Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trollied Tuesday: in defence of the drunkard

The growing pursed lipped and priggish tendency in public life is one that frowns on any displays of public intoxication. A great pity as a truly spectacular display of pie-eyed incoherence or shambolic hopelessness is one of the great joys of life.

In standing up for those who put themselves in a state where standing up is difficult that's not to say I endorse the more oafish forms of drunkenness: aggression, vomit and broken glass aren't especially interesting after all. But for all that, even a boorish and tiresome drunk - of the Ollie Reed variety, for instance - provides a rich vein of comedy for all those who don't have to deal with them directly. (Reed's chat show appearances will show you what I mean).

Two news stories from the past week illustrate the point nicely. There was the court appearance of Clare Irby, a distant cousin of the Guinness family that has done so much to bring civility of joy to the Irish nation, who was accused a drunkenly cavorting (a fine word, I wish we had cause to use it more often) with a man she had met on a plane. Rather splendidly, she was cleared of being drunk on a plane because the court ruled that the prosecutors had to prove she was still half cut when the flight had entered British airspace. Since the cavorting had happened earlier in the flight, she was cleared. It's the least she deserved for the joy she had brought to newsrooms across Fleet Street. (Helped, as Rowan Pelling astutely observes, by our love of posh totty behaving badly).

Then there was the story of Boris Yeltsin's trip to Washington. The mental image of the President of Russia "a few hundred feet from the White House clad only in his underwear and trying to hail a cab — because, he explained, he wanted a pizza" is the fable of the emperor's new clothes for grown-ups with a proper sense of the absurd.

Even the fact that this was a man who controlled nuclear weapons (I'm sure they gave him a placebo red button to press in his cups) is much less alarming than the fact that his successor was such a whey faced little puritan. The new president even is trying to get the Russians to stop drinking vodka altogether. No good will come of it.

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