What’s your tipple?

When my neurologist asked me how much I drink, I was amazed.

For over three months now I have been alocohol free because the instructions on my packet of anti-seizure drugs told me not to drink.

With the self-righteousness of a puritan pastor, I told her that I had drunk nothing for three months because of the drugs. She gave me an understanding smile and then told me I could have been consuming up to three glasses of wine a week without any harm.

Yay! I thought and had my first glass of wine (red, French and rather strong) that night.

As if I was having to fulfill some contractual agreement, I studiously eeked out those three glasses in the first week and now, in week two, I have had, so far, one glass of wine (white, French) and one pint of our local beer… hmmm, it is worth coming here just for the beer, believe me. So still one glass to go before next Monday – fantastic! -should it be wine or beer?

This dilemma added to a previous one – should I start drinking again even if I am allowed to? – has started so many thoughts about the wonderful and awful world of booze.

Listening to, what is for me, a new Joni Mitchell album (Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter), I am struck by many things but at this moment by her ability to conjure up images of those alcohol-fueled moments when you know you are about to make a mistake but, hell, you’re gonna do it anyway.

I spot you through the smoke
With your eyes on fire
From J&B and coke
As I’m coming through the door
I’m coming back.

I know I have said it before but all you need is the wonderful bass playing of Jaco Pastorius, the sublime soprano sax of Wayne Shorter and Joni Mitchell’s nicotine brown voice and, well, I am drunk already.

She knows the problems and the attractions of booze and, unusual in a rock star, knows how to laugh at herself too:

There was a moon and a street lamp
I didn’t know I drank such a lot
‘Till I pissed a tequila-anaconda
The full length of the parking lot!

On a whim, wow, I am getting so adventurous after these months of care, I went outside in the moonlight to look at the street lamps, the scaffolding lights and that most English pieces of street furniture, the belisha beacons – and if you don’t know what they are, look at the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album.

There was the pub and the police station lit up in the deserted street – opposite ends of the spectrum between good and evil, you decide which goes where.

The street was empty except for a shifty looking man hanging around outside the police station, probably a detective trying to find his way in.

I thought of Joni Mitchell and I could taste that J&B and the urge to misbehave.

It was sobering then to read in today’s papers that France’s ministry of health has issued a warning about its national pastime. Apparently the consumption of alcohol, especially wine, is bad for us.

A single glass of wine per day will raise the chance of cancer by up to 168% according to the glamourously named Dominique Maraninchi, President of the National Cancer Institute in France.

I had been worrying, silly me, that if I gave up red wine then I would be missing out on all those antioxidants. Tough, the experts say, if you want the good things in wine, get yourself a bunch of grapes.

Could all this French alcohol fear have anything to do with that well-known tea-totaller (well maybe not our English brew), coffee-totaller, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy?

So what am I to do? Listen to President Sarkozy or Joni Mitchell? You decide.

It is enough to drive you back to drugs.

I have recently come off a daily dose of rather moorish Morphine tablets after fracturing my spine as a part of going through a brain haemorrhage. They say that the opiate drugs are the most fun….well that is until you get addicted, which is pretty quickly, and then it is a downward spiral of misery. I am sticking to coffee, French, black and very strong, my last addiction.

Apparently most of the world’s illegal opium comes from Afghanistan (90%) – last year they produced 7,700 tonnes of opium for the international drugs underworld. Of course, when that infamous band of kill-joys, the Taleban, were in control, guess how much opium they produced then? Yes, you are right, none.

Well, they used to say the good thing about Hitler was that he got the trains to run on time.

A clever person, not me, obviously, suggested the other day that instead of spending
$200 billion on the military invasion of Afghanistan, the US could have merely bought up all the illegal drugs at a snip for about $2 billion a year.

They could then sell the opium to those money-crazed Western drug manufacturers to make into our totally above-board medical drugs – my morphine included.

This is obviously much too sensible an idea to put into practise. It would put the drugs to a useful purpose and it would deny the Taleban their estimated annual profit of $100 million.

Funny how everything comes back to money these days. A drink anyone? Mine’s a pint of Harveys.

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