The Welsh Assemblage of Useless Authoritarian Wasters has introduced minimum pricing for alcohol. What a total and utter waste of time, as much of a waste of time as the Assemblage itself.
You know, when the Blair Witch decided to go ahead with devolution, Scotland’s vote was pretty decisive. They wanted their own parliament who are now hitting them hard for smoking and drinking and eating – and taxing them more to pay for more control over them. Still, that’s what they wanted. They voted for it.
The vote in Wales returned a resounding ‘don’t care’ because that is the Welsh way. The Welsh have never cared who is in charge, for the most part, because they aren’t going to pay any attention to who is in charge anyway. Plaid Cymru do well not because of their policies but because they have a Welsh party name. They can get into positions of power but have never grasped that the bulk of Wales doesn’t give a shit.
There is a place called Treherbert. I went there once. I spent most of my early life living mere miles from it and went there only once. It was enough A tiny place at the end of the railway line, it is nestled in a deep valley between high mountains and sees very little of that strange yellow circle in the sky, even in summer. If you are ever looking for the legendary Caer Colur (the gloomy enclosure) I’d recommend starting there.
Some years ago there was a news story about Treherbert. The name got my attention at once. Something newsworthy happened in Treherbert? What could it be? Dalek invasion? Secret lair of Blofeld? Someone dropped a spoon?
A guy in a council house was making his own vodka when his still exploded in a most spectacular fashion. Apparently – and this came as a surprise – he wasn’t breaking any laws because it was all for his own use. He did not intend to sell any.
Hmm. I live on a farm that grows barley specifically intended for the whisky industry. I could probably buy a tonne at cost price. But let’s not get distracted by my hobbies.
The point is, even years ago there were home stills when cheap supermarket booze was available. In the 1979-1982 years of my first degree there were dedicated homebrew shops everywhere. They started reappearing in Scotland (not dedicated shops but homebrew sections in other small shops) even before the minimum pricing nonsense started here.
In my early teens you could buy homebrew kits in supermarkets and since they had no alcohol in them as sold, they were not subject to age restrictions. It was just syrupy malt and a packet of yeast. I see those making a big comeback soon.
I have a friend in Wales who will care nothing for this minimum pricing nonsense. He has a large garden full of fruit trees and they all get turned into wine. His blackcurrant wine is particularly good. So he doesn’t actually buy much commercial booze.
Look at other countries. Iran has a total booze ban for religious reasons. You are not even allowed an alcohol based mouthwash. So what happens? Stories of weddings ruined because of dodgy black market booze poisoning everyone.
Norway has horrific alcohol pricing and you can only get a limited amount from State booze stores. The result? Alcohol purchases in Norway have plummeted. Success? Sales of raw sugar have soared. What do you imagine is happening there?
Alcohol is really easy to make. Making it safe to drink is not quite so easy. Promoting an unregulated black market is never a good idea. But then, when was the last time any politician had a good idea?
Scotland’s minimum pricing might have worked maybe 20 years ago. It’s a long way from Aberdeen to the border and I’m north of Aberdeen. Driving down for a case of whisky is not cost-effective and would be a tough one to do in one day. Scotland is narrow but pretty damn long. But hey, we have internet now so I can order booze from English suppliers and it’s not subject to minimum pricing.
Today I was at the dentist for my half-year teeth count. Nothing wrong with me, she even took X-rays in a desperate attempt to find something wrong with this smoky-drinking curmudgeon. Little side observation – are all dentists small women now? I’m not objecting, I don’t mind at all, it’s just that there seem to be no male members of staff at all in that place.
Afterwards I passed the whisky shop, so I called in and treated myself to a bottle of Shackleton. I hadn’t seen it before. A malt blend based on the whisky taken on the 1907 Antarctic expedition. The whisky shop is never cheap, the more common ones are much cheaper in the supermarket but this place is where you find the unusual ones. It’s a great shop. When I win the lottery I’m going to try the high shelves with the ‘Oh fucking hell’ prices.
Wales is, frankly, tiny. It’s also vertically narrow with the English border on the east side so none of it is very far from a day-trip over the border. Get a few friends together, hire a minibus and stock up. Easy. It’s going to happen. So who will this new law damage? Well, corner shops mostly, small businesses, a small effect on the likes of Aldi and Lidl but alkies? Nah. It will be of great benefit to the English economy to the detriment of both Wales and Scotland. You know, guys, you voted in some utter fuckheads to run your devolved administrations – but then, who but an utter fuckhead wants a job that’s all about controlling their own countrymen and making their lives harder and more miserable?
What will also happen is homebrew and also criminal gangs filling the gap for those who can’t afford van hire or homebrew equipment. All of it totally unregulated and all of it free of any care about age limits. What a great idea, eh? No wonder government buildings have so many big windows.They need room for everyone to get a lick.
You know, more and more often these days, I’m thinking November 5th should be a day of national rejoicing in the UK. We should not be burning Guy Fawkes in effigy. We should be hailing him. He had the right idea.
At least he tried.