Get lost, wowsers
GEORGE Best was lying on his bed in a five-star London hotel accompanied by that year’s Miss World when the bellboy arrived with another bottle of champagne. The bed was covered with money Best had won at the casino.
On surveying the debauched scene, the bellboy looked disapprovingly at the football great and said: “Oh, George, where did it all go so wrong?”
Best was nonplussed, reckoning the scene inside his room suggested things were travelling along pretty nicely, thanks.
A few years ago I met a wonderful man by the name of Ray Beckwith. Ray isn’t a household name in this country, but he should be, as he did more to develop Australian winemaking than almost any other person.
Ray wasn’t a winemaker. Ray was a chemist. He pioneered the study of pH – acid and alkaline levels – in wine and applied the rigours of the laboratory to its production.
He found he could prevent wine from spoiling by controlling its acidity to limit bacterial growth.
He started his career at Hardys but was headhunted by Penfolds where he teamed up with Max Schubert. Together they invented a cheeky little red known as Grange Hermitage.
George Best died from alcoholism in 2005 at the grand old age of 59. He had suffered kidney infections, his liver had collapsed, and he had undergone several blood transfusions, quipping after one that he’d been “in for 10 hours and had 40 pints, beating my previous record by 20 minutes”.
The now defunct News of the World newspaper obtained the last photograph of the Manchester United star, taken at his hospital bed. To borrow a line from Get Carter, his eyes looked like two piss holes in the snow. His skin was the colour of a banana.
Ray Beckwith died in 2012. He was 100. He had been married to the same woman, a lovely lady by the name of Coral, for 60 years, outliving her by almost two decades.
When I interviewed Ray at his Barossa Valley home, I asked him what was the secret to his longevity. “Try not to drink more than one bottle of red per night,” he said, without any humour. Sage advice, Ray. I reckon a lot of us can take that on board and run with it.
We saw this week that the Medical Journal of Australia – with cancer having been cured and Motor Neurone Disease conquered – decided to tackle the weightier matter of James Bond’s drinking habits.
In a paper entitled 007: Li- cence to Swill, the MJA gave all us adults a free lecture about our drinking. Using Bond as the example, we were told his incessant drinking was a wake-up call for the rest of us.
Bond’s frequent martini consumption suggested an entrenched pattern of problem drinking and he needed to get help as a matter of urgency.
Worse, Bond combined his drinking with risk-taking activities such as operating motor vehicles, speedboats, and trying to have a crack at Ursula Andress when she emerged from the ocean wearing an awesome white bikini and holding a serrated fishing knife.
In a cheap headline-grabbing sense, the MJA article was a marketing triumph. It was guaranteed a run on every news service and occupied talkback for a couple of days.
The more I reflect on this report, for all its superficial comic value, I have concluded that us adults should feel free to greet it with a pithy fourword response. Go and get stuffed. The MJA paper confirms the determination of the health narcs to apply the same zero-tolerance strictures that govern smoking to the question of drinking.
I could not agree more with the assertion that every cigarette is doing you damage.
Only the most unhinged and scientifically-challenged libertarian would argue otherwise. Aside from a few outliers, smoking will almost always kill you prematurely.
The same cannot be said of hitting the turps from time to time. The happy and healthy Ray Beckwith is a compelling Exhibit A for the prosecution of the argument and just one of the many examples all of us can readily rattle off.
I don’t think any reasonable person would take issue with education campaigns and crackdowns on the undeniable links between alcohol and domestic violence, road deaths, depression and illness.
But for the vast majority of people, alcohol is nothing more than a harmless social lubricant, and a fine-tasting one at that, which consenting and sentient adults choose to consume to unwind with loved ones and friends.
Those of us who enjoy the odd quiet one – and the occasional loud one – should stand up to the sticky beaked wowserism epitomised by the MJA. They have no right to tell us how to behave, but they intend to exercise it anyway.
Merry Christmas. And cheers!
“For the vast majority of people, alcohol is nothing more than a harmless social lubricant, and a fine-tasting one at that”