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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary August 17, 2009



Dubious penalties

Oldham has been in the news this week. Not so much for the dubious penalty that beat Leyton Orient on Saturday but for the various dubious penalties against the crime of ‘binge drinking’ that earned the Lancashire town what must have been its most prominent exposure on national media ever.

The full half-hour of Panorama, titled The Truth About Happy Hours, was given over to Oldham’s original approach to town centre disorder – in particular the media-attractive ‘post office-style queues’ in bars that aim to cut down drinking. On the show the featured queue looked rather stunted up for the cameras and the bar drained of fun and atmosphere. In fact, the local post office is probably a livelier venue.

It’s not surprising that forcing people to queue for ages in a long line, losing even the entertaining challenge of trying to catch the barperson’s eye while you’ve got an elbow in your ear and half a pint of lager spilled down your back, is going to mean they drink less – at least in the bar.

This must surely encourage preloading – buying cheaper booze at the supermarket and drinking it before you go out to avoid the queues as well as the expense.

Preloading was featured on the show, as were interviews with untroublesome drinkers and some relatively non-sensational statistics, which made it one of the better, more considered documentaries on the issue. There were the usual shots of drunken women, of course, but the most violent incident shown was a brawl in which a pair of taxi queue wardens in high-vis jackets were seen chasing a bunch of lads down the street, fists flailing. Presumably they had not been drinking.

As for Oldham, if it’s efforts are successful in reducing disorder it’s more likely that it will come down to a closer working relationship between the trade and authorities rather than silly gimmicks.


Sick note

Me dad's in hospital at the moment and they've put him in a ward with a lot of old boys sitting around discussing their ailments, yelling for attention and staggering about half-dressed.

"It's like Wetherspoons in here," he muttered.


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