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”.