I was born and raised in Lanarkshire, once the heart of industrial Scotland, now a hotbed of substance dependency and unemployment. Initially we lived in a traditional red sandstone tenement in front of the family scrap yard. From the front close I remember another scrap yard across the road and a factory that made chains, this always fascinated me, huge coils of chain for ships anchors lay in their yard, this was Industry. The people were hardy, the men worked long hard and physical hours, and to a toddler all seemed like giants. At the end of the day they drank. The women folk held together the family the house and what was left to the weekly budget.
We were never poor but never had money to throw around, the fluctuating demand for scrap metal meant a fluctuating income. But scrap meant money, it was recycling on a colossal scale feeding the steel plants at Ravenscraig and Gartcosh. In the summer I used to go out in the trucks and we would drive into these mammoth plants where giant furnaces melted away our tiny loads. Colossal cranes with magnets could easily have lifted us up and thrown us into the fire, which might have well as been the bowels of the earth. Sadly these great industrial behemoths are gone along with the livelihoods and communities they supported.
Alcohol was always around, after work the men would drink from brightly coloured cans of beer, McEwans Pale Ale, Tennants Export or the workers favourite Tennants Lager. These cans intrigued me and still do, the lure and promise of something exotic, I mean India Pale Ale? My parents too would have a drink after the working day. A beer, whisky or maybe a brandy if things were going well, it was just the way, everyone did the same. My earliest alcohol memory is the smell of brandy (I think) from my mother as she put us to bed. No one thought bad of it.
Now some 40 odd years later I find myself thinking a lot about alcohol, I cant remember a time of my life where socially and some may say antisocially it wasn’t at the centre of everything I had done, going for a pint, out to a club, meal, the cinema, whatever, there always seemed to be a reason to incorporate a drink into life. Something has changed though, standing in a supermarket looking at the 2 bays of wholefoods and the three aisles of alcohol makes me feel somewhat uneasy, where are we heading with this?