I AM a representative of the former British Empire and the current Commonwealth of Nations; I am the descendant of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the son of an RAF pilot. I did
not graduate with First Class honours from Cambridge University and since then have not entered the Foreign Office’s prestigious diplomatic corps.
‘The Northern Plights’ documents my assessment of Sweden for the possibility of any future conquests which the British Government’s War Cabinet is
I am partial to a sniff of post-dinner brandy, or a toast of
Royal-wedding Champagne, I know my Chateâuneuf-du-Papes from my Chateâuneuf-du-Poops, but I drink out of duty to the Empire – I am neither teetotal or….Irish.
It was therefore only when I actually needed to buy a bottle of plonk that the Curious World of the Swedish Drunk unfolded before me. I was
staying in and watching a DVD attending a dinner party hosted by the French Ambassador and his wife and needed a fine vintage red.
An unfortunate badger brush-related shaving incident had rendered me late for the dinner and I was teetering over the edge of being fashionably late to being rudely Spanishly mañana-ly late. As I trawled through the streets en route I desperately tried to find an off- licence in order to buy a fine bottle of vino, but alas I could not find one. I decided upon finding a supermarket instead, I may not be able to find a decent vintage there but ultimately, who cares, they’re French. Drat and blast, had I found the only supermarket outside Dubai which does not have a wine aisle? Zut alors, it’d have to be a corner shop, it may taste like a heady mix of anti-freeze and Old Spice aftershave, but who cares, they’re STILL French.
I arrived on their doorstep late, looking like I had been dragged through a pine forest backwards and, worse of all, sans vino, but who cares, they’re still….you know…, what do they know about wine anyway?
To understand this we need to go way back, in fact way, way, way back to pre-history. While the rest of us soon-to-be-civilised countries were busy figuring out how to invent the Corby loin cloth press, the Swedes were busy inventing…alcoholism!
Boffin historians now know that ‘pre-historic beer’ was drunk in abundance by the Scandinavians. Apparently this was to balance the taste of their revolting diet of pickled herring and salted pork - any excuse, some might say. Ever since the Nordic countries have struggled to get back on the wagon – the fact that the ‘wagon’ is more often than not on ice, does not help matters.
Heard of the greenbelt? The Bible belt? What about the vodka belt?
That’s right; throughout the centuries those half-cut Swedes were so busy making vodka and moonshine out of their grain and potato that it threatened food supplies. There was a half-hearted attempt by King of Sweden Adolf Frederick, who first tried to poop the party and introduce laws in some shape or out-of-focus form. In 1766 he gave up all hope of sobering up the barbarian hoards – boozy, beery bedlam ensued.
At its drunkest peak 170,000 household distilleries were bubbling away making whatever they could to help ease their diet of pickled fish and almost EVERY male was considered to be a drunken abuser of alcohol; although if I were to be honest, if I had to eat a raw herring for every supper then I’d probably want a litre of Absolut vodka beforehand too.
A quick temperance movement and bucket of cold Baltic sea water later and in 1955 government-run offie Systembolaget was born – Sweden’s way of telling its citizens ‘if you are going to act like children, then we are going to treat you like children.’
Either way, the price of getting plastered in Sweden is more expensive than getting your six-bedroom manor house re-plastered in England; see a drunk lying in the street in Stockholm and you don’t think ‘poor guy’, you think ‘blimey, someone is doing alright for themselves’.
ADVICE TO WAR CABINET – Destroy the Systembolagets and attack during the inevitable hangover.
I should go, I need to brush the fact that a Brit drinks 3 litres more than a Swede every year under the reindeer skin rug.
ATTENTION BOTH THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND EMPIREES: Carlsberg don’t write Dispatches, but if they did…they would ne nowhere near as good as the Dippylomat’s.