“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)





06 January 2009



Dry Midwife Gives Kiwis Proho Urge

Fully Burgundied Jap Snots Wife

Scots Give Sparkle To Communion


“This is the most alcohol-driven country I’ve ever encountered” recovering alcoholic Susan Parker - sober for just 27 years – told the New Zealand Herald yesterday. A midwife who’d lived previously Britain, Ireland, Denmark and the USA, Susan said Christchurch’s drinking is "even worse than Ireland".

Just why the paper asked her was not reported. I mean, if you’re looking for a comment, there’s no shortage of drunks in Christchurch.

It’s as bad as Aberdeen of a Saturday night, when the North Sea oilers all come through town on their way back from a week in Barcelona or somewhere, and they dump all their powder in that grey old burgh before they catch the big choppers back to their rigs.

The kids get it into them however they can, dilute it wiv powerful spurruts and maraud in raggedy kilts and Doc Martens. Their parents all work as security guards, lined up outside the restaurants and bars in tuxedos to keep their kids out. And the coppers patrol in nervous teams of twelve, reluctantly interfering now and then to save both lots from killing each other.

Plenty of work for plastic surgeons in Aberdeen.

I was in Christchurch one horrid night after the Christchurch Cup, and if it wasn’t red-nosed hacking-jacketed plaid-tied farmers vomiting very fresh suds at me – no diced carrot – their awful over-dressed wives would bash me with their handbags, just for attempting to get out of their way. I stayed in the best hotel in town, and by 10PM the concierge was cowering terrified inside the door, refusing to open it to anybody. I had to phone him to convince him I was a guest, alone and relatively harmless.

That probably answers my question: the NZ Herald reporter obviously asked the only sober person he could find in Christchurch on Monday morning.

The Kiwis are having one of their little waves of awkward guilt about their boozing.

Where most of Europe has what has been called a "wet" drinking culture based on wine with meals, the Herald reported, New Zealand and other Anglo-Saxon countries are said to have "dry" cultures - where drinking is discouraged but most alcohol is consumed in periodic binges where drinkers actually aim to get drunk.

“Alcohol is literally in our blood” the paper confessed. “Our colonial forebears brought a culture of heavy periodic drinking with them from Britain, which even today consumes about 6 per cent more alcohol per capita than we do.”

So there’s some margin there. You can hear the reporter sigh with relief.

“Broadly speaking” he said, “our consumption seems to have levelled out at around nine litres of alcohol a head, compared with a world average which is now around five litres.”

Gerard Vaughan of the Alcohol Advisory Council told the Herald “it’s is not our total level of drinking, but the way we binge-drink to get drunk. As the AAC's hard-hitting TV ads put it, ‘It's not the drinking. It's how we're drinking’. With five standard drinks you are six times as likely to be injured, and with seven standard drinks you are 10 times as likely to be injured compared with not drinking at all”.

Somebody should have told this to the wife of Japanese businessman Yoichi Shimamoto, who this week sued United Airlines for serving him fine Burgundy at twenty minute intervals between Tokyo and California.

This generosity, he claims, was so good he beat up his wife as they walked through customs at San Francisco. Shimamoto was charged and sentenced to 18 months probation following the incident. He wants the airline to fork up US$100,000 for his bail and defence costs.

Jean Medina, of United Airlines, said: "We believe a lawsuit which suggests we are somehow responsible for the consequences of a passenger's physical assault on his own wife is without any merit whatsoever."

The gentlemen farmers of Christchurch will enjoy that news.

As this parable began in Christchurch, it’s appropriate we should finish in South Leith Parish Church in Edinburgh.

Rev Ian Gilmour, God’s man there, will pour champagne at communion to celebrate the kirk’s 400th anniversary.

"We are going to use it to emphasise the party aspect of being together", the preacher said.

To show their support for his unitarian vision, congregations from other Edinburgh churches intend joining in.

An estimated 20,000 people – people married or baptised in the church, or immediate relatives of those buried without - are eligible for the most formal celebration. The most celebrated of these seems to be young Alistair Stewart, son of Rod, who was christened there in June 2006.

Rev Gilmour said: "I'm not sure what we would do if all 20,000 turned up to be honest.

"Rod Stewart certainly will be contacted though. It would be good if he could come.

"The congregation of South Leith Parish Church is very hard working," said Rev Gilmour. "Some organisations last for little longer than a year, but we've gone on for 400. There are a lot of reasons to celebrate."

Tell that to the good Christians of Christchurch.

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