I’ve always been a big fan of William Crawley and think he is one of the most intelligent and entertaining presenters on the BBC. Tonight, I’ve just seen his documentary on alcohol, Dying for a Drink and he has risen even further in my esteem.
Crawley made an amazing journey in this show, and delved into the very strange relationship we have with alcohol in Northern Ireland. He looked at all sides of the issue: the alcoholics, the abstainers and the ones in the middle who can appreciate alcohol for its taste and qualities without being extreme in any way. Perhaps what made the programme so special was Crawley’s personal journey. Not just his decision to give it up for a month and share the effects, but allowing us the glimpse of his father who was an alcoholic and the effect that had on his life and his up-bringing.
We drink to relax, to socialise, to cope with stress, to wind down, to cheer up, to escape problems, to build self-confidence, to feel more attractive, to lose inhibitions. In other words, we often drink not because we like the taste of it but for the effects. Drink is our national drug of choice, and we are self-medicating to record levels
I guess like many other liberal parents, I never stopped my children from seeing alcohol in the house, and when they were in their teens I encouraged them to drink at home, as opposed to drinking in the Park in a less safe environment. I still think I made the right choice there, but there was enough evidence in this show to demonstrate that this might not always be the right choice and drinking at home may encourage or enable alcoholism in the family
Perhaps the most telling part of the show was Crawley’s attempt at a tee total event at the Black Box in Belfast. He had a 10-piece Soul band with all the tea, coffee and orange juice you could handle. But it never quite took off until the bar opened. This led to the question of what kind of relationship as a society we have with the devils buttermilk, and to be honest it was a ‘sobering’ look at how we interact and seem to see alcohol as a fundamental requirement to enjoyment and fulfillment.
Well done William, and I hope this opens a wider debate on this very difficult issue that leaves so many of us with so many more questions. I am not sure I could ever be as honest, or indeed as tee-totalling, so hats off for a great piece of work.