BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Friday, 7 July, 2000, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
When you're young and intoxicated

Euan Blair might have caused some embarrassment to his father, but for many his antics were a reminder of life as a carefree teenager. By BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy.

The lamentable conclusion to Euan Blair's night on the tiles is a timely reminder that alcohol and adolescence seldom make good bedfellows.

Unfortunately, it is one of those lessons that can only be learned the hard way.

Euan Blair
Too much, too young: Euan Blair

As legions of Fleet Street columnists were at pains to point out in Friday's newspapers, the drunken binge is often a rite of passage for any youngster seeking peer group acceptance.

But as dubious distinctions go, this is not the sort to simply fall in your lap.

In fact, the transition from straight-laced schoolchild to unruly and intoxicated adolescent demands exam-like commitment to deviousness and steely self-confidence.

The major obstacle for 16-year-old Euan, and all those who have staggered the well-trodden path before him, is that of age.

Age-old dilemma

To any law-abiding barman, the fresh face of youth will set alarm bells ringing. After all, it is illegal to serve alcohol to anyone under 18.

Harry Enfield and some friends
Harry Enfield's grouchy adolescent, Kevin

But this is merely a technicality for the bullish young teenager; a rule made to be broken.

Generally, girls have it easier. A heavy application of pearly lipstick, a dash of mascara and half-an-hour with the curling tongs, and the female of the species can add five years to her appearance.

In fact, girls really do grow up quicker. So instead of hanging out with spotty lads, they tend to prefer the apparent sophistication and largesse of a more mature man.

He must dutifully get both sets of drinks in, and so suffer the indignity of ordering Malibu and pineapple, snakebite and black or Babycham, alongside his light and bitter.

Speak low, and slowly

Boys have a harder time. Those still suffering the sing-song quiver of a breaking voice, must order their round in slow, deep and deliberate tones.

Probably not the best way to get served

Others, who are far-enough up the puberty ladder, do not miss the opportunity to exhibit a well groomed, wispy moustache and some vague sideburns.

Boy or girl, every underage drinker has only one thing racing through their mind as they try to catch the barman's evasive eye - their date of birth, minus one, two or three years.

Of course, years later you discover this has all been a dramatic charade. Most landlords can discern a nervous adolescent a mile off; some are simply more interested in your money than your age.

Having found a "friendly" pub and settled with a drink, it's time to make conversation. However, the thought of chatting casually to a member of the opposite sex proves so terrifying, you fill each of the ample pregnant pauses with great gulps of alcohol.

Cider drinker
I am a cider drinker - the drink is a favourite teenage tipple

And so it goes on, until last orders, by which time you have downed the equivalent of eight pints and said about 10 words.

Desperately trying to maintain your composure - both for the benefit of the bar staff and your friends - the next task is to exit in a dignified way.

Even then the deceit is not over for the night. To mask the smell of alcohol and curb your queasiness, you reach for a pack of mints and, in your addled state, try to piece together a parent-friendly description of your evening.

But in your woozy state the prospect of serious interrogation is chilling and leaves you with only one option: announce to them you are tired and must go straight to bed ... with a bucket!

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Rite of passage
Remember your worst adolescent excesses?
See also:

07 Jul 00 | UK
Papers side with Euan
06 Jul 00 | UK
Family misfortunes
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories