Anorak News | It Was The Best of Times…

It Was The Best of Times…

by | 28th, November 2005

‘“WHERE did it all go wrong?” asked the waiter confronted with the sight of George Best sipping champagne in bed with Miss World, fivers sprinkled liberally over the bed.

If you want to know how good George Best was, conjure up an image of that scene and then remember last Monday’s grainy images of Rooney’s clandestine meeting in the less than salubrious kitchen of an Altrincham club with personal assistant Emily Fountain.

Just what did Rooney do in that brief period of time, the six minutes and 22 seconds he supposedly passed with the giggling Emily? Just what could anyone do? What would Best have done?

Not that Best was not up going out much. While Rooney was frequenting bars and entertaining girls with repartee and ready wit, Best was on his last legs.

And thanks to the News Of The World‘s shot of the legendary player, we all got to see a yellow and sallow Best on what would become his death bed.

Did we want to see this? Was this how the man would be remembered? What could have been gained from showing us a picture of a dying man? Perhaps this was some heavy-handed attempt at an anti-drinking message.

If it was it had come too late. The drinking laws were changing. On Thursday we would be free to drink ourselves into oblivion.

On Tuesday, the Mail was all Tony Hancock-like doom and gloom, reminding its readers that the taxpayers will be left to pick up a £70m tab for the move to 24-hour licensing, the Express lightened the mood.

Here came the laughing policemen of Ipswich to slay us in the aisles. This sketch relied on a visual – a picture of two cops standing outside “THE LOCK ‘EM IN” public house.

This image appeared on the cover of a leaflet, 30,000 of which were delivered to clubs and restaurants in the town. The pamphlet read: “The Lock ‘Em Inn is conveniently located within easy reach of Ipswich’s pubs, clubs and criminal courts. The accommodation is minimalist chic created for you with economy in mind.”

Such fine wit needed little commentary, but still sergeant Neil Boast wanted to explain all. “The leaflets are cheeky but we want people to realise that being locked up in the cells is not a pleasant experience,” said he.

Although, at least now you can get a drink when you are released, day or night.

By Wednesday, the eve of the move to all-day drinking, the Telegraph was seeing only trouble ahead.

By way of illustrating how drinking will turn Britain into a mass pub brawl, the Telegraph has nipped down to the genteel Dorset resort of Bournemouth to see what booze can do to even the best neighbourhood.

The paper heard from Sgt Chris Weeks, of Dorset police, who described the town’s Walkabout as “being out of control”. The pub contributed to “unacceptable levels” of crime in the area.

So back in September, when the pub applied to renew its license, the local council refused. The pub was to be shut down.

Here was an example of how the Licensing Act 2003 was working to give communities the power to control their own areas.

But then the pub appealed. And after a six day court case, costing the taxpayer an estimated £30,000, magistrates in Blandford, Dorset, said the pub could stay open.

Tobias Ellwood, the local Tory MP, saw this as an example of the wider problem: “We have just seen a council trying to flex its muscles by using these new powers and the magistrates have overturned them. There are no powers there at all.”

Time was ticking. “We listened for the bell. “Last orders!” came the landlord’s beery voice. “Last orders on civilisation.”

And then Thursday came. As the Times reported, around 70,000 of the nation’s licensed premises were allowed to sell booze after 11pm – 20 per cent of which are now legally able to remain open after 1am.

Anyone who still wanted a drink could pop along to their local supermarket and join the all-night party in aisle 12. Perhaps with the right music, some dimmed strip lighting and a few samples from the deli counter, Tesco’s could become a major clubbing franchise.

On Friday, we dared not open our eyes to see what had become of Britain? Would we be able to lift our heads from the sticky pub table that had become our new bed?

The Sun was first to look. It saw “BOOZINESS AS USUAL”, saying how “little of the predicted mayhem occurred”.

But your view depended on what you were looking at. Was the glass half full, half empty or being brandished in your face by a drunken thug?

While the Sun saw a shopper benignly stocking up on “tipples” in a supermarket at 1:40am, and the Mirror spotted a trio of laddish students merrily chinning bottles of hooch in Newcastle, the Mail clacked its marmalade-coated tongue and asked: “Just a quiet night on our streets, was it?”

There then followed pictures of drunken behaviour: yobs being thrown from a Bristol nightclub; bouncers giving chase to said yobs; a drinker confronting police in Nottingham; and a jelly-legged yoof sinking to his knees in Cardiff.

And, what with this being the Mail, there were a few snaps of young women showing lots of flesh as they caroused in the streets of Plymouth.

Drinking to excess will surely do for us all. As it had done for Best…’

Posted: 28th, November 2005 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink