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Beers, cheers, be British

world Updated: Sep 22, 2008 01:36 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Now we can all get high and watch television in alcoholic euphoria to celebrate British Day, a proposed new bank holiday. This intoxicating suggestion is not from an alcoholic or recession-weary pub owner but from the Immigration Minister Liam Byrne.

After spending almost a year reflecting on ways to celebrate being British, and to bring together different communities living in the United Kingdom, the minister published a pamphlet — ‘A More United Kingdom’ — with 27 ideas, which apart from the pint-filled celebration include Morris dancing, playing football, appreciating the weather and holding community discussions in Town Halls.

Since to many, waving flags or memorising history may not be too palatable.

The ‘booze and TV’ recommendation will surely make immigrants, especially those from the Indian sub-continent who wish to join their friends and relatives here, consider including the minister, with a record of talking tough on immigration rules, in their list of Christmas card recipients this year.

Many people have hailed the suggestion. London-born Gillian (26), a health expert said, “I am not much of a drinker. But I suppose this is a good suggestion. We tend to bond together as drinks buddies.” A senior civil servant Paul Barnard, based in Wales, said he would prefer spending a bank holiday taking a stroll and admiring the scenery but “would not mind a pint or two while watching some sports” in case of rainy weather.

Only Dame Barbara Cartland whose book on etiquette, A Guide to Good Behaviour from the Boudoir to the Boardroom is still in publication after 50 years, would not have approved of Byrne’s campaign. She had once said, “Intoxication is neither amusing nor mannerly… It is objectionable.”

But Andrew Marr, television presenter and author of A History of Modern Britain, said, “The only one suitable (suggestion) is drinking. It’s our national sport and we’re very good at it – drinking to excess, that is.”

With almost 60,000 pubs in this small island feeling British, the Byrne way, would be easy, as 15 million already visit them every week. The spokesperson for the Association of British pubs was forthright, “The pub is at the heart of many communities. What can be better on a National Day but to gather and celebrate with a pint and watch sports on TV. It does not mean getting drunk.” There rests the jolly Byrne case for being British. Beers, cheers and British!