Belfast Telegraph

Tea and no sympathy ... from those men in the white coats

The Editor was concerned at the daily conference the other day - and it had nothing to do with the visit of the Queen and if the printers would have enough ink to give us enough pages to cover the historic occasion and whether all media would be allowed to get a picture of that handshake or not.

No, the Editor was concerned about tea, or, more precisely, his tea-drinking habit. Being an Englishman and a gentleman he is more than partial to copious cups of cha daily and a report had just landed on his desk saying that, if you had turned into a heavy tea drinker influenced by the health benefits boasted by recent studies, you needed to think again, as new long-term research now claims seven cups or more of the black stuff a day could raise the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Needless to say, that's a cancer that any decent man interested in his self-preservation is concerned about fending off - and such concerned men include myself and the Editor.

Anyways, this latest warning comes from those affable fellows in white coats at the University of Glasgow who tracked more than 6,000 men for four decades - they spent an inordinate amount of time in cafs, I guess - and found that those who drank seven or more cups of tea daily (cue: the Editor) had a 50% higher risk of contracting the disease than men who took three or fewer.

But look, I said to him, this is all very Daily Mailish. One day tea is good for you, the next it's not, ditto coffee and alcohol and who remembers the joys of real butter before they invented all those pale imitations with their polyunsats what-have-you?

No. Listen. The fact is if you were to believe everything the white coats say you'd never munch another morsel for the rest of your days, nor let a sup pass your lips. What a terrible thought.

And look at the Chinese. For them, tea is a precious substance: exquisite, medicinal, even spiritual. Tea cultivation and tea drinking have a long and rich history with the old Chinese. For them, the art of drinking tea is also the art of longevity, of good companionship, and, em, of heightened awareness. What Confucius and his crowd called Teaism.

Small wonder they're taking over the world. (See business pages.)

Then there's me. After I got out of hospital after the open-heart business I started charging people a quid to see the scar. A clean cut that ran from sternum to half-way down my chest with two little holes either side where they had wired me up. The wires being pulled out without any funny pills was not funny.

Like something one of those eerie magicians from East Germany would be adept at.

Deep breath, she said.

Jesus, I said and she pulled, like a demented woman.

After I made less than the price of two pints in one sitting, with few takers wanting to gawk at my war wound, I realised this was not the way forward.

I had been given a second chance and I owed it to somebody, somewhere to behave myself, to become moderate as in 'moderation in all things', and not abuse my mended body. As, I am told, I had done before.

But it's hard to keep on the straight and narrow without having to take on board the plethora of information out there on matters of health and well-being, not to mention trying to live forever while drinking gallons of tea.

Depending on which book, magazine, newspaper story, or pamphlet you read or www you surf - is Google a help or a hinderance? Discuss - there's a wealth of difference of opinion on what foodstuffs constitute good health.

And then there's alcohol. And the male.

Twenty-one units, said my heart man.

A day?

Don't be silly. A week.

Then there's all this research about sleep. Too little and you're a nervous wreck the next day. Too much and you're headed for the twilight world of going gaga.

The recommended nightly shut-eye is given as eight hours. One third of a day, one third of the years you live. Hit 90 and you've been asleep for 30 years! Thirty! What have you missed? You and the hedgehog.

Then there's exercise. Important one this. Its basic premise is that you have to keep moving, keep on the go - at all costs. Stop and you may never move again.

It will be hip this and hip that or, worse, a commode. The final insult to one's dignity.

No, exercise is important. Any fool can fathom that. The thing is in what form and how often this exercise should be. Are we talking marathon or marbles here? And that's even before we get around to muscles and abs and tone, not to mention the vexatious issue of vitamins and steroids and milkshakes that half-heartedly promise you you will live forever.

It's no wonder the Editor is worried and I am confused.

And now I'm worried about those 20,000 party-goers who had tea with the Queen on Wednesday.

Bet you Philip never touches the stuff.

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