consider a pair of Reeboks the height in sophistication); to the discovery of foreign and ‘exotic’ cocktails not dissimilar to those quaffed by George Michael in his uber-tanned eighties video heyday; all the way through to the shocking state of the drink-until-you-drop high streets of today.

Instead of focusing on its obvious pitfalls and the well-known dangers of the irresponsible use of alcohol – not to mention the ‘a glass of red wine is good for you’ and the following week’s ‘dangers of red wine!’ contradictory headlines – there is no scare-mongering or tut-tutting to be found here. In what makes for a documentary as refreshing as a pint of Fosters we hear about the cultural impact of what is undeniably – no matter hard we try to detox – a massive part of people’s everyday lives (and hangovers).

With commentary from beer experts, sociologists and alcoholics respectively… giving insight into their own early experiences and recollections of drink; there are tales of pub etiquette, cheeky advertising campaigns and just how much George Best managed to put away. Particularly fascinating to the ears us folk who are no doubt used to hearing how many units of alcohol a week we should or should not be drinking (14 for women, 21 for men FYI…), comes the general consensus that we basically knock back the same now as we did at the turn of the century anyway. Cheers! This calls for a celebration surely, who cares if it’s only Wednesday…