Yesterday, I read something which made me very angry. The surprising thing is that it was an article about drinking; specifically, an article expressing sadness at the demise of the days of sinking a couples of bottles at lunch, of returning for an afternoon of slightly pissed presentations, evoking the halcyon days of Roger, Don and martinis at noon.
Initially, I couldn’t work out why I was so enraged. I love drinking. I love a proper lunch. I don’t personally adore getting soused before six, but I appreciate the attraction of a glass of good wine with a good lunch, and equally hate the lack of ability in many to distinguish between the two.
But this article wasn’t about the habit of eating and drinking in the leisurely and measured manner of a stereotypical Parisien office worker, it was about the practise of getting actively wankered before going back to the office. The writing seems to be pure click bait on so many levels that attempting to form a logical and calm argument to counter it is surely a complete waste of time, but luckily it’s my day off, so I have time to waste.
My major objection to the piece and its thesis is not just that it gives Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage as its two shining exemplars (sufficient though this would be. I mean, seriously.); nor is it that it’s written by an ex mens mag editor who celebrates the results of his historic lunch consumption, including the zenith of his achievements: seeing how many helium balloons it would take to float a dwarf.
It’s the sheer small-minded, prejudiced inability of these braying, drunken buffoons to realise that they are the only people who ever enjoyed this privilege. It’s so bloody obvious that for anyone of a non-white, non-posh background, anyone in a job which relies on fixed hours in a fixed place, anyone who works at an administrative or assistant level, anyone who doesn’t work in politics, in advertising, in men’s magazines, in the city, in any traditionally ego-driven, male-dominated world, this behaviour never happened.
It was never an option for them, they would never have been invited to pull up a chair, or a glass. They would in fact have been among the 99% of the working population not invited. The 99% working soberly throughout the day and doing the work passed over by the loud, joshing post-lunch crowd rolling in to the office for a token hour at 4pm.
In only the last few decades, we’ve begun to move toward a more inclusive, equal, decent workplace to the benefit of the whole society. That it is no longer a place where boorish, old-boy behaviour is acceptable, even benevolently encouraged, has been a major factor in opening up the boardrooms. I would hope that the days of deciding to “buy or sell post-lunch depending on the direction the nipples were pointing on Page 3 of The Sun” are merely distant memories.
Below the line, there is the usual mix of comment, concern and complete loons, but one for me stands out – the assertion that the demise of the liquid lunch has been but one more example of, and I paraphrase, ‘political correctness gone mad’. My objections to this article are so very far from any kind of correctness which this commenter may imagine; drink at lunch, don’t drink at lunch, sip your 1.27 glasses of 11% wine a day which the government deems appropriate, down a pint of 7.3% craft IPA, I really don’t care.
My problem is this: even as a white, educated, privileged member of the middle classes, I would have had very different career opportunities if all the important decisions were still made over the lunch table by these men, these drunk, selfish, careless men after their third pint, or their second bottle of claret.