Life

TV review: Adrian Chiles has a sobering message for regular drinkers

Adrian Chiles discusses his excess drinking. (C) Ricochet Ltd - Photographer: Jonathan Young
Billy Foley

Drinkers Like Me: Adrian Chiles

Adrian Chiles frightened the bejaysus out of me.

It's probably true to say that he frightened the life out of most middle-aged drinkers.

We all know that we're fooling ourselves with our self-generated estimates of how much alcohol we consume.

Previous generations may have imbibed plenty but it was almost always done in a public house. I can't ever remember my parents drinking regularly at home. A bottle of Blue Nun might appear on Christmas Day but nobody liked that strange wine stuff and it would probably go unfinished.

No, previous generations did their drinking in the pub and there was a limited amount of time you could spend there.

Now, we're all at it at home and went we get a chance to get go 'out out', as Mickey Flanagan says, it gets worse.

TV presenter Adrian Chiles tried to figure out just why drinking was so important to him, how much damage he was doing to his health, and whether he should cut back or try and cut it out altogether.

When he counted his units (which you cannot do if you're lying to yourself about your consumption) he was hitting almost 80 to 90 units on a bad week.

He drank six nights a week (never on a Thursday because he's broadcasting) and his units consisted mostly of Guinness and wine. The recommended weekly intake is just 14 units, seven small glasses of wine, and he's been throwing back multiples of that for 30 years.

A blood test appeared to show that all was well, with the exception of some excess fat, but a sophisticated scan of his liver revealed some worrying scarring.

Chiles probably drinks more than the average middle-aged tippler but he'd used common reasons to justify his consumption. He told himself he didn't have a problem because he rarely got drunk, never woke up in the strange places, never took a drink before 6pm, was usually in bed for midnight and it didn't affect his work or his relationships.

In fact, his relationships were built around alcohol and to be fair, in balance, alcohol brought some very good times as well as some health problems.

We've seen television programmes like this before but there was a honesty about Chiles which was touching and affecting.

I'm counting my own units this week and I'm terrified of the results.

***

Pope Francis in Ireland, RTE 1 and 2

The responsibility, as the national broadcaster, fell to RTE to cover the visit of the leader of the world's Catholics to Ireland last weekend.

Excluding news programmes, there were more than 17 hours of live television over two days and while I saw only a portion of it, I'm sure there were many people who watched it all.

Broadcaster and former newspaper editor Vincent Browne described it as "propaganda" and "reverential." And he added that it was "not journalism."

'Reverential' seemed fair to me. That is how broadcasters tend to treat occasions of state. Think of the visits to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth in 2011 or Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2012.

British television, probably because of its more numerous state occasions, has a whole section of television presenters who specialise in knowing pointless facts about the trooping of the colour or the Queen's guard so as to the fill the hours of television.

To my mind RTE performed that function adequately while also reflecting the criticism of a Church leadership which covered up the sexual abuse of Irish children and whose teachings are at odds with Irish law.

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