Scottish readers will be all too aware of Scotland’s new drinking laws, which came into force a couple of weeks ago. Basically, the amount of alcohol present in your blood stream must be below 50mg per 100 mls of blood. In baking bread, I’ve recently discovered that mgs and mls weigh the same – I don’t need to change the setting on my scales between weighing the flour and salt, and then the tepid water. So it sounds as if I’m allowed to have half the weight of the blood coursing through my veins as pure alcohol. In the rest of the UK, it’s 80% – outright scary. But I’m not a scientist and I’m easily confused by numbers. And clearly my conclusion is false because the public awareness campaign in advance of the new law advocated drinking no alcohol at all if planning to drive, as even the sherry in your granny’s trifle could put you over the new legal limit.
I grew up in a largely alcohol-free household. If there was ever any drink in the house, it was because somebody brought back a bottle of something syrupy and possibly dubious from their holidays – Spain was all the rage, back then, for those who could afford it. My mother didn’t have to worry about drink-driving limits, partly because she didn’t drink much anyway, and partly because she didn’t own a car. An evening’s entertainment involved walking up the hill to the church hall, having a meeting of some kind followed by a cup of tea and a bit of home-made shortie, then walking back home again. Last year I read Jeanette Winterson’s brilliant autobiography, ‘Why be Happy when you could be Normal?’ Not that my childhood was like this but I could recognise some parallels, like the way that church life provided a community and family to belong to. At one point, talking about the activities (prayer meetings; soup kitchens; choir practice; bible study etc) provided by church involvement, Winterson comments on the joy of having something to do every night of the week, in a town where there was nothing to do.
Anyway, I digress. One of the odd bottles which found its way into our house was thick, yellow and viscous. You mixed it up with lemonade (lots of fizzing) to make a Snowball; and one Christmas season I remember my mother fixing herself a little Snowball on a regular basis to accompany Coronation Street and the filling in of her football coupon. To my astonishment, I found a bottle of said yellow gunk in Aldi the other week, and at £4.99 per 70cl, had to have it. Reader, I confess, it’s nearly finished. I might even go out and buy another bottle. There’s something nostalgically frivolous about it. It’s called Advocaat and hails from Holland. It has 14 degrees of alcohol by volume so mixed with lemonade, it’s not going to make a big impact on your ability to drive. That said, I’m not taking even that tiny risk. I’m very attached to my driver’s license. The Snowball is my strictly bedtime drink. Cheers everyone! Drive safely!