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“A Life Well Lit”

by Kim Krenz

This is the heading of a pamphlet I found in the office of my ophthalmologist. It refers, of course to the importance of good illumination. To my rather devious mind, however, it sounds like a reference to the effect of alcohol on one’s personal life. It is undoubtedly true that alcohol plays a part in the lives of many, and, as with most things, there is an important difference between “enough” and “too much”.

When I was recovering from surgery in the Peterborough Regional Health Centre a couple of years ago, I was surprised when my surgeon asked whether I enjoyed spirits, and, if I did, would I like some. I do enjoy the effect of a glass of wine with food, and the effect of a “wee dram” after dinner, and I said so. To my delight, he prescribed these drinks to my niece while I was in hospital. My rapid recovery from surgery was not due to my being “well lit”, to be sure, but I am certain that the drinks made my hospital stay more pleasant, and therefore an aid to recovery.

The beneficial effects of being “well lit” become apparent as one grows older. I have read that the Queen Mother, who lived to a ripe old age, became a regular consumer of gin. She paid a visit to Toronto some years ago and, on a visit to the Royal Canadian Military Institute, delighted the members by joining with them in a toast to her daughter, the Queen. Sir John A. MacDonald, who did much to establish the Dominion of Canada as an effective arm of the British Empire, did so on the strength of the whisky that was his regular drink.

There is no question that alcoholic beverages have played an important role in human affairs. Properly used, they have done much to brighten the lives of those who consume them, and their effect has been used to enhance the enjoyment, and hence the importance, of many a formal occasion. As with most stimulants, however, there is a difference between a quantity producing agreeable effects and a quantity that is too much; and it is the effects of too much that give alcohol a bad name. In weaker natures it can become habit forming, and the effects of habit are disastrous. We are all too familiar with the poor drunk who solicits money to support a habit that has gone beyond control. In such circumstances, being “well lit” is to be an object of pity and disgust.

The drunkenness and excesses caused by alcohol arose mainly from its use in the early days of the New World, when a quart of liquor could be bought for five cents, and its consumption gave some relief from a hard life in the wilderness. In the Europe from which immigrants came, wines and liquors have long had an honoured place in the menus of the general public as well as of high society. Fine wines and liquors are to be found everywhere, and are greatly prized.

It is only recently that it was discovered that high quality wines could be obtained from grapes grown on the Niagara Peninsula, and their production has given rise to an industry that has become an important feature of the Province. Similar successes have been achieved in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. The days of “come alive for a dollar five” with the terrible wines of old Ontario are, thankfully, things of the past.

Canadian provincial governments have, of course, known since the beginning that money was to be made from the consumption of wines and liquors, and they have increased the expense of these beverages inordinately to draw as much income from their consumption as can be tolerated by the public. It is safe to say that such regulatory behaviour would not survive anywhere in Europe.

The writing of this column has been a rather thirsty business however, and I must repair to the wine cupboard to see if there is anything there to quench the thirst. I shall, of course, drink to your health and happiness.

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