Apostrophe Catastrophe!

So says the Mail.

This all started with a drink. But it very nearly didn\’t because when I looked at the cocktail list in the otherwise swanky Charlotte Street Hotel in London and discovered that martini\’s (sic) were £10.50 and classic\’s (sic) £10.50 I momentarily lost my thirst.

The price was bad enough. But did you have to pay extra if you wanted to have your drink correctly punctuated? And would a martini  –  mine\’s made with Plymouth gin, please, very dry, shaken with a twist  –  taste as good if it also contained a stray apostrophe?

Caught up in a spasm of punctuation-rage I, perhaps slightly aggressively, asked the poor waitress what those two utterly extraneous apostrophes were doing there. She backed away hurriedly and sent over the assistant bar manager.

Mariusz Szymecki may have been Polish but his English was fluent. Or almost fluent.

\’Both spellings  –  martini\’s and martinis  –  are correct,\’ he said firmly. \’I know this is right because, when I heard what you wanted to know, I checked it on Google.\’

On Google? Who in the name of a thousand question marks would rely on Google to be an authority on anything, least of all a grammatical matter?

The internet is awash with misspellings and punctuation solecisms. Nor is it much better out there in the real world. And the poor apostrophe is the subject of more abuse than any other dot, dash or squiggle.

It\’s a nice piece of outrage of course….but our Pole is has rather more behind him than our outraged writer, Victoria Moore, does.

Because, you see, a martini isn\’t named after the drink, the vermouth. Rather, it is named after a New York barman* who first started making them (it\’s a simple variation on a once popular drink, gin and vermouth, variations of which used to be "gin and French" or "gin and Italian" and which has since morphed into all sorts of things like Rob Roy, Manhattan and so on).

So, while unusual, martini\’s (or perhaps to be precisely correct, Martini\’s) would be allowable, as it is the drink first created by Mr. Martini.

Another example of Muphry\’s Law perhaps? Or a corollary?

* Of course, it is possible that this story is entirely bollocks.

The booze crisis!

Dr Susham Gupta, a specialist registrar in adult and old age psychiatry, and Dr James Warner, a consultant in older adults\’ psychiatry, said the relative price of alcohol has halved in real terms since the 1960s.

Right…they\’re  measuring this by the price relative to income. And as alcohol is a manufactured item, it\’s really not surprising that the price has fallen in relation to wages. That\’s pretty much the history of every manufactured item since we first, umm, started manufacturing.

It\’s also an interesting way of responding to those who say that real wages haven\’t risen over the decades. If for the same number of hours work you can buy twice as much stuff then real wages have most surely risen.

At the same time average annual consumption of alcohol per person has doubled from less than six litres to more than 11.5 litres in 2000.

Hmm. If alcohol consumption has doubled while prices have halved (relative to incomes) then that means that alcohol consumption is, well, I can never quite remember, inelastic or elastic? A 1% movement in price leads to a 1% movement in consumption is which? Elastic? Certainly it makes alcohol a normal good, not a luxury, sticky or inferior one.

Still, it shows that there\’s nothing very odd about alcohol from an economic point of view.

People are able to buy more alcohol so they do.

But apparently this is very bad as it makes old people demented if they have drunk during their lives. And thus we must tax it all a great deal more and reduce the amount people drink.

The link between alcohol consumption and dementia is being ignored and unless urgent action is taken today\’s binge drinkers will be tomorrow\’s dementia patients, psychiatrists said.

Public awareness campaigns and labels warning that dementia is linked to alcohol should be introduced, they said.

OK, fair enough, tell people this and then let them make their own decisions. You want to wait for the Alzheimer\’s to kick in or have a few pints along the way?

In the meantime raising the price and restricting sales was proven to be the most effective methods of reducing consumption of alcohol.

But that\’s not actually what we want to do, is it? We want people to have the maximum freedom to make informed choices….not to be coralled into making the choice you desire.


Just when they announce what looks like a decent decision then they go and ruin it.

It was previously planning to reduce the limit from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which would put Britain in line with Ireland and most of mainland Europe.

The move was to be supported by the British Medical Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Last year, Stephen Ladyman, who was then the road safety minister, said the Government would include in a public consultation the proposal to drop the limit to 50 mg.

However, Jim Fitzpatrick, his successor in the Department for Transport, has said the consultation document will not in fact propose the reduced limit.

"It will not be recommending a reduction from 80 to 50," he told The Times. "We are not convinced that dropping to 50 is the right answer.

"Drivers who are between 50 and 80mg are not the ones we are most worried about. It\’s the ones above 100"

The bit that seems to have been left out of this is that the UK has ferocious punishments for drink driving. In, as an example, Portugal, being over the 50 limit gets you a fine. About two weeks minimum wages (250 euro say). Being howling pissed, as one acquaintance was recently found to be, is a few months ban and a higher fine.

