Daily Archives: 17/11/2014

Middle-aged sofa boozers

This news piece was in The Telegraph last month.

The home drinking celebrated by Gogglebox’s poshest couple is par for the course on the sofas of Britain’s ‘self-medicating’ middle classes.

Every time I visit my local Co-op in north Cambridge, they ask for my loyalty card. At which point – if I can muster sufficient energy – I explain that I don’t have any such card, because then the consumer research bods would track my alcohol expenditure and place a large exclamation mark by my address. I’d swiftly become part of the booming statistic – the strawberry-nosed cliché – that forms the middle-class drinking epidemic.

I don’t often feel part of a social trend, but as soon as I read this week’s research on UK drinking habits, I saw my household reflected back at me. A study by the Grocer magazine suggests the average spend on alcohol, from supermarkets and off-licences, has risen to almost £500 a year; an increase of 3.3 per cent on the previous year.

The 'posh couple' from Googlebox
The ‘posh couple’ from Googlebox

The report says home boozing has become so habitual that drinkers increasingly resemble “the posh couple” from Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall documentary Gogglebox – otherwise known as Stephanie and Dom Parker, from Sandwich in Kent. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of watching people as they watch TV, the Parkers perch on a plush sofa nursing giant tumblers of G&T or balloon-glasses of wine, getting ever more slurred as they critique the week’s viewing. It seems the twosome have become popular not because viewers are incredulous that one couple could drink and drone and watch so much terrible television, but because they recognise those traits in themselves.

I phoned a GP friend based in the Home Counties to see what she made of the research and she readily confirmed her waiting room was full of middle-aged sofa boozers. She said the casual sharing “of a bottle or two a night” is almost always worse for the woman, whose slighter body can’t process alcohol as readily as her spouse’s. “Little and often, the drip-drip effect, can mean liver damage creeps up on someone who might not even get more than relaxed of an evening.” And she cautioned that regular nightly imbibing is more damaging to the liver than the occasional binge.

And if you’re watching telly in an exhausted stupor, rather than chatting, you pour your refill ever quicker. It’s behaviour that my GP friend characterises as “self-medicating” and no wonder. Increasing numbers of stressed professionals (and men in particular) report they can’t sleep without downing several glasses of wine.

And those measures are rarely the delicate goblets of our parents’ age. No, they’re the great big balloons intended for swirling modest amounts of decent wine. Instead we fill them to the brim.

So we recognise it, the newspapers write about it but still we do nothing about it …….

PS As Alcohol Awareness Week begins today I will be posting a daily blog post for the next 7 days.  This is to support this important week and also to clear a backlog of content I’ve got going on too!! 🙂