It takes a lot of bottle to be a man

An Ozzie study says long-term drinking does not cause brain damage – it turns out that men are born to behave badly

The oft-repeated avuncularism that moderate drinking is good for you is no comfort at all to those who take their boozing seriously.

Let’s face it, moderate drinkers are a bore, as indeed are those who cannot hold their drink and, instead of becoming convivially lubricated, turn either bellicose or maudlin.

Moderate drinkers, instead of enjoying a bracing aperitif, utter the dread words: “Shall we go straight to the table?” Moderate drinkers, having cautiously sipped their self-imposed quota, prissily put their hand over their glass as the wine waiter approaches.

Moderate drinkers draw the line under their own consumption just as its their turn to shout.

But while these undeserving creatures are given every encouragement by the medical profession and the nauseous Health Education Authority, true imbibers are threatened with premature death from a thousand causes, most notably cirrhosis, cancer of the throat and bowel, kidney and liver disease and terminal droop. How often has the true bottle man, hiccuping himself contentedly to sleep, dreamt of the news that immoderate drinking is good for you?

Well, it’s arrived. Or at least the next best thing. Winging in from the land of the bandicoot and red funnel spider comes the message that immoderate drinking is not half as bad for you as previously announced. A study by the Australian National University of 209 war veterans revealed that drinking eight pints of beer a day for decades did not affect a man’s ability to think in old age. The men, all Australians, were given brain scans and subjected to a series of mental tests, but the researchers failed to find a single instance of brain damage. So much for earlier studies suggesting that toping leads to dementia.

Of course, there will be those who will pooh-pooh these findings, not so much on medical grounds as on the basis that neither Australian beer nor Australian brains provide a true foundation on which to base any hypothesis. But we may dismiss such scurrility as an unworthy aspersion on as fine a breed of coarse-grained, leather-hided, plain-speaking boon companions as a man could meet this side of oblivion.

Let us hope the Australian findings are just a start, and now that the notion that eight pints a day dissolves your marbles has been proved a myth so, too, will other superstitions, such as the one circulating a few years ago to the effect that immoderate drinking causes men to develop female breasts and suffer from shrunken testes. It is doubtful that the 209 Australian veterans were examined for these conditions since, even in their 70s, most battle-hardened ockers would jib at the implication that they were turning into Sheilas and call a halt to the research by means of a smack in the laughing tackle. If such studies are to be conducted, they would be better addressed to the port and brandy veterans of Pall Mall whose upbringing in the private sector of British education leaves them better equipped to change sex like a true gentleman.

True, men are turning into women in increasing numbers, but drink ought to be absolved of all blame. The men who prefer to become women are influenced not by booze but by current opinion which holds that the female of the species is in every way superior to the male. Nor is this any longer purely a matter of opinion. According to research at the Institute of Child Health, boys are born thuggish, graceless, and boorish, whereas girls emerge from the womb endowed with sensitivity, charm, wit, intuition and the ability to walk in funny shoes. Who can blame a sensitive, intuitive fellow for realising he was born into the wrong sex and seeking solace in the scalpel?

The research puts female superiority down to genes. What else? Ever since the science of genetics took off, and the men and women in the laboratories – the men for ever effing and blinding and dropping test tubes, the women fragrant, sensitive and intuitive – began to isolate genes, they’ve been finding a cell for just about every human characteristic from homosexuality to the cleft palate.

Inevitably the inference that it really is all in the genes gives added impetus to the late 20th century belief in irresponsibility. If we are what we are from the moment of conception, are we to blame should we be found shoplifting or battering old ladies about the head?

Last year, when some women from Essex stood accused of repeatedly taking used bank-notes sent to their place of work to be incinerated and smuggling them from the premises stuffed into their knickers and bras, they denied the charge pleading that to be in possession of large quantities of folding money was in their genes. They were found guilty all the same. They might have done better had they pleaded in mitigation that there was something delicate, graceful and instinctively socially aware in the way in which they inserted the fivers, tenners, twenties and fifties into their nether garments.

For those of us who, try as we may, cannot disprove the ineluctable fact of our being men and yet cannot quite bring ourselves to have the operation, there is comfort not only in the drinking of eight pints a day but also in the knowledge that it leaves our brutally crude and artless brains intact.

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