Who else would we feature on the day of our Christmas Party, but Peter Dench and his book ‘A&E’ behind door number 12 on the Advent Calendar. Take it away Bryony…
Eat, drink and be merry! It’s Christmas time and what better way to celebrate than by enjoying Peter Dench’s perfect portrayal of drunken Britain in his book titled simply A&E (Alcohol & England). If there is no comfort be found in the bottom of your bottle, there is in the pages of this book. The insight into the drunken antics of others might actually make you feel a little better about your behaviour on your Christmas party if nothing else.
Aside from reassurance, this is beneath it all a powerful look into one common activity that unties us. This is the highlight of the project for me; there is no focus on one group of people, the young or the old, the rich or the poor. Everyone is equal, and everyone drinks.
The idea of British drinking culture is something that may be carried out differently depending on class, but the results are all the same.
A&E provides us with a witty and visually enchanting analysis of our culture, questioning why drinking is to us not just a social act, but also a lifestyle. Having grown up with parents that owned a brewery, Dench had his first drink at a young age:
‘The first time I got proper drunk was aged 12 at my former Junior School Summer Fete. Marc distracted the woman on the Hoopla while I placed the bamboo circle swiftly round the square that supported a bottle of Pomagne. The sun shone, the girls looked pretty, life was good.’
The images of middle-aged women face down in the grass and grown men vomiting in daylight are enough to draw us in. This is done, however, with a documentary style reminiscent of the subtle wit of the likes of Tony Ray Jones in what I now distinguish as a very British humor. This book is a poetic portrayal of our culture; I’d highly recommend it (even if just to remind yourself not to have another sherry this Christmas).