Monday 9 December 2019

Billy Keane: 'Never mind the experts, let's have a toast to the warmth of laughter, friendship and pub sing-songs'

Keane's Kingdom

I am serious when I say the World Health Organisation should factor in fun, music and companionship when it compiles its data on the dangers of drink... The secret is to drink enough, but not too much. Stock picture
I am serious when I say the World Health Organisation should factor in fun, music and companionship when it compiles its data on the dangers of drink... The secret is to drink enough, but not too much. Stock picture
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I was thinking of ringing in sick this morning, even though there was nothing much wrong with me. I was a bit hoarse from roaring at a match but I'm not being paid to read the news. Seeing as writing is a silent occupation, I would never get away with it.

There are no excuses when you work for a paper. How can you ring in sick when one of your colleagues is off in some dangerous, hot place? There may be no water and people trying to shoot you; there you are thirsty and starving. Some correspondents raise the bar very high.

I am a small bit seedy from last night's drinking. Not what you would call bad hangover sick, but I know I had the few drinks.

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There is no way I could drive the car for at least a couple of hours, which begs the question, am I in a fit state to write? I am.

There's no danger of knocking anyone down when you are at the wheel of a laptop. I don't feel in any way intoxicated but I did use up my weekly quota of alcohol units in one go. I'm not even sure if I know how many units are allowed these days. The World Health Organisation (WHO) keeps on reducing the figure. It could be that the limit is zero.

There is no internet here to check.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a doctor who had the bottle to come out and say the few pints is good for the head? The bit of fun too is good for us and men who seldom open up about their troubles often talk to their friends after the few drinks. Those who live alone are never alone in their local.

This vital information is never factored in to all the reports on the drink. In my view the research is selective and incomplete.

I'm writing this on Black Friday.

I haven't checked but I'm pretty certain there are shopping outlets selling booze for more than us publicans can buy it for.

I put up a notice in the pub to the effect that if you bought 300 pints, there would be one free. That's what passes for sarcasm in these parts. But I am serious when I say the WHO should factor in fun, music and companionship when it compiles its data on the dangers of drink.

I'll bet there will never be a report from a high-powered scientists or doctor outlining the benefits of a sing-song in the pub.

And there's also a case to be made that drinking can be educational. I am a big fan of Toastmasters, the movement which gives people the training and confidence to speak in public. Toastmasters is empowering and enlightening. The members use a gentle approach in their analysis of speaking techniques and any one of you who is petrified about having to make a presentation at work, or the dreaded speech at the daughter's wedding, should join up.

By the way, Toastmasters has not endorsed my opinions on the benefits of the few drinks.

This is my own personal view. I was just thinking there now that a good many doctors will tell you privately there is no harm in taking a relaxing few pints.

Wouldn't it be gas and mad if a group of medics got together and formed a group called Healthy Drinking?

The problem with the experts who compile the reports is that they haven't ever really experienced the beautiful coming together when old friends meet up.

Most of them gave up their youth to studying day and night to get where they are today. That dedication has to be admired.

My favourite pub moment ever was on a Christmas Eve when two sisters walked into John B's after being away in America for 15 years. The sisters couldn't come home as they were afraid they might not be able to get back into America.

The girls were given the green card, which was the ticket for home and freedom. We were all bawling with the happiness. Better than any medicine.

Anyway, back to Toastmasters.

Julia Galvin, the former world champion mountain bike bog snorkelling champion, was the topics master and it was her job to choose the matter up for discussion.

One of the topics was: "What do feminists think of the notion of women and children first on a sinking ship?"

There was no bother about letting the kids go first but the debate on allowing women on the lifeboats before men was lively and funny at times.

One really smart woman told the story of her dad sitting on a bus. A woman who seemed to be pregnant stood beside him because there were no seats.

The dad was about to get up and offer his seat to the maybe pregnant lady, but then he got to thinking. What if the lady wasn't pregnant? Could she be overweight? The dad could hardly say: "Here, take this seat but you have to be pregnant."

Here's what he decided upon. "Better," thought the dad, "to have a pregnant woman standing than an overweight woman in tears."

I'm grand now. The side effects are gone. The secret is to drink enough, but not too much.

I'm here in my old bed, in my old room, and the old days keep streaming in through the gaps of this day like when you open the blinds on a sunny day.

There's a bit of work going on up in my house. I pull the artist's exemption. The noise of drills and hammers will cancel my creativity. One of the great advantages of spending the first 18 years of my life living over a busy pub is that I could write or sleep on top of a volcano. I just felt the need to spend a night here.

This is the first time I've slept in our old home since Mam died over four years ago. Sometimes I get lonely. I actually got up out of bed this morning to tell Mam the story of the dad on the bus. But I still feel her laughter here.

The enjoyment of the night brought on these fine feelings of forever fun. Dad would have loved the sing-song and the debate.

I just closed my eyes for a few seconds and there was the picture before me of Mam laughing at the dad on the bus. I better make sure to make my bed.

Irish Independent

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