Una cervecita?

The other day I was having a chat with a girlfriend about the thorny subject of drinking and driving. Specifically, Spanish men drinking and driving. More specifically, Spanish men drinking cerveza and driving. It's a cultural-generational thing, we decided. As English girls, we were brought up thinking that drinking and driving was something you just didn't do. When I staggered out of a university party one night the worse for wear, many years ago, as a young and carefree (and stupid) student, and tried to drive my battered old Fiat Uno home, I was forcibly removed from the car by my friends and reprimanded in such vehement terms that I never made that mistake again. But here, it seems, it is a mark of machismo to see how many beers you can down before getting behind the wheel. A tragic recent accident in Seville was the result of a drunken driver who'd had his licence taken away. A repeat offender, a hardened drinker. Going back to me and my friend, who is the late stages of pregnancy, she confirmed a theory that I borrowed from another friend whose partner is Spanish. That cervecitas don't count as alcohol here. If you go out for a drink, and you have, say, four or five beers, you haven't drunk anything, because beer is a soft drink. Four or five cañas is the equivalent to about two pints (1 caña is 25cl, or 0.44 pints). The three of us - me, the pregnant one and the one with the theory - all agree on this. We're not just thinking about ourselves or our beer-loving other halves; there are third, or fourth, parties to take into account too. We're all agreed, spirits are a no-no when driving the family - much as it hurts, you'll just have to say no to that whisky at your nephew's first communion, as there are children in the car - your own children. If you're on your own, that's your decision. But what about beer? Generally, if a 70kg man drinks 66cl (2.5 cañas) of beer, he will be around the limit, depending on whether or not he's eaten and other factors. So do our men just think they're more tolerant than the average male, or what? Do I really want you driving me and our offspring when you've downed a couple of pints? And then of course, there's the small matter of the law. In my case, my husband has only just got his licence back after a few years of being suspended due to a second case of driving under the influence. A third would mean prison. And divorce. Probably not in that order. But he will no doubt insist that there's no problem with having a few little cervecitas when we're out to lunch or whatever. I, on the other hand, am a total wimp and draw the line at one glass of wine, having had the wits scared out of me when I was breathalysed a few months ago. I'd only had half a glass of cava, but it made me feel squiffy so I stopped drinking it. I was terrified as I'd never been breathalysed before, and ballsed it up about four times and kept apologising to the Guardia, who I'm sure put it down to me being a thick guiri, rather than a half-cut one. When I turned down a glass of rebujito, which i love, at the Feria, explaining that I was driving, they all thought I was barking mad. No, just too overly uptight, and British, and dependent on my car. So what do you think? Do you drink and drive? Or does your other half? Do you think it's acceptable to have four-or-five-cervezas a la Andaluz, and then drive a car? And will the culture here in Andalucia ever change? Will taxi drivers and on-duty policemen (I got shouted at once by a drunk Guardia in uniform, for asking him to move his car which was blocking the way to my house) ever lay-off the late-night/early morning beers and brandy?
Blog published on 3 June 2010