I was out in Reading last night with a mate of mine I hadn’t seen for a while, so we were not doing much other than chatting and trying out a few different pubs. We couldn’t make up our minds about whether to go to Wokingham – where he lives – or to stay in Reading – because it would be easier for me to get home. So in the end we just stayed there checking a few places.
Reading on a Friday night is similar to many other small to medium sized cities, packed full of people getting drunk. And it makes me feel old and sensible to know that even though I was also out drinking, I was perfectly capable of chatting to my friend, and going to get a train home afterwards, though admittedly I adjusted my iPod to Elvis Presley so I could hum along to ‘the king’ on the train.
The level of alcohol abuse openly visible in the street is quite shocking though. People staggering around drunk, people looking quite threatening, and of course young girls in short skirts out of their mind on booze.
I got chatting to a pub pastor in one place we were in. I have never seen a pub pastor before, but there was a team of them and they have woolly hats with ‘PASTOR’ written across it in big letters. She explained that they were not going around the pubs to try to prevent people drinking. They might be from the local church and presumably are God-fearing and pretty well-behaved, but their main mission is not one of temperance. They are focused on the girls who make themselves vulnerable by going out and getting so drunk they will behave differently with the guys in the pub – or won’t be able to take any care about how they will get home if they cannot even stand up.
As we were talking about the problem, a girl in a mini-skirt and heels fell over nearby, emphasising the point the pastor was making.
I’m sure this problem has always existed, but if it is getting worse then who should be doing something about it? The government is forever proposing new measures to police binge drinking in pubs, but take a look at the bars in Reading, or Nottingham, or York. It certainly doesn’t seem to be working. The churches can supply volunteers, as they are doing in Reading, but they are not going to convert drunk kids into model citizens a la St Paul on the road to Damascus.
The clunking fist approach would be to tax alcohol so high, young people can’t afford it, but surely that approach would only lead to moonshine and a resurgence of the acid scene of the late 1980s, where teenagers did not use licensed premises to socialise. And it hurts those who want to socialise in pubs without feeling the pips squeak.
Who can really help the pastors in the pub to achieve their own redundancy?