Get lost, wowsers

Sunday Territorian - - OPINION - DAVID PENBERTHY David Penberthy is a News Corp colum­nist.

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”

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