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Cakes and ale are perfectly okay, says John Drennan


EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY: John Drennan puts his credo into practice. Photo: Tony Gavin

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY: John Drennan puts his credo into practice. Photo: Tony Gavin

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY: John Drennan puts his credo into practice. Photo: Tony Gavin

One of the most famous quotes from Shakespeare is the plea by Sir Toby Belch when faced by a new age of Puritanism of 'so dost thou think because you are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?'

Whatever about Twelfth Night, there is no doubt Sir Toby would not be at home in the current Ireland - for here indeed is a land that is hostile to cakes, ale, and citizens too.

Paddy might in the past have been known for our easy going ways and non-conformity, but the long age of Bohemian Ireland has been well and truly defenestrated by the recession.

Instead, a new thin spirit of Puritanism has invaded a state where conformity is currently king.

In that regard, one of the great agents of the conformist spirit is the issue of how Paddy behaves around food, drink, and cigarettes.

Suddenly morality is, in the absence of the church, now decided by food, drink and body mass index.

I have to confess that I am not a disinterested advocate, for as my many Sinn Fein Twitter friends are always keen to point out I like cakes, ale and cigarettes too. I am also aware that cakes, ale and cigarettes are, in excess, not good for you.

The wise doctor who notes that a little of what you like - but not too much please - is good for you, is correct.

The problem, though, is that one also has to square that with the reality where you only get one run on the merry-go-round of life.

It is often noted that those who jog for the equivalent of 20 years will live for 20 years longer than those who don't.

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But how much does it benefit a man or woman to live for 20 years longer on this earth if that time is spent imitating a hamster on a treadmill.

Ultimately, even though this is about food and alcohol, the greatest difficulty I have with the new orthodoxy is political. The nature of governments, and authority in general, is that they like to break the people's spirit, and there is no better way to achieve this than to make the citizenry feel guilty and demoralised.

The most practical way to secure this effect is to create such a clatter of laws and regulations that Paddy can never be right no matter what he does.

In fairness, when it comes to the new obsession with the evils of cake, ale and cigarettes, the government and the HSE are not alone.

Rather like the classic fascist state and its ministry of propaganda all of popular culture has been dragooned into the act.

Our airwaves are full of curiously named health coaches and advocates barking at the pleasantly plump. The aim appears to be to create a new master race of Paddys who will all agree that whilst butter will make you fat, broccoli will make you productive.

Clearly, no sane man can disagree with the assertions of our health fascists. The problem, alas, lies with the scolding, hectoring thing that is adopted in their relations with the citizens.

The other slight problem is that those who want poor Paddy, when he is on the beach to resemble the American guy rather than a slightly more broiled version of D'Unbelievables is the slight issue of genetics.

You see, unlike our Italian cousins, Paddy is not designed to be thin. Genetics, not breakfast rolls, are responsible for his eternally round state.

Sadly, all the old delicacies about fatties actually being big-boned, or sympathy over the excessively tight tailoring of suits, are gone these days.

Instead, under the new dispensation, those who drink or smoke are now enemies of the state, who must be reformed.

We are, in particular, a great disappointment to Enda who doesn't want to offend the new digital kings who must rule us with offensive images of fat Paddys smoking cigarettes outside any building hosting some kind of digital Nirvana.

Instead, in Ireland - the new Singapore - everyone must cycle to work and resemble Cassius rather than Caesar.

The problem with the great plan, though, is that Paddy tends to get a bit snappy when he is lectured too much or he is told to shape up and improve himself too often.

The great nagging reign of the broccoli-loving cycling fascists, happily, has had one side-effect.

Being fat is now an act of heroic rebellion against the great rage of the puritanical machine of health advocates.

It is the equivalent of indulging in the act of thought crime - or in this case, fat crime - in Orwell's 1984.

It is a strange state of affairs, but such, alas, is always the case in all iconoclastic furies. Even having a cigarette is an act of subversion against our new rulers.

Anyway, it is time for the fat and the free to embrace their curves, tummies, chins, man breasts and the rest of the accoutrements of shame.

So if you see one of those screeching RTE trainers and no-fat fetishists, have another cake or pie or pint.

In fact, if they are beside you have two. Make sure, if you see Senator John Crown walking past with an anti-e cigarette placard, to light up a real cigarette.

And remember that if you spend all your life fretting about how to extend your life then the life you actually live will not be experienced to its full.

It may be a central feature of the new Puritanism that those who are not like the herd will be clucked to death.

But, whilst they have the advantage for now, the triumph of the fatties and smokers, via our laughter in the pubs and patisseries, is on its way ... if we live long enough to witness it.

Try a short-term change of lifestyle, says Dr Ciara Kelly

Okay, I've never considered being overweight, ale-swilling and  cigarette-smoking as an act of rebellion before!  I respect the subversive in you, John, but are you really striking a blow for the free-thinking individual when two thirds of Irish males are doing the exact same thing?

You're actually less counter culture and more the epitome of our pervasive culture - where most men are overweight or obese and have harmful drinking patterns. It strikes me that you have constructed an elaborate rationalisation about the political nature of your lifestyle that allows you to excuse being very unhealthy!

Our Paddy is on course to be the fattest man in the world. So I don't buy the idea that fat, smoking, ale-swilling Paddy is having the craic. Because waking up chesty, with a hangover and having difficulty bending down to put your own socks on isn't as much fun as it sounds.

The truth about the healthy lifestyles you rail against, isn't just that people live longer, but that they feel better while they live longer.

The real truth is that being overweight and knocking back excessive amounts of a depressive makes you feel just that - lethargic and depressed. And Paddy has one of the highest rates of male suicide in the world - and that's not genetic

My advice would be to try a short-term change of lifestyle and see if you feel better. Do it for six weeks and see if you still feel the same. Don't look at it as giving up what you like. look at it as throwing off what's been holding you back.


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