Britain's new budget is out and starting Sunday a pint at the pub is going to be more expensive. Yesterday Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announced an increase in the alcohol tax, a move he says is designed to stem the tide of binge-drinking.
Binge-drinking is a popular topic for the media here; newspapers are full of stories about plastered teenagers and vomiting shop assistants. I'm not out on the streets when the clubs close so I don't see the worst of it, but there are enough empty cans of cider and bottles of vodka in the park when I walk my dog each morning that I believe it's an issue. I don't see how this tax is going to address that, though.
The 4 pence increase on a pint of beer will probably be absorbed by supermarkets, where a pint averages 99p. The cost is unlikely to go up. Pubs are skating on thin ice, though. In a pub a pint costs 2.60. I expect that will rise. With their wafer-thing profit margins, pubs can't afford to eat it the 4p.
Just as frequent as binge-drinking stories are pub-closing stories. I don't sympathize with publicans who blame the smoking ban, but I do feel sorry that the new tax will hit them. I'd rather see store-bought alcohol get taxed more, with tax breaks for pubs. The government should encourage people to drink in the warm, lovely atmosphere of a pub, rather than on a park bench.
In her last movie, "The Golden Compass," Nicole Kidman's character had a "daemon," the animal manifestation of her soul. It was a nasty little monkey, but according to Britain's best-selling paper, the Daily Mail, another animal might be more appropriate. According to the paper, Kidman has used so much botox that she has the face of a bat. The Mail thoughtfully includes a pair of photos for comparison. That's Kidman on the left. (And if Kidman's daemon should be a bat, Britt Eklund's should be a trout, as this Mail story from a few months ago suggests.)
Poor Daily Mail. Lisa Marie Presley is suing the paper for calling her fat in an article last week. The story was really quite bitchy, illustrated with photos of Presley chowing down in a mall food court and featuring a faux "we're concerned she's eating herself to death, the way her father did" tone to it. I'd link to the piece but it's no longer on the paper's web site. I think that sort of screams guilt and I don't know why they're backing down. Presley is fat, but she has reason to be: She's pregnant.
If her strange prenatal cravings include asparagus, she might consult Jemima Packington, Britain's only "asparamancer." She uses stalks of asparagus the way others might use goose entrails or the I Ching. According to the Daily Telegraph: "Ms. Packington, from Worcester, throws the asparagus spears onto the floor and makes her predictions based on how they land." I predict you will watch this BBC video of her at work. I hope it doesn't make your pee smell funny.
Last month's news from Italy was that Italian men are no longer allowed to touch their genitals for luck. This month comes news that Italian women who commit adultery are allowed to lie about it. That was the ruling from Italy's highest court, who said that a 48-year-old woman referred to only as "Carla" did not make a false statement when she told police she did not lend her mobile phone to her lover. She was only protecting her honor. I love this line from the BBC's story: "She had lent her telephone to her secret lover, Giovanni, who then used it to call Carla's estranged husband, Vincenzo, and insult him." And Giovanni was probably making rude hand gestures while he was doing it.
The Mirror is looking for Britain's "sexiest fish and chip shop girl." I'm sure all that grease does wonders for the complexion.
I'll be spending today in London, or as participants in a survey by the TripAdvisor web site describe it: Europe's dirtiest and most expensive city.
Gargoyle of the Week
Okay, this isn't a gargoyle. It's a human face that seems to emerge from a house in Wolvercote, just north of Oxford. It's an odd little architectural feature, one of two visages that peer out of the light blue house:
To be honest, the faces are a little creepy, and I would worry that late at night, a little tipsy, they might give me a start. Of course, I can barely afford to get tipsy these days, let alone drunk.
But don't let that stop you. Have a great weekend and don't forget to tip your waitress.