I grew up in a much more innocent age. When you were 16 you could just about get away with sneaking into pubs and getting your mates to buy you beer so long as you kept your head down and didn’t speak too loudly (assuming your voice hadn’t broken, which mine just about hadn’t). By the time you were 18 this had become a blasé swagger. The thought that you might actually be challenged on your age would have been as unthinkable as Rick Wakeman playing at half speed, or men wearing shorts for anything other than competitive sports, or The Doctor kissing his companion or Leeds United being, well……loved by anyone outside Leeds. Age limits for drinking were generally accepted as one of those social rituals which no-one really took seriously. Occasionally, the coppers would turn up at the Queens Arms on Harrogate Road but again, if you kept your head down you were generally ok and they weren’t really interested.
I think this is an accurate representation of the situation, even now in the UK. I think it illustrates our attitude to alcohol and how we think it should be controlled socially – in other words, not very much. This may be a healthy attitude. Alternatively, you may have walked or driven through Bristol on a Friday evening and wondered whether the human disaster-show on display there was really a good and proper way for people to behave.
This was all brought home to me earlier tonight when we rocked up at Logan’s Roadhouse on US 192 just outside Tuscan Hills, Florida. Not the most edgy or sophisticated establishment but very much the easy-going charm which this part of America seems to possess. So it came as a complete surprise when my 34 year old daughter was ‘carded’ – in other words, asked to provide evidence of her age before she could order an alcoholic drink. This wasn’t an aggressive challenge – indeed, it became a very embarrassed challenge when we had to admit that – no, we didn’t have evidence of Louisa’s age. But the manager came out and explained that, having made the challenge they couldn’t then just let it go and, without any other evidence, Louisa was on Pepsi for the rest of the evening. Utterly ridiculous you might say, when her 50-odd year old parents are both sitting there along with her two children, all of whom can vouch for her maturity if not good sense. But there is was, and there it stood. Apparently, the State licensing authorities occasionally send ‘stooges’ in to test the system and we could very well have been one of those, so it simply wasn’t worth their while to bend the rules.
On a side note, I often take pride in the fact that many people think I look younger than my almost-60 actual age…..but never when age limits and drink are concerned. Pragmatism in all things.
I know America has a schizophrenic relationship with alcohol and drinking, all the way through Prohibition and the ongoing double standards where it is sometimes easier to buy a gun than it is to get another drink. My wife tells a tale from a previous working trip to the States, where a group of English teachers were refused a second bottle of wine in a hotel bar (there were about 7 of them) in case they became intoxicated and presumably aggressive. Now, they were English, they were teachers and one of them was from Liverpool. But it’s hard to see how another half a glass each was going to tip the scales into full scale warfare.
Again, as with the previous post, I don’t have a conclusion to draw from this. I don’t blame the roadhouse for refusing to serve alcohol to someone who couldn’t prove their age, despite the obvious ridiculousness of the situation. Neither do I think it’s wrong to be concerned about how we control drinking in our society. It’s easy for us in the UK to look down our liberal noses at what we see as over-authoritarian solutions (the nanny state) whilst still complaining that ‘something must be done’. But there we go. And inconsistency has a home in the US just as much as anywhere else. Last night I got offered a BOGOF deal on Stella Artois (strong lager by most peoples’ standards). And here I am, writing this blog by the glow of the Florida lightning (another storm) and a large glass of red at my elbow – the other members of the household having long retired to bed. So go figure.
We’ve had a few days in the parks now, so I won’t bore you with the details of rides I raved about last time. Today’s park was the Disney Animal Kingdom. Apart from the incredibly enjoyable Everest Expedition (see previous trip blog for a description), which is the only real roller-coaster ride on the park, the emphasis is very much on conservation and respect for other cultures. This might seem strange given the rampant commercialism usually associated with, and very much on show at all of the Disney and Universal outlets. But…….
……if you get on a little train, you come to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This is an outpost of the main park, and it has all sorts of information about species conservation, games and exercises for kids, and the Disney employees are all really helpful and knowledgeable (in a limited way – none of them are PhDs, but their scripts are pretty good). Likewise, in the main park there are a number of ‘safaris’ and wildlife walks all of which stress the need to protect endangered species and look after the planet. On top of this, there are all sorts of displays and street theatres and dances from cultures across the world, all of which are treated seriously and respectfully. Now it would be very easy to dismiss all of this as so much window dressing when compared to America’s woeful record in signing up to various global agreements on carbon emissions. However, these are important messages, presented in an easily digestible, non-preachy format to an audience who may just take some of it on board. And let’s be right. Non-one is forcing Disney to do this. It isn’t necessary for them to present the conservation message in order to get people through the door to ride the various rides and buy the various bits of merchandise. So I reckon it’s a case when a little is good enough – not perfect, but good enough.
So as a respectful nod to Disney, here is Mount Everest as presented in the Expedition Everest ride along with grandchildren.