During the course of the last several months, a number of us have been heavily involved in a groundbreaking research project in and around the Birmingham area.
Our remit was to analyse both the psychological and physical effects of beer upon the health of the male species. We also sought to evaluate the extent to which scaremongering about the regular consumption of beer is misplaced.
The research team focused on answering one fundamentally important question.
Is it possible that beer could actually be quite good for you?
Now whilst the full results of the study won’t be published in the British Medical Journal until later in the year, I am able to share some of the preliminary data we’ve acquired with you.
Our study focused on George, a regular at the White Horse in Harborne, Birmingham. After initially expressing reservations, he kindly consented to wearing a heart monitor; allowing us to gauge his responses to a range of stimuli.
The first stage of the research involved placing George in a neutral environment. (We asked him to accompany his wife Beryl on a shopping trip; she’d expressed an interest in acquiring a new wardrobe for the summer season).
I accompanied them in order to observe George and take readings at periodic intervals.
As the couple meandered from shop to shop, George’s heart rate began to climb, he also appeared increasingly disorientated; showing signs of genuine discomfort.
Beryl it must be said displayed no such symptoms. Looking relaxed and completely at ease, she clearly relished the opportunity to wander and browse with her husband in tow.
Several shops later, George’s condition had deteriorated considerably. Sweating profusely and gasping for breath, the readings on the heart monitor surged into the red zone. He appeared quite literally on the edge.
At this point, Beryl suggested returning to a shop they’d visited a couple of hours earlier, to take another look at a blouse she’d seen.
It was all too much for George. Turning deathly pale as the heart monitor soared beyond the 190 mark, he eventually passed out as we approached Next.
It was clear that unless George received some medical attention pretty promptly, his days of drinking would be well and truly over.
Flagging down a passing cab, I implored the driver to get us to the White Horse as fast as he possibly could. Beryl meanwhile made a beeline for the shop to check out the blouse.
As we weaved through the streets of Birmingham at full pelt, I rang the pub and asked them to start pouring beer.
By this time George had turned deathly pale and it became increasingly unclear whether he’d survive long enough to get the medical attention he so desperately needed.
“Hang on George, we’ll soon be there” I said, attempting to offer reassurance; there was no response.
During the course of the journey he lapsed in and out of consciousness several times. In an effort to prevent him falling into a coma, I opened my mobile phone and showed him pictures of us sitting at the bar together, sinking pints of his favourite brew.
This appeared to help; stabilising him for the 15 minutes it took the taxi driver to get us to the pub.
No sooner had the taxi screeched to a halt than several bar staff appeared carrying a stool. Bundling George into it, we carried him past some rather bemused looking customers in the beer garden; eventually depositing him in his favourite corner of the front bar.
Only then did we realise how serious George’s condition was. Clearly dazed and extremely groggy, he seemed to have little comprehension of who or where he was.
It was evident that the highly traumatic experience of the last few hours had taken a severe toll.
His heart reading remained dangerously high and he betrayed little emotion when Colin (the landlord) put a pint on the bar and motioned for him to start drinking.
Customers crowded around, their concern for George’s welfare all too evident. Despite his condition, he eventually managed to raise the glass to his lips; taking a couple of tentative sips before putting it back on the bar.
All waited expectantly, unsure whether the prescribed medication would have the desired effect. The minutes ticked by with no visible change, but then, just as hope began to wane, something truly remarkable happened.
George suddenly leaned forward, grabbed his pint and sank it in 3.47 seconds. A personal best!
There were gasps of relief from the assembled audience. It was as if some primeval instinct had kicked in; allowing George to perform essential functions whilst under extreme duress.
Turning to us, a huge smile broke out on his face. “Right, whose round is it?” he enquired.
It was a truly astounding transformation. Within a matter of minutes his heart rate had returned to normal and it was evident that George would make a full recovery. The ordeal of the shopping experience appeared little more than a distant memory.
After a cursory examination, additional medication was prescribed. Sure enough, two pints later George was back to his former self; talking complete and utter nonsense to anyone who cared to listen.
Whilst monitoring his recovery, I reflected on how contented he looked; drinking beer in his favourite pub, surrounded by people he clearly enjoyed being with.
What better medication could anyone possibly prescribe?
Now I suspect George is not the only man who finds the idea of trudging around shops for hours on end both intimidating and stressful. By contrast, enjoying a pint in the pub with friends appears infinitely more therapeutic, somewhat less of a health hazard.
In fact it might be fair to say that drinking beer responsibly is actually beneficial to the wellbeing of the male species. It alleviates stress, helps lower blood pressure and allows us the opportunity to savour the joys of camaraderie, friendship and companionship.
These are values many of us quite rightly cherish. After all, they bring people together and help maintain social cohesion; particularly important at a time when society appears increasingly fragmented.
Consequently, it might be fair to conclude that it’s retail therapy not beer that poses the greater risk to the health of your average man.
In the light of this, perhaps those who feel an overwhelming need to regulate our lives should consider banning men from accompanying their wives on shopping trips, leaving them free to enjoy their beer in peace?
I would suggest that such an initiative would have the support of the overwhelming majority of males up and down the country.
If Beryl’s experience is anything to go by then it’s likely many of their partners wouldn’t object too strongly either. Free from the constraint of having George in tow, Beryl managed to purchase the blouse; she also snapped up a number of other items worth in excess of £500.
All in all, a thoroughly satisfactory day.
Needless to say we’ve withheld that bit of information from George for the time being at least. When we eventually break the news to him, I think it likely that an additional course of ‘medication’ will be required.