Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - March 1997
* America by the Ship Canal *
The new "shopping city" currently being built at Dumplington, next to Barton Bridge, is apparently to have an unprecedented 23 alcohol licences, and to feature "globally-themed" streets of restaurants and bars within its "Orient Leisure Dome". The report I read didn't say whether any of these outlets would remotely resemble a traditional pub, but I wouldn't put too much money on it.
The whole idea of these US-style shopping and leisure malls, designed to attract car-borne trade from a wide area, runs directly contrary to encouraging pubgoing as we know it. This particular monstrosity will result in increased pollution and congestion on already overcrowded roads. It will drain the lifeblood out of the shopping centres of nearby Urmston and Eccles, and hit the trade of towns for twenty or thirty miles around. If you're in any doubt about that, just go and see how the similar Merry Hill Centre in the West Midlands has effectively killed the town centre of Dudley.
Planning guidelines have now been tightened to discourage any more of these developments, but for the area surrounding Dumplington, it's too late. I've spent too much time sitting in queues trying to get through Newbury to have much sympathy for that particular anti-roads protest, but if the tree-and-tunnel people had set up camp at Dumplington they would have found a surprising amount of public support.
* Long Life and Laughter *
It's already well established that moderate alcohol consumption is likely to prolong your life by protecting against heart disease. Now a new report has shown that it also has a beneficial effect on longevity by encouraging laughter and thus promoting a general sense of well-being. So, rather than taking it at home like a medicine, you're much better off enjoying it with your friends down the pub. It's interesting how these boffins get the funding to carry out research projects to prove the bleeding obvious, but even so it's good news that what we all felt to be true is now supported by proper scientific evidence.
In the same week, another report came out which showed that the regular use of Ecstasy is likely to lead to serious clinical depression. While it gives a short-term boost to the levels in the brain of serotonin, the chemical compound that stimulates pleasure, over the longer term it significantly reduces serotonin production. It doesn't take long before weekend users of Ecstasy start to suffer from pronounced "midweek blues".
Taken together, these two reports give a crystal clear message that one substance, in moderation of course, positively does you good, while the other, in any quantity, is extremely dangerous. As far as Ecstasy is concerned, "one pill can kill", and in the long run it poses a major threat to the nation's mental health. But we'd all live longer and happier lives if we had a few laughs and a couple of drinks in the pub two or three times each week. And anyone who suggests any equivalence between Ecstasy and alcohol is either a fool or downright malicious.