The British punishments for being above the 80 limit are 12 months mandatory ban plus a large fine, aren\’t they?

Now if they really were to try to get us like the Continental systems, they\’d actually have to be lowering the fines and the bans at the same time as the lowered the blood alcohol limit. And that\’s not something that I think anyone\’s really pointed out as yet.

Anyway, good decision so far then:

Mr Fitzpatrick said that police could gain new powers to enforce the existing limit, potentially including the ability to stop and test drivers at random rather than needing to suspect an offence is being committed.


A copper can only stop you and search you, can only stop you and force you to answer questions, give information, if he has valid reason to. It\’s a very basic thing….whether you\’re driving a car or wandering down the street, we really don\’t want Plod, or anyone else, to be able to randomly stop us and ask what we\’re doing.

That way lies a police state.


This Could be Interesting

The Government\’s top doctor said England should follow Europe and America and ban teenage drivers from drinking any alcohol at all in order to prevent accidents.

Now it sounds as if such a ban should indeed help. Pass a law, everybody obeys it and Bob\’s your parental sibling of choice.

However, that little addition of "America" (rather than what was actually meant, Canada) provides us with a check. In the US, no one is allowed to drink under the age of 21. So, do they have a zero rate of teenage accidents involving alcohol?

Umm, no, they don\’t….so do they have a lower rate of such accidents?

I\’ve no idea and I\’m not going to pursue the numbers, but that is the way we should measure the value of these proposals. Does a ban on teenage drinking and driving actually stop all teenage drinking and driving….does it in fact reduce the rate at all? I wouldn\’t be surprised to find out that it doesn\’t.

Now We\’ve Price Controls!

Wondrous: the descent into authoritarianism continues

Shops could be forced to raise the basic cost of alcoholic drinks by a third or more, as part of plans to make it harder for young people to access cheap alcohol.

Ministers at Westminster are considering plans similar to those already put forward in Scotland, to impose a minimum price for alcohol. Any legislation could see English supermarkets and corner shops ordered to charge a minimum of between 35p and 40p per unit.

The move is aimed at curbing the binge-drinking culture among teenagers, who according to recent figures drink more than youngsters in most other developed countries.

That some thousands, or even some tens of thousands, already break the law to purchase alcohol while underage isn\’s actually all that strong a justification for raising the price of alcohol for the milions of people who buy it legally and drink it without vomiting over the shopping centre.

What seems to have been missed as well is that minimum prices, well, they do just increase the profits of the supermarkets.

Is that really what these campaigners are after?

Lawmaking from the Hip

A bad weekend in France for drink driving deaths, so a Minister leaps to make suggestions:

"I am going to introduce a decree in cabinet under which all drink outlets that stay open till two in the morning will have compulsory electronic breath-tests, so that everyone can test his own situation as he leaves," Mr Borloo said yesterday.


Three young people were killed on Sunday on the A1 motorway north of Paris returning from a party in Belgium.

Not going to cure everything, is it?


“Cheap cigarettes are smuggled or fake and can contain five times more cadmium, 5.8 times more lead, 160 per cent more tar, 80 per cent more nicotine and 133 per cent more carbon monoxide.”

Produce 133% more CO I can get, but contain?

Owning a Pub

Having seen this trade close up and from the inside this makes sense to me:

It is Friday night in the village of Cookham Dean, Berkshire and, even though it is bitingly cold outside, the Jolly Farmer pub is full of people. The landlords, David and Laura Kelsey, are busy cooking in the kitchen, while the bar staff are pouring pints as if their lives depended on it. The people at the bar are chatting and laughing away. Everyone seems to know each other. "There\’s another pub in the village but we all come here," says one local. "The pub is owned by the village, so we have a vested interest in supporting it."

Twenty years ago, 60 villagers bought the Jolly Farmer, and they have owned it ever since. The village leases the pub to a landlord, who runs it day-to-day, and the result is a popular local that caters to what the villagers want. "There are certain requirements," says David Kelsey. "I can\’t play background music, and I can\’t have any gambling machines. I have to serve a variety of beers, and no one wants high-concept food. It\’s fine with me, though, because I knew this before I took it over.

"This pub was on the verge of being closed down," he continues. "No one came in here. It was really suffering. Now, that is true of many of the other local pubs round here."

That\’s all lovely, the community spirit thing, but I wager that the real reason this works is a great deal more simple.


As the article mentions, the average pub now costs £400,000. If you\’re a brewery that owns it, you want a rent on that. If you\’re an individual proprietor, then again, you want  a rent on that. However, if the villagers put up the money, say £6 k each, then while they are indeed shareholders, they\’re likely to think that having a well functioning pub is reward enough, perhaps not looking for a financial return on that cost.

