There are various issues that bring home to me, as a bad-tempered middle-aged person, my utter estrangement from a group of people I can only describe as “youth”. One is tattoos: the practice of putting dodgy art or pretentious poetry on your body – permanently. Another is saying “because”, not “because of” on social media: because feminism, because global warming, etc. And the other one is vodka.
A consumer survey for HSBC has this week revealed that we Brits now prefer vodka to whisky or gin. How did that happen? Vodka: the petrol-tasting substance Russians used to drink in small glasses that they would then throw into the fireplace before bursting aggressively into tears.
My 20-year-old niece tells me vodka is an essential part of what is known among students as “pre-drinking” or “prinking”. A large amount of supermarket-price vodka is quickly necked, with some more decanted discreetly into water bottles, before they all head off – now very prunk – to clubs, to avoid their hefty bar prices. When I was their age, thank you so much, we would go to picturesque places called pubs that closed at 11pm, and drink litres of a warm, foaming, brown-coloured substance that was relatively weak. Spirits were an unheard-of luxury. I feel like faxing a letter of complaint to someone and checking the cricket scores on Ceefax.
The future is green
This Friday is St Patrick’s Day and the Irish taoiseach, Enda Kenny, will be meeting the US president Donald Trump to present him with the traditional bowl of shamrock in the White House’s East Room – to the dismay of many in Ireland, who feel about this gesture very much the way a good deal of those in the UK feel about the proposed state visit. It is understood Melania Trump is going to break with the first lady’s usual presence on this occasion by staying in New York. So it’ll just be Donald. Meanwhile, the impending Brexit catastrophe has had thousands of people taking advantage of the Irish passport office rules – if you have Irish ancestry, getting an Irish passport and staying in the EU is a possibility. I am considering it myself. It could be that Ireland is poised in all sorts of ways to find a benefit in our calamitous Brexit self-harm; and that Ireland will be the smart, forward-thinking, English-speaking European nation that will derive an advantage from this fiasco, which nobody in the British political class really wanted.
Hot cars, live wires
I enjoyed the BBC’s outrageously silly drama The Replacement as much as anyone: even the awful moment when – spoiler alert here for those joining us on iPlayer – the baby is actually left outside, rendering it vulnerable to being stolen by a crazy person, like Gnasher nicking a string of sausages in the Beano. Then there was the exciting bit just at the end when Ellen, played by Morven Christie, was locked in the car by the wicked Paula but managed to awaken from a sleeping-pill-induced stupor and smash the windscreen by inflating the airbag. The really miraculous moment came when she hotwired the car and drove it away! Whoa! Check the calendar, I think it’s 1968. Hotwiring a car? That’s the sort of supercool thing Steve McQueen might do, prior to driving the car at headspinning speeds through the streets of Glasgow. Surely hotwiring – ripping out the ignition wire and the battery wire from the steering column and zapping them together – is impossible in any modern car. But, like mobile phones and internet technology, anti-hotwiring security in cars is ruining the options in drama. The only thing for writers to do is ignore that and just carry on. Hotwiring is too valuable a dramatic concept to be abandoned.