Well, February is here and my knee seems to be mended. At the time of writing this blog, I’m intending to try a 7 mile run with Noel tomorrow morning, my first since Tuesday, when I foolishly thought that my knee would get better if I ran on it. It didn’t. I complained to Master Johnny.
“You always tell me not to play sport when I’m injured,” he reminded me, “so what if you don’t run for a week? Better than running in pain so that you can’t run for a month.”
Sometimes that boy is too sensible. So rather than the planned 14 miles, we’ll try 7.
The arrival of February also means the end of January (see how sharp I am?)
More specifically, it’s the end of the celebrated charity raiser known as ‘The Dryathlon’, where people go without alcohol for the whole month. Now, I’ve been doing this for the past 5 years, not for charity, but initially for my own self- preservation. The first year was by far the hardest, knowing that as I drained that final alcoholic drink at a New Year’s Eve party it would be my last for 31 days.
What is the point of not drinking? This is a concept that, a few years ago, would have filled me with dread. How could you possibly have a good time without a drink? Everybody was funnier, more relaxed, friendlier and attractive. Especially me, I often found that after 5 pints of beer I was irresistible to women. Imagine a group of non-drinkers at a party, staring at the floor, trying to think of something to say?
What’s more, what would you have to look forward to? Music would be crap. Nothing would be worth dancing to. You couldn’t show your partner any real affection or attention. You’d never find a date. You’d be a social outcast, boring, dull, unimaginative. You’d wake up in the morning knowing that’s the best you’d feel for the rest of the day. Jokes would be amusing, rather than hilarious.
I think of all the things I’ve done when drinking was one of my main hobbies:
- Lots of stories used in my blogs.
- Standing on Steeley the Tinkers’ Friend’s shoulders to place Thrifty’s underpants on the chandelier in the lobby of our hotel.
- Throwing myself naked off the top of the water slide designed by The Sexton at his party; coming up with some crazy ideas to use at (almost) voluntary work.
- Going missing on a stag night and being found in a club talking to my reflection in a mirror.
- Getting thrown out of another after asking the bouncers where they might buy their puffer jackets when C & A closed down.
- A rousing chorus of ‘Singing in the Rain’ in a pub in Oxford with my rugby club, culminating in a mass strip tease involving all of the pub customers, including a Dutch hockey team (male) and an Irish Netball team (female, Catholic).
- Having a wonderfