In a shock development offering hope for the cohesion of British society - not to mention the finances of the British government and the operating model of the Reg - boffins have discovered that it is possible to live almost entirely on booze and yet remain fully functional.
At the moment, according to the latest research, the community containing the largest number of grog-soaked yet productive and orderly members is the pen-tailed tree shrew population of Malaysia. The diminutive, nocturnal alcoholic soricomorphs' favoured tipple is apparently fermented nectar from the buds of the bertam palm tree, which is about 4 per cent alcohol - roughly equivalent to bitter.
Boffins led by Frank Wiens of Bayreuth Uni in Germany said that the Malaysian shrews generally quaff sufficient palm tree alco-nectar that a human of the same size and habits would be drunk much of the time, according to the BBC. This was determined by analysis of the creatures' coiffure. Yet the boozed-up shrews spent little or no time lurching menacingly about the central gathering-places of the jungle, vomiting and scuffling incompetently with one another. Nor did they stumble home to their furry families only to receive a frosty welcome, followed by a night spent in the shrew equivalent of the coal shed, a nearby skip etc.
Rather, the cheery little fellows "barely seemed to get drunk at all," reportedly - they were more than able to hold their liquor. There may perhaps have been the odd stifled belch, hiccup or inadvertent furniture collision, then, but overall the shrews' evidently quite un-shrewish wives would be perfectly happy to have the vicar round at any time, despite the fact that they and their spouses' back teeth are usually awash.
Other scientists investigating the drinking habits of small furry animals have generally chosen more obvious methods, such as noting when rats became too drunk to remember things by the number of times they wandered onto a floor area which gave them painful electric shocks. (In that particular experiment, it was found that in fact a temperance regime destroyed the rats' memory faster than moderate boozing.)
All in all, the research would seem to have provided yet more proof - were it needed - that it's quite possible to drink like a fish (or indeed, as we would now say, like a shrew) and yet be an upstanding member of society. After all, as the boffins point out, all mammals including humans spring originally from small furry creatures like the tree shrew, which were around in the time of the dinosaurs.
And with Blighty's imperilled public finances now more than ever dependent on the swingeing mulcts laid upon the nation's drinkers, it's surely time for the present anti-booze hysteria to die down, and for us all to emulate our cheery, furry, diminutive ale-swilling remote ancestors. ®