I sat up late in bed last night reading. I’d reached the point in a book where I needed to know what the outcome was going to be, that point where the tension of the book is so great you have to continue. I suppose this is binge-reading. In fact I had spent most of the day binge-reading. When my son was younger he got into the habit of reading to the end of a book fast to find out the story-end – and thus release the tension – and then re-read to enjoy the writing. I suspect he still does so. A friend told me about reading the opening chapter and the final chapter of a book, especially a thriller – again to release the tension - and then read the book properly.
The fact is that binge-reading exists. No-one has yet condemned it. I have always binge-read, even as a child, getting a huge pile of books from the library and working my way through them in just a few days. Binge-reading can be reading a book all in one go, non-stop, barely pausing to eat or drink. Or else it can be reading as many books as possible by one writer. I do both of these things.
Then there’s binge-watching. You hear rather a lot about this these days. The arrival of box sets started it. When given the box set of a TV series, you have to be strong to limit yourself to just one episode a night. The temptation is to watch the lot in one sitting. I am doing this with a re-watch of The West Wing when I’m in the house on my own. People talk about it on Facebook as well. And so a trend is set and everyone starts to do it. TV companies encourage it of course by putting on things like the Scandinavian dramas in 2-episode chunks. And then the time limit on BBC i-player means that sometimes you absolutely need to binge-watch before the series disappears into the ether and you have to wait for the box set to appear.
And so I get around to binge-drinking. This is what started all the binge --- ing. Well, maybe the term started with eating disorders but anyway, today, I came across Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s blog in the Guardian. She was expressing the view that binge-drinking is to some extent hard-wired into the British. She puts it down to the weather, to the allure of British pubs with their roaring fires (really? Is this true of city centre pubs where there is simply nowhere to sit and it’s so noisy you can’t imagine having a conversation), to long working hours and the need for release after work. I'm not quite convinced although I don't know what the answer is.
She also maintains it’s always existed which I think is only partly true. People have always gone out and got drunk. Some fellow-students of mine at university used to start every term by meeting in Yates’ Wine Lodge in Liverpool, catch the train to Leeds and then move on directly to Yates’ Wine Lodge in that fair city. But they always managed to stay on their feet. Now it seems that the point of drinking is to get to the falling-over stage as soon as possible. If you can remember what you did, you haven’t had a good night; that seems to be part of the philosophy.
I don’t quite understand binge-drinking. Am I too sensible? I’ve been drunk and try to avoid it. It makes me ill. I can’t understand getting drunk just for the sake of it. And when Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett talks about drinking beer through a funnel at university, well, what can I say ???
She reflects on the fact that binge drinking doesn’t exist in mainland Europe, so much so that the French don’t have a term for it but talk about “le binge-drinking”. Well, I suspect she might be wrong there. She should talk to the Spanish about “botellón” which in some places is causing concern as it has moved on from being a cheap way for young people to meet up and eat and drink together. Now it is becoming much more like British binge-drinking.
And then there is something called NekNomination!! This is a drinking game that may have begun in Australia and has necome popular in Northern Ireland. It involves young people nominating someone who has to drink a pint of strong alcohol, a mix of spirits as a rule, and do silly things to entertain his perhaps but not necessarily slightly less drunken peers. That person then nominates another, usually via Facebook.
Now, drinking games have always existed. But they weren’t publicised through social media. And they didn’t involve so many very young drinkers, even though underage drinking has also always existed. And they didn’t usually involve young people jumping into rivers on cold winter evenings and drowning, which has happened in recent weeks. The brother of one of the latest victim of this crazy game has appealed to Facebook to review its policy regarding posting videos of young men (and it’s usually men) “necking” their pint of pure alcohol.
Having got all that off my chest, I’m off to do a little more binge-watching.