In favour of teenage drinking
Jun 3, 2007
Bishop Hill in Children

There's a small park, just over the road from the episcopal palace. We use it as a kind of extension to the garden whenever we can, since our own back yard is a bit small for the kids now.

Mostly it's fine, but on all too many weekends the ground around one or more of the pieces of play apparatus are a sea of broken glass, the result of some of the local yoof relieving their boredom. Strangely enough I sympathise with them in some ways. This is a rural village, and there's literally nothing for teenagers to do on a Saturday night. Even town, which is a half-hour walk away, has nothing. Living in the country is great for small children, but for disaffected teens it is probably a nightmare that they can't wait to end.

My own childhood was in suburbia, but in many ways we had the same problems; no money, and precious few facilities. It only got better at around the age of sixteen when I was taken aback when my father suggested, in response to my regular whine about being bored, that I get myself down to the pub for a drink.

And how right he was. Suddenly we were able to join the adult world, and once you knew which pubs wouldn't ask too many questions you could be pretty sure of a night's fun whenever you wanted it.  It's a way of doing things which just doesn't exist any longer, now that the police are in and out of the pubs checking for underage drinkers. Back in my day, teenagers went off to grown-up pubs and had a few pints and nobody batted an eyelid. The bars were full of adults, and if you were misbehaving you would be thrown out. Essentially you were an adult until you stepped out of line, at which point you suddenly became an child under adult supervision. It was a civil society way of dealing with the problem. You soon learned that keeping your head down and drinking quietly was the best way not to attract attention - you were taught to drink in a (relatively) civilised fashion, .

I don't mean to suggest that it was a perfect arrangement - some people are always going to step out of line - but I sometimes wonder if it was better than the current arrangement, where teenagers sup buckfast on the park benches and end the evening by smashing the bottles against the baby swings. 

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