A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Binge Britain: It's Not "Downton Abbey"

Americans continue to hold on to their rose-coloured glass vision of Great Britain. Perhaps it is the fact that we are still the "prodigal children" wanting so much not to be called "slovenly and ignorant" (as the Brits love to call Americans, since they are the only group that it is still politically correct to skewer.)  It's not a secret that Americans love "Downton Abbey", Jane Austen and always award "Best Picture" to any drama (or actors) that might possess Etonian-infused accents.

But Britain isn't in the Regency period anymore. Good manners and protocol is a thing of the past. While my fellow Americans still think that time stops in the afternoon for a good cream tea, it seems that most of Britain is really busy drinking things that are a little stronger. And they drink a lot of it.

It was Maciej Dakowicz, a Polish photographer who was so shocked by what he saw happening in Britain that he decided to chronicle it. Over a period of four years, he took his camera out and shot photos of  Cardiff, Wales as it binge drank its nights away.  Dakowicz said that he had travelled the world over a period of twenty years and had never seen "anything like" what he saw in Britain with its drinking culture.  The photos are not just from weekend binges, either, in Britain, they are a nightly occurrence.

On the heels of Dakowicz' photos (published last week) came another drunken night in Warrington, captured by Andy Kelvin. Apparently, Warrington's "Showbar" had a "Two-Bob Tuesday" meaning that on Tuesday, patrons paid a £5 entrance fee and all drinks were 10 pence. Two bob.  This period was from 10:30 at night till midnight when they rose to a whopping 50 pence. (Can you imagine buying drinks in the US for a dime or fifty cents?)  Despite the protests of alcohol abuse groups, the promotion targeted students who had arrived as "freshers" (freshman). Many bars stayed open till 5 am.

In the US, we don't have a glorified drinking culture. If you drink a lot in America, you have a problem and you are quickly given an intervention, treated in therapy or shuffled off to AA. It must be the puritanical roots of our ancestors that quickly puts an end to our exorbitance . In England, drinking is a sport.

Unfortunately, it is a sport with absolutely no winners.

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