One can of beer, and one baguette…

 By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

In that order, if you please…

It was a little after six in the morning, still dark, and I was in the middle of the line at the bakery. I cocked my ear to make sure I had heard correctly. I had – the next moment the vendor handed a can of beer to the customer, followed by the baguette.

As the young gentleman, clean-shaven and smartly dressed, walked towards the exit, he opened the can and brought it to his mouth. In Curepipe. In winter – and it’s a pretty cold one indeed. The sun had not even dared to rise yet.

I had come across a similar episode before too, in the same bakery and that early in the morning also. The first time that I saw people drinking so early during the day was when I was pursuing specialist studies in the UK in the mid-1970s. In spite of the British fondness for beer which I had already come to realize was almost their distinguishing trait, I was still shocked to see two youngsters drinking the stuff as I got on to a 6.02 am train to London. There were already a couple of empty cans on their table in the dining car where they were sitting.

It was in the UK too that I once crossed a friend in the evening as it was already getting dark. He was in a great rush and I asked him what was the matter. ‘X is coming to stay tonight,’ he replied, ‘and his breakfast is beer! So I am going to the shop before it closes to get a crate of the stuff!’

There is more than one thing wrong in our society, but alcoholism is definitely a major and real ill which is gnawing at the social fabric. It is a matter that should concern everyone, and no single authority can tackle it alone. Personal habit, lax parental responsibility, easy availability and accessibility, aggressive and attractive marketing, targeting of youth, peer pressure, a compliant commercially-orientated media – all these are some of the factors that are driving the alcohol epidemic. It does not only cause health problems, but impacts negatively on the family and by extension on society at large.

The alarm been raised many times, and it is now for the people to assume their responsibility at both the individual and collective levels, otherwise we are heading for big trouble ahead.

Suddenly, winter barged in…

The met station had already predicted that we were going to have a rather cold winter. But we were still being blessed by warm sunny days, and happily commented that perhaps these guys had been too pessimistic and had got things wrong.

No way! Abruptly, about two weeks ago on a Friday, we felt a gusty wind blowing cold at us as we were taking our daily walk at Trou-0-Cerfs, reminding of the mistral that I experienced many years ago as I walked back to the CHU La Timone in Marseilles after a late afternoon trip to La Cannebiere. The cold days are definitely here to stay for the duration of their course, accompanied by the customary and typical Curepipian rain that has already come down several times. A good excuse to keeping some of us, especially the senior citizens, from our regular appointment with ourselves! Those who are lucky not to have a fixed schedule can still make it later during the day when the weather improves; others have to make do with the missed days, and hope to compensate for them at a later date.

When we reappear at the crater, it is a wee comfort and consolation to meet up with and learn from friends that they also have defaulted, providing us with an opportunity for light banter. For example, eh pas facile ek sa fraicheur la, lipied tasse dans draps! On further enquiry, in many cases there is a generally accepted justifiable explanation: the World Cup matches that start late and it’s nearly midnight by the time they are over. Granted…

And, from the beginning, there have been surprises, so have I learnt from the veteran football fans, amongst whom I do not count myself. The latest news doing the rounds at one point in time was that the final would be played between Germany and Holland, the favourite then being Germany for many ‘technical’ reasons which I have heard being hotly discussed. And I can swear that the heat so generated is enough to warm one up against the cold wind blowing about!

But others have their own way of predicting the winner. Here is one formula that has been circulated about:

“Believe it or not….This World Cup is already determined by the numbers….

“1. Brazil won the World Cup in 1994; before that they also won in 1970. Adding 1970 + 1994 = 3964 
“2. Argentina won its last World Cup in 1986; before that they also won in 1978. Adding 1978 + 1986 = 3964
“3. Germany won its last World Cup in 1990; before that they also won in 1974. Adding 1974 + 1990 = 3964
“4. Brazil also won the World Cup in 2002; before that they also won in 1962. Adding 1962+ 2002 = 3964

“Therefore if you want to know which nation is going to win the World Cup in 2010, you only have to subtract 2010 from the magic number that we have determined: 3964.
“3964 minus 2010 = 1954…
“In 1954 the World Cup was won by Germany! Probably not scientific… but pretty interesting…”

I have no reason to disagree… except that the formula hasn’t worked this time round: Spain has beaten Germany and goes to the finals. Looks like some allowance must be made for such unpredictables in the predictions!

* Published in print edition on 9 July 2010

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