As Christmas looms on the horizon and the festive lights of London beam down on the increasingly chilly streets of the city, Londoners adopt a magical quality rivalled by no other. Dressed to impress to mask those winter blues, England’s capital captures a fervently festive feel that cannot be ignored.
Whether it’s a national trait or not, we all know Brits love an excuse to let their hair down and have a drink or two, and there’s no better opportunity than at Christmas, where the end of the financial year combined with the imminence of holiday, sparks people’s livers into overdrive.
With this in mind, it’s worth noting that ‘Alcohol Awareness Week’ took place in the latter half of November this year, tactically positioned before the mountains of mince pies and turkey get consumed in clubs, pubs, parties and homes throughout the remaining weeks of 2011.
According to the Metro, in their recent article titled ‘The true cost of a round’, ‘alcohol consumption increases by a staggering 40 per cent in December as collectively we consume more than 600million units of alcohol’, a result of people just looking ‘for a reason to go out’ and as the Charles Jones Institute say, ‘a lot of it is to do with peer pressure and the need to be seen as more sociable.’ Indeed it seems the ‘office party’, that annual one-off event when the whole office get sloshed together on a festive binge, has developed an almost tabooed status amongst Britain’s society, where it’s no longer a case of colleagues letting off their steam, but a full blown onslaught to the depths of wine bottles and the giddy heights of drunkenness.
All that just sounds worse when you consider that many of us spend the other eleven months of the year coasting on the bottle. Yet we probably all agree ‘it is incredibly easy if you have had a tough day at the office to come home and have a glass of wine with your meal, a whisky or two as a nightcap before bed just to de-stress, but are you really aware of what that could be doing to yourself in the long run?’
Office party boozing marathons have become synonymous with absentees and colossal financial damage across the country; ‘Research by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit shows binge-drinking is costing the economy £20 billion a year’, that’s ’17 million days lost due to hangovers or drink related illnesses. The cost to the employer is estimated at around £6.4 billion’.
And if you think that’s bad, NHS costs soar to ‘£1.7 billion’ due to the excess outbreak of alcohol induced injuries that occur around this time. This plague of revelling employees inevitably brings about a severe bout of ‘absenteeism’, says Dr Simon Walker, group head of toxicology at Concateno, a drug and alcohol testing company with some staff adopting a ‘hair of the dog’ approach – going to work under the influence! This is not on apparently; ‘if you’re still intoxicated from the night before, then that’s a breach of health and safety’ and you then put both yourself and your career in jeopardy.
Last month, the Newcastle Chronicle charted the extent to which the ‘party city’ of the North East has embraced the binge, with Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes stating that ‘more than half the incidents of domestic violence in our city take place whilst the offender is under the influence of alcohol and that almost 4,000 of our children under 10 have been affected by their parents misuse of alcohol. Yet those statistics don’t seem that surprising when you see that last year, supermarkets like Asda seemed to be nurturing this new breed of bingers, ‘offering a deal in which you can buy 24 bottles of premium strength lager in 300ml bottles for £11’.
For some parties, this new breed of corporate binging is a vacant market with which to capitalise. On December 1st, a company called Arkay launched the world’s first alcohol free ‘whisky’ just in time for Christmas. They’ve come up with a sturdy alternative to alcoholic whisky by producing a version for teetotallers, or those that cannot drink to health related/religious reasons. With zero alcohol content, and at a wallet wilting £4 a can, it’s a pricey choice that apparently still offers the ‘exceptional taste of whisky’. Or so they say.
Still, no matter how authentic this new tipple will taste, the staunch traditionalists out there will surely take some persuading to ween themselves off the authentic liquid. It definitely seems like a well-timed marketing scheme and a nice idea with Christmas imminent, but will a can of alcohol free whisky appeal over a stiff bottle of the real stuff? I think not; you simply can’t erase the party fever that will creep its way into offices up and down the country at Christmas.
Perhaps the point I am making is that we shouldn’t try to taboo Christmas festivities that involve alcohol, but try and be more ‘aware’ of our actions and how they will affect those around us after a couple of pints, or non-alcoholic drams.