A problem with drink

Jun 25th, 2008 | By | Category: Ireland

Michael went to his “debs” last night.

The traditional school leaving event held by many groups of Irish school leavers takes many forms – his was a dinner and disco at a local racecourse.

At 11 o’clock, as pre-arranged, we collected him. He doesn’t like music and he doesn’t drink, which meant there wasn’t much interest left in the evening.

“How was the dinner?”


“It was €95 a ticket – how could it have been poor?”

“That was to cover the cost of the cocktail reception and the dance as well. The dinner was salad, then roast chicken, then chocolate cake.”

“What did you get to drink?”

“I asked for something non-alcoholic and the man went off to look for something. I got orange juice.”

I pondered his situation. I do like pop music and I do drink, but I think I would have been as lost as he.

The evening after I finished my A levels in 1979, I went with friends to the King William Inn at Catcott in Somerset where we drank real ale, played skittles and had a huge Ploughman’s Lunch for our supper. We used regularly to go to the King William, I never remember anyone being drunk. It was a place for conversation and laughter and friendship – an English pub at its best.

There is a very dysfunctional relationship with alcohol here (and serious ensuing problems in our health system).

There seems to be hardly an event where it is not served. A colleague attended a reception at a hospital recently where wine was served in the mid-afternoon, to staff who were about to go back on duty or to drive home. It is hardly surprising, then if younger people take the cue that the more alcohol there is, the better the occasion must be.

If you are a quiet seventeen year old, who, through the law and through inclination, does not drink, you are left on the outside.

“What societies are you going to join when you go to college?”

He smiled. “The gun club”.

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  1. Ian

    I agree about the whole Debs scene in Ireland. It’s become such a tacky commercial event that costs ridiculous amounts of money yet most people still feel obliged to attend.

    My daughter’s school held a ‘graduation’ night at the school two weeks before the exams started, to allow the pupils and their families (and all the teachers), an opportunity to celebrate the end of an era. While the dinner was non-memorable, it was a good bonding experience where many memories were shared and alcohol played a very minor part. Those who wanted to, then headed on to party the night away elsewhere. I’m sure that the memories from this kind of night will last a lot longer than any commercial event.

    The school also has a ‘debs’ night organised and the only good thing I’ll say about it is that it’s not held until mid-September so it functions as a class reunion as well as a last farewell to many.

  2. The Debs scene here is not much different nowadays. The hotels are to blame for putting their hand in so deep. The money must be paid well in advance so they are sure of a profit. It happens for Weddings, Christmas, Easter amd Mother’s Day as well.

    My suggestion for Michael is to order a short drink e.g. Ginger Ale, it looks like a so called ‘proper drink’ without having to swallow all the liquid. A night of drinking large glasses of Coke or other popular fizzies would put me off. Bravo to your young man for making a stand.

  3. @ steph:

    Michael’s school did the same – but there was still pressure to attend the ‘debs’.

    I think what I find annoying in retrospect is the subsidizing of other people’s excess (I am a mean hearted old Protestant!)

  4. @ Grannymar:

    He plans to be at the institution on College Green in the autumn, so will be able to move in the culture he chooses.

  5. Mean hearted – never!

    Penny pinching Protestant – probably! 😀

  6. Ian
    Fair play to your lad. I think pubs nowadays could do with a ‘maisie’ from the Kings Head in Ham, she used to serve us lads but would never put up with drunken loutish behavior,the serving of beer would have stopped long before.

  7. School ‘debs’ here are called ‘Year 12 Farewell’ and include the parents at a non alcoholic dinner, mainly because some of the kids are under 18 and not of drinking age anyway. (Parents are allowed a tipple of wine). The big event is always the ‘after party’ usually held at some brave parent’s home or on a boat schlooping around the harbour. The kids buy their own drinks and have to wear an arm band identifying that they’re old enough. There’s plenty of imbibing but paid for by the individuals. Wait until he gets a girlfriend, he’ll have to dance!

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