“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





22 August 2008

The wowsers are not ready

by PHILIP WHITE - This was published in The Independent Weekly in 2006

Saturday’s reading started with Friday’s Financial Review colour mag. The first reference to the drug, alcohol, came quickly with the head “Drinks missionary bar none”, a piece about London’s new bar czar, Jonathon Downey. He’s coming to Sydney to open more bars. “What the hell are we going to do when we can’t smoke, dance, drink and fight in bars anymore?” he asked.

Then came a woman in suspenders with a bottle of Dom Perignon pink, giving Karl Lagerfeld a plug. The old restaurateur, Beppi Polese, was next: full page, in his cellar, white wine in hand. Over the page he’s sniffing a red. Another full page praised vintage port.

The Life and Leisure section devoted half a page to Seppeltsfield, our most hallowed port house. Then a double page to “the historic riesling region”, Clare.

There were pieces about pubs losing money via the smoke bans, and the MD of Adelaide Bank being awarded an expensive burgundy for achieving a twenty five per cent increase in profit.

Move to the Weekend Oz. “Clare may offend again” turned out to be about a serial pedophile, with no mention of historic riesling. Similarly, the bit about Bob Francis made no mention of alcohol, but Lion Nathan confirmed a $25 million profit in Business. The Tour de France winner made the front page of Sport saying his testosterone was high because he’d had a pint of beer.

Travel included a half page on the Italian winemakers of the King Valley, another praising the Pinots noir of Curly Flat, and an encouraging piece about the glories you can drink with your food at Brasserie Moustache, which everyone should attend. It’s near Henschke’s. Magazine ran another piece about Seppeltsfield.

Then there was yours truly recommending the wines of Tim Smith in The Independent Weekly, and I imagine The Advertiser must have had alcohol in it somewhere.

Considering all this, it’s amusing to find the Fin Review’s Health page listing Australia’s “top six drugs” as being aspirin, insulin, diuretics, antibiotics, Paracetamol, and the opiates.

Who are they kidding? Most of the dudes I know on that stuff take it to alleviate the effects of alcohol.

I dined recently with Dr. David Caldicott, the emergency and trauma research fellow at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and Sandra Kanck, the Democrat. While we drank an exquisite red from Ben Jeanneret – Clare offending again – we talked about the hypocrisy of this society when it comes to drug use and abuse.

Now that the fizz of sanctimonious outrage is settling, it’s worth re-examining the pasting all media gave Kanck for her attempt at injecting some logic into the drug debate. Having read her contentious Legislative Council speech of May 10, complete with the contrary hissings of Anne Bressington – thanks for that, Nick – one can only marvel that none of these detractors can see that there are votes in more sensible, realistic, holistic drug policy. Or maybe they can. Maybe that’s why they’re all so hissy.

Maybe Bressington suspects that the party-drug users who voted for Xenophon may have cast their ballot in another direction if they’d known about her.

The infuriating spaghetti of theories and ideas that rise from any contemplation of drug use share one point of eureka clarity, and this is where they most revealingly intersect: the point where drug policy is actually formed. Who forms it? Drug companies? The liquor barons? The religious right? The Laura Norder brigade? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And the politicians and press who can control the ebb and flow of public fear and derision by ridiculing the likes of the well-intentioned Kanck. They’re scared and angry. They think the debate is evil in itself.

The wowsers certainly aren’t ready for Caldicott. As a scientist and an intellectual, he’s razor sharp and determined. As a hot-blooded Irish catholic who dated Dr Ian Paisley’s daughter, he understands the holy roller, the Bible-poker, the interferist and the self-interested powermonger as well as he knows the reality of life and death at the front line in his wards. Where does his budget go? Repairing the victims of alcohol, of course.

“Until I came to Australia I’d never met a dim Australian”, he said. “You have a genetic ingenuity which you betray by adopting an American drug policy which is used as a political agenda. It’s morally bankrupt. It should be the doctors and scientists making this agenda, not politicians, unelected priests, or press.”

I’ll drink to that.

No comments: