Friday, November 25, 2005

Giving Thanks

The United States has survived yet another annual bout of tradition. Thanksgiving 2005 has passed and there are 45 million fewer turkeys wandering around. According to tradition, the first Thanksgiving was a cross cultural event. The English settlers wanted to thank the Wampanoag Indians for their help in the colonists surviving their first winter in the new world. The menu for that initial feast comprised dishes native to the new land. The colonists were introduced to turkey, corn bread, sweet potatoes, squash and cranberries. The Wampanoags were introduced to smallpox. There might have been a lot of leftovers from the first Thanksgiving, but by the second there weren’t any leftover Wampanoags. As a result it is not traditional for Americans to invite a bunch of Indians to dinner each year on the third Thursday in November.

On the same day, back in the old country, the population participated in a major bout of tradition breaking. Whilst millions of Yanks were trying to remember their in-laws’ names and figure out what to do with Aunt Edna’s creamed onions, millions of people in England and Wales were trying to figure out what to do with the new Licensing Act. After almost a century of strict controls on the hours a pub could be open, 24 November 2005 provided a reason for every drunk in the country to give thanks. Millions of people wound up trying to remember their own names and figure out how to open a packet of crisps. People in England and Wales have made a science of getting eye-wateringly pissed in spite of the fact that last orders has traditionally been at 10:30 pm and closing up time has been at 11pm. The old system was actually very convenient. If, after a night of pouring as much booze down your neck as humanly possible by 11 pm, you were in the mood for a good fight, a bit of vandalism, or a minor riot, everyone else in the country who wanted to join in the fun was dumped into the street at the same time.

In an attempt to reduce the nightly scenes of public drunkenness and carnage, HM Government decided to try a radical idea. In response to the problem of passive smoking, the government proposed a nationwide ban on lighting up in public places. In response to the problem of massive drinking, the government introduced a nationwide plan to make it easier to drink. (Having a teen-aged girl with purple hair and a large staple in her eyebrow throw up all over you is not considered to be passive drinking). The Prime Minster believes that extended drinking hours will introduce a ‘café society’ to the country. It is hoped that ‘continental drinking habits’ will develop. He has visions of millions of Brits sitting at sidewalk bistros sipping merlot, wearing berets, and arguing about the philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre. Unfortunately, the last time two drunken Brits argued about the meaning of Jean Paul Sartre, 6 square blocks of Newcastle were destroyed.

The descendants of those first settlers of Massachusetts may have the answer to this dilemma. Boston based Samuel Adams Beer Company has introduced a new beer called Utopias. It has 5 times the alcohol content of regular beer. According to their marketing material, Utopias ‘is designed for after-dinner sipping, like a liqueur. It tastes like cognac smells’. At 25% alcohol, the most diehard beer drinker can get totally legless by 5 in the afternoon and be comatose by 6:30.

Eliminating the troublesome elements from the night time streets of Britain would mean decent people could take an evening stroll and not be afraid of being attacked by savages. After all, it worked with the Wampanoags.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Steve Dix said...

I'm fairly well-acquainted with continental drinking habits, having lived in Cologne for the last 6 years, and I must say that the 11 o'clock rush in the U.K. is something of constant amazement to the Germans.

It's also quite refreshing to be able to go for a drink where no-one eggs each other on, and glasses don't end up being picked out of other people's faces. Beer is available from every kiosk, and even in cinemas.

There is, of course, a downside. Look around Cologne and you will see an awful lot of habitual drunks. A group of drinkists gets on the tram I use to get to work every morning. Whereas most of us are only just digesting the first cuppa of the morning, they're on their 2nd beer, There are people far worse off as well, whom have physically damaged themselves with alcohol, hanging round the stations, making themselves a nuisance. So continental attitudes are merely going to replace one problem with another.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting take on Thanksgiving! You sure have a way with the words. Keep em coming!

9:36 AM  
Blogger planetmoron said...

I had the pleasure of drinking a few bottles of Sam Adams Triple Bock back in 1994. It had 17.5% alcohol by volume and was very much like a light brandy.

I look forward to trying Utopias for two reasons: One, it has more alchohol, and two... I forget what two was.

10:18 PM  

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