And thus some, what, £30k to £60k is magicked out of the cost base of the pub. And given pub margins, that\’s one hell of a benefit: prices can be lower etc.

Some will say that this shows what a rip off capitalism itself is: but note that we haven\’t in fact got rid of the need for capital at all. All we\’ve done is shift the reward to those who provide it. From a financial return to the more direct one of having a decent place to have a pint.

If it\’s worth £6k to you to have that then go for it. If you can persuade enough of your fellows to make it work then good luck to you.

For rather than ours beiong a capitalist society we\’re much more importantly a free(ish) market one and we have a market in forms of ownership just as much as we do in anything else.

Brewery ownership? Sole proprietor? Customer co-ops? Workers\’ co-ops?

Hey, have fun and let us know how you get on.

Screamingly Stupid

They\’re insane:

Ministers are preparing to approve plans that would allow supermarkets to collude in alcohol price rises as part of efforts to stem Britain\’s binge drinking epidemic.

The new arrangements, which would be secured through amendments to licensing laws, will enable supermarkets to get around existing competition rules that impose hefty penalties for price collusion.

Back to this in a moment,. Look at this rather:

The price of alcohol in shops has halved in real terms in 20 years

Nope, not true. A flat, full on, out and out barefaced lie.

The cost of beer and wine has remained relatively stable, meaning in real terms it has got cheaper as income has increased.

Now that is true. It\’s the so called "affordability" of alcohol which has increased by 65% over the period, as calculated by the BMA report.

But what the BMA seem to be missing here is that this is the very point of this whole civilisation business. That as we work out how to do things better, as technology (in the very widest sense) gets better then we are able to create more out of the resources to hand. It\’s called getting richer. Incomes go up faster than prices of goods so we can all have more goods to enjoy with our incomes. It\’s the whole point of the damn enterprise… doesn\’t matter whether you\’re capitalist, socialist, fascist or communist,  while there may be differences in the effectiveness of each system at reaching the goal, the goal is the same: the proles getting richer.

Beef has increased in affordability, chicken, clothes, sneakers, computers, cars…just about everything except houses and taxes (both of which are controlled by government, of course) have increased in affordability over the past 20 years and as I say, this is the entire damn purpose of this society thing, to make it so.

That we live higher on the hog than did our parents and that our children may do so higher than we.

But back to the change in competition law. Utter, utter, stupidity. Supermarkets use alcohol sales and price cuts as loss leaders. That\’s actually what is being compained about in the first place. That they lose money on that to get people into the stores.

So we\’re going to ban them from doing that….or at least allow them to conspire amongst themselves to make sure that no one goes for a beggar they neighbour price cut?

All that will happen is that supermarket profits will rise; it\’s the inevitable effect of allowing such conspiracy.

So, the suggested solution to a free people exercising its will in getting blasted is that we should increase supermarket profits?

Genius, sheer bloody genius.

Can we have our country back when you morons have finished playing with it please?

A Little More Evidence

This binge drinking thing, this heavy consumption of alcohol:

French doctors warned last month that the country was beginning to adopt the British taste for heavy drinking, with young people fast developing an appetite for the copious consumption of alcohol.

Brittany has always been ahead of that trend, long holding a reputation as the region with the heaviest drinkers.

Might there be something tribal to it? Celts and Anglo Saxons bein more prone to blotting out the horrors of the world with booze? Brittany is the most celtic part of France, after all….

The Demon Booze

The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has increased by almost a third in just two years as 24-hour drinking laws and the greater availability of cheap alcohol lead to increased consumption.

So people are doing as they wish, perhaps to their own detriment.

Based on data from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, these admissions cost the NHS almost £90,000 a day – or more than £32 million a year.

Given that revenues from booze duty are in the billions of pounds a year, people are paying for the external effects of their actions.

The problem is what? Free people are, after all, free to decide how they want to kill themselves, are they not?

Soooo Nouveau Dahling

Something of a waste:

The cocktail consists of a large measure of Louis XII cognac, half a bottle of Cristal Rose champagne, some brown sugar, angostura bitters and a few flakes of 24-carat edible gold leaf.

You usually put white sugar into a champagne cocktail (for that is what this is) as brown will rather overpower the flavours. If people want to spend £35,000 on it well, good luck to them say I. But not only do you have the right to spend your money as you wish, you also have the duty to put up with what people think about you for your choices:

The drink will appeal to "the stupid segment of the super-rich", said the social commentator Peter York. "It is so gauche, so crashingly crass, that everyone else will see the buyers as barely literate, as one step up from a potato.

"It will be one of those things that unite both the middle class and the old rich in a belief that the super-rich come out of some kind of primeval ooze."