James May on Booze

Posted by James May at 05:12 am on Tuesday August 14, 2012

Something I discovered at a fairly early age is that it's not possible to drink and play the piano.

This still surprises me, because without any question of a doubt I am a better darts player after precisely three pints. At two pints, I'm still a bit erratic, and by four, other people are cowering behind the pub furniture and taking down the valuable Victorian etchings to stow them out of harm's way. But with three pints on board, I hit a sweet spot in my muscle memory, and the flashing javelins of my endeavour fly as assuredly as winged Hermes to the bull.

Something similar happens with snooker, but then it takes two pints. That innate sense, possessed by all good snookerists, of understanding exactly the complex Newtonian physics of balls emerges in my bowels like a moment of clarity enjoyed when wrestling with a difficult mental problem. Down goes the blue, from bloody miles away. Did you see that?

I've never been a very sporty type, but I wonder if there are other games at which I might excel, after a few tall ones. I was especially bad at cricket when I was at school, but then again, they never gave me a couple of jars first. I might have been brilliant.

This is why, among my pitifully few ambitions, is the urge to stage a games event called The Pissed Olympics. Rather than worry about drug abuse, I will level the playing field with the requirement for all athletes to drink eight cans of appalling supermarket own-brand lager before entering the stadium.

This would make the Olympics more ‘inclusive', because the qualities needed to triumph are learned in the pub, and more people go to pubs than join sports clubs. It would also make the pole vault more amusing.

But back to the piano - no. It doesn't work if there's an ounce of ale in me. And the experience isn't as good anyway, because the music - such as it is - enters through beery ears, and the simple tactile pleasure of fingering the keys is corrupted. Plus there's the alarming impression that the piano is about to fall on top of me.

This brings me to the thorny subject of drinking and driving. In fact the best argument against it is not a moral one; it's that alcohol would spoil driving. Driving is a bit like playing an instrument, in that it's about subtle sensations, and drink numbs them. Drink is dubious Fifties handling and brakes, in a bottle.

So if a BMW M3 is coming towards you down a narrow road, and the driver at the wheel is a bit shitfaced, you are effectively on a collision course with a Triumph Mayflower.

You might be one of those older people who claims to be a better driver after a few glasses of something, but you just think you are. You are at the point where I believe I can dance.

The difference is that people have made videos of me dancing, so I know I'm wrong. Having thought about this a bit, I now realise that the countryside is even more dangerous than I thought it was. It's already pretty hazardous, because it's too dark, it smells funny, it's designed to twist your ankle and, anyway, Richard Hammond lives there.

And then there are the pubs. I can't help noticing that a lot of them are in the middle of nowhere. There are no buses in the sticks, as country people keep reminding us on Radio 4, so the only way to get there is to drive.

Are people really going to go to all that effort and then just have a half of shandy? I can't see it. And then they have to get home again. There's another problem here, in that the dangers of drinking and driving exactly parallel the dangers of drinking in itself. Once you've had a few, you're too drunk to realise that
you shouldn't do any more drinking.

That's pretty harmless if all you're going to do is stagger for a hundred yards and then attempt to sleep in your neighbour's bin store, but if a bed of some sort is a five-mile journey through swamps and forests inhabited by deranged medievalists, then you'll want the safety and security of the car. My advice for countryside drinkers is: if you're going to get carried away, make sure you actually get carried out.

Look: I'm a massive fan of drink, and I think it brings the world together. I would defend to the death our right to get a bit lit up in the face of tedious tight-arsed reformers. But it really doesn't mix with driving. Drinking and driving wrecks cars.


TAGS// james may

1 Responses to "James May on Booze"

  • ando said...
    Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 09:20 am Link to comment

    probably one of the best "Don't Drink and Drive" morale following note ever written, May's article is witty as usual and a real eye opener....

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