How living in England has made me want to drink

13 Mar

Tuesday 1 PM Nunhead:    Yesterday I wrote on how people make conscious decisions every day to ignore people we like – on facebook,  on our phone contact list or in real life. It got some very good feedback, including very nice words from writer Sarah Pinborough. I thought we needed a new word to call this. “Friend-dodging”?  Can you think of a better word?

I got drunk last night in Borough with guests and crew (one) of my radio show “Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer”. I had three half-pints of beer over two and one-half hours – or one and one half-full pints. That is not drunk by British standards but it was drunk by mine.

Drunk in America means tipsy, at least. Drunk here means crawling home on hands and knees in the wrong direction.

I am getting into the drink. Last night a guest on my show offered to buy  me a drink and I let her.  In Britain, people will buy you a drink without wanting to sell you something. It was just her turn. I had bought the first round. I am pretty sure she wasn’t trying to sell me something cause I might have bought it.

Taking turns is very British. The round system – where each person in a group buys everyone else a drink – ensures fairness. Well it did when the same five guys worked at same factory and drank together every day after work. Now you can get hit buying drinks for friends of friends of friends who are standing around the bar when it is your turn. It can cost you dear.

That was a big reason I didn’t want to be a part of drinking. Not that I am cheap. I am not tight, no matter what you have heard about me. To prove I am not cheap, I can show you certificates from courts in two countries showing that I spent more money than I earned over many years.

For a non-drinker, I have a very complicated relationship with alcohol.

Drinking has scared me. I have a hard enough time telling what people actually think about me when I am sober, or when they are sober.

I grew up with a mother who was so moody she went to the hospital for people with moodiness. I don’t call it the manic-depression or bipolar disorder because that is making a disease out of personality and I don’t buy into it.  That is what doctors called it. “Extreme moodiness” I call it. My father called it “flying” and sang “Fly me to the moon I want to live amongst the stars” by Frank Sinatra whenever my mother got excited about anything. He thought her excitement was leading to another episode that needed a trip to the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut or Gracie Square Hospital in New York.  Even today, I shiver when I hear that song.

I never saw my parents drunk, ever. Not even by American standards. Never. Not even on Passover where they were supposed to get drunk. Not that Manischewitz wine was even drinkable.

Growing up in Great Neck, New York, there was occasional talk about my grandfathers’ (plural, both) drinking. Both my grandfathers were drunks – full glasses of vodka for my father’s father to start the day and beer at the corner bar for my mother’s father. That is what I was told. I never saw it – they died too young.  And I was always told that Jews didn’t drink. It was another mystery hanging over my childhood.

I’ve gotten the feeling over the years that the British don’t think much of other people and need a glass of wine to face them. Or they think a bit too much of other people, and need a glass of wine to take the edge off talking with them. Shyness or the dreaded Class Thing. Everybody is either their master or beneath them.

This could be shite but by drinking I think you are admitting to yourself you aren’t very interesting or sure of yourself so you need to fortify yourself. Or you are showing you don’t think the other person is very interesting so you need to change your mood to talk to them.

Then again, the Brits could just actually enjoy the buzz alcohol gives them. And maybe they enjoy the idea that everyone around them is enjoying the buzz – all equally drunk due to the round system.

The alcoholic buzz reminded me too much of my mother’s “manic” periods – when things were said and done too quickly. Bad things happened. My mother was put in a car and taken away often and I would think I would never see her again. That is pretty heavy for a six or a seven year old.

There is more to this story than this. But something is happening. I am becoming more agreeable to drinking. Maybe my mother’s death last year freed me, in some way.  Maybe I am becoming more British. Have I started to look down on the people I am hanging out with? Or learning to fear them? Or maybe I am beginning to just like the buzz?


Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio.
Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London.

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below. Free admission but you will be guilted into giving me money to get out. Reserve at


2 Responses to “How living in England has made me want to drink”

  1. charmianpoemsrmian March 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    excellent stuff Louis. I think also the British drink in order to experience loss of control. We are a very controlling nation- a lot to do with class system and historic imperialism. Drinking gives licence- and you literally need a licence to let people drink- licence to change roles or abdicate from them for a bit. Workers can rant against the boss, bosses can slum it. The pub is a place of class amnesty. All will be forgiven in the morning because it will be put down to alcohol.

    I love the term ‘extreme moodiness’, My mother had this but she never went to hospital- she was rich enough to persuade people that this was just what upper class people were like! She wasn’t upper class either, so she was a good persuader.

    • charmianpoemsrmian March 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      lewis , Sorry I went all French then spelling your name, its all this talk of revolution and class.

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Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comedian

SO IT GOES - John Fleming's blog

John Fleming’s blog: human interest, humour, humor, comedy blog featuring eccentricity, performance, movies and occasionally a few tears

Nunhead Nags

A blog about Nunhead regeneration

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comic

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comedian

SO IT GOES - John Fleming's blog

John Fleming’s blog: human interest, humour, humor, comedy blog featuring eccentricity, performance, movies and occasionally a few tears

Nunhead Nags

A blog about Nunhead regeneration

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comic

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