Claire Black: In Scotland we don’t trust people who don’t drink

Claire Black
Claire Black
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I’VE been off the sauce for a while. Not teetotal, just not drinking very much.

After one pint of lager the other night I caught R looking at me in askance, the raised eyebrow suggesting that I might, perhaps, be a little bit drunk. I tried to protest – “I only had one…” – but it was pointless because she was right. I was. Not guttered, not falling down, not stramashed, but definitely a bit squiffy.

One-can Dan. A cheap date. A lightweight. True, all true. Women’s livers produce less dehydrogenase, the enzyme that the body uses to break down the alcohol so we get drunk quicker and stay drunk for longer. We have on average ten per cent more fat than men, which means there’s less body fluid to dilute the alcohol so it stays in a more concentrated form and does more harm.

But when I’m among women of my age, and younger, I’m usually the one who’s skipping rounds or ordering a mineral water chaser.

I struggle to keep up with friends who pour glasses of wine large enough for three and who think nothing of moving from an afternoon of beers to a dinner awash with wine to whatever’s going as the evening progresses.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a drink. I enjoy a glass of wine. I’m partial to a Speyside and I love a Guinness. I feel that I have to say this, just like I felt I had to tell you that I’m not a teetotaller above, because this is Scotland and we don’t trust people who don’t drink. I don’t want you to discount what I’m saying because I’m not one of those who can imbibe their own bodyweight in spirits of a Friday night. The fact is, though, that focusing on those people – the kids slumped outside clubs or the hardened drinkers necking super-strength booze from oversized plastic bottles – might just be obscuring a danger closer to home.

At my age I am slap bang in the middle of the group – women in their 30s and 40s – which is, according to a new report, showing a “worrying” increase in those dying from alcohol misuse. The number of alcohol-related deaths of women born in the 1970s has “disproportionately increased” since the middle of the last decade, bucking the downward national trend of such deaths across England and Scotland over the same period.

This is a warning signal, say the researchers, that we must heed if we’re to avoid many more pointless premature deaths.

We drink to help us relax, to cope with stress and to have a good time. But booze is exacting a heavy cost that’s only going to get heavier unless we start facing up to the sobering facts.

AS AN inhabitant of Edinburgh, forgive me for being a little sceptical of Paris being the city that extends the rudest welcome to tourists. Come on people, admit it – when our guests from overseas are looking for exact change for the bus we don’t exactly radiate a warm welcome. So perhaps we could learn a thing or two from Do You Speak Touriste? It’s a guide produced by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry to help ensure that the 33 million foreign visitors who sashay down the Champs-Elysées are not inadvertently insulted. Info contained includes: the English eat ridiculously early, between 6pm and 7pm, while the Spanish eat ridiculously late at 11pm. Americans expect to find wifi everywhere, the Chinese are obsessed by shopping, Germans like cleanliness and precision and Italians are impatient. So just to be clear, it’s about not insulting people…

GOOD news for shamed monoglots amongst us. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music have discovered that singing in a foreign language can make learning how to speak that language easier. Zut alors! I am heading immediately to an online emporium in order to download as much Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf as I can fit through my bandwidth in order that I might improve my French. Or perhaps I should launch myself into Kurt Weill to remind me of that German Standard Grade a million years ago. Yes, I realise that the vocabulary might be a little, well, niche but it’s bound to be more fun than Rosetta Stone. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays