In the pub, at the bar, with a crowd? Then opt out of the round if you agree with Richard Thaler, government advisor from Chicago University — or at least set up a tab if there are more than three of you. Binge drinking can be knocked on the head, dealt a deadly blow, pierced through the heart and its vitals, he says here, if only Brits at the bar will stop buying rounds. I think they last tried this approach during the First World War, when it was called ‘treating’ (or was that just for soldiers?). It was part of the attempt to get munitions workers on the straight and narrow (along with the introduction of dear old DORA and various other things). Hey ho. Buying a round is part of the conviviality and sociability of the pub, one of the ways we express ourselves with friends and colleagues — and if you don’t want to be part of it you just say no, which is a fairly easy thing. No rounds were certainly being bought in a pub in a Devon village, on a day before Christmas, as I alone, at a table in a corner, contemplating a mid-afternoon Otter on the way home, saw a bloke who used to booze a lot around here. Never cared for him that much. Solitary at the bar, shoulders slumped over his glass of Smooth, the classic image of the drinking loser, he woke up and gained some composure when an acquaintance parked himself unsteadily onto the next stool. Words emerged and I tuned in and out, as you do, sometimes hearing whole sentences, other times just fragments — the music of pub life. The pub’s too expensive…you can get cans from the supermarket a quid each…sit home in front of the telly…as much as you like (no rounds then)…in the warmth…on your own. I heard riffs on this theme several times over Christmas (and even earlier this evening in the Co-op) so it’s full steam ahead for the good ship Titanic as some might want to call the pub industry, but on the other hand in the pub over the holiday I also witnessed and heard different things: a Smooth Tetley regular switching to Otter Amber and a chat with a local drinker in his mid-20s who said he was getting bored with his Carlsberg and switching over to cask beer more and more. You win some, you lose some, which is how I guess it’s always going to be.