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Public Drunkenness Can Never Be a Social Norm

21 Jan 2012 at 18:06

Last night I apparently trended worldwide on Twitter. It was quite an experience being at the centre of a Twitter storm. Twitter is a very spontaneous medium. Many have come a cropper by posting something in haste and then repenting at leisure. It’s certainly happened to me in the past. And when I think I have got it wrong I usually step forward and immediately apologise. This time I didn’t. And won’t, so what follows is not an apology. It’s not even a defence or explanation. It’s putting a 140 tweet into context.

Every Friday night when I leave the LBC studios to walk down to Charing Cross Station, it’s like walking through a warzone. Drunken people tottering around, hurling abuse at each other and passers by. It’s Britain at its worst. It’s ugly and repellant.

I don’t drink, but it doesn’t mean I criticise those who do. But I will indeed criticise those whose only purpose is to go out on a Friday night with the specific purpose of getting legless. What kind of person does that? Inevitably it means that others get caught up as a result of their drunken antics. Most of the time these antics are fairly harmless and merely cause minor embarrassment and inconvenience to the general public. In some cases, though, things go too far. I find drunks of either sex embarrassing and repellent. Last night in the four minutes it takes to walk from Leicester Square to Charing Cross I was accosted by two people who were obviously the worse for wear, one female and one male. I brushed them aside without comment and walked on.

Just after the train left London Bridge a drunken woman got on my carriage and asked me to move the bag off the seat next to me. I asked her politely to sit in the seat opposite as I had no wish to sit next to a drunk in case she puked on me. An entirely reasonable thing to do in the circumstances. She then continued to act in a drunken manner, albeit not so legless that she wasn’t aware what she was doing. I started tweeting about the experience. Again, she then tried to sit next to me. I’m afraid I told her in no uncertain terms to ‘piss off’. She went back to the other seat. Someone then said: “Take a picture of her”. And this is where it started. Perhaps unwisely I did so and posted the picture on twitter along with the comment that I found her to be a “disgusting slapper”. Not very nice, and certainly not very chivalrous, but it was what I felt at the time. And then the heavens opened.

I do find people who are drunk in public absolutely disgusting and find it appalling that most people on Twitter last night seemed to think it was perfectly normal and acceptable. Well it isn’t. It’s a classic example of anti social behaviour.

And now to the use of the word ‘slapper’. Where I come from in Essex it’s not a word which by definition means a woman of loose sexual morals. Indeed it can mean that, but most people I know also use it in a different sense too. According to the Oxford English Dictionary its roots lie in the East End and derive from the Yiddish word Shlepper. According to the OED it means unkempt, scruffy person; gossipy, dowdy. And anyone looking at the picture would have to agree that she confirmed to that description. I pointed this out but my detractors preferred the definition from the Urban Dictionary (whatever that is) which equates it to slut and slag. Clearly the Oxford English Dictionary isn’t good enough for them. It’s a word I use quite a lot in various contexts. I even greeted a male MP with the phrase “hello you old slapper”, the other day.

In short the language police were out on full patrol. They reckoned I wouldn’t have done the same if it had been a man. How would they know (I would actually)? In was an attempt to portray me as some sort of misogynist. One ever reckoned I was a potential rapist. Another suggested I should stick to cruising for little boys on Clapham Common. Nice.

They also complained that I had taken a picture of someone without their permission. If she was identifiable, they might have had a point. But she wasn’t.

I can wholly accept that many people found what I did wrong, and impolite. And I have no problem with them saying so. But the majority then found it necessary to accompany their criticism with the most foul and abusive language. Again, their prerogative, but they didn’t seem to see the irony of what they were doing.

And my biggest offence of all, it seems, was to cause offence. As if it were crime. It isn’t. Yet.

Around 90% or possibly more of the tweets slagged me off in a fairly vicious way. One even tweeted Biteback suggesting I be sacked, conveninetly forgetting it would be me who had to sack myself. They’re also furiously contacting LBC to suggest they sack me too. Good luck with that.

But none of them want to address the real point – is being blind drunk in public, on public transport an acceptable way to behave? It isn’t and I won’t hesitate to keep pointing it out.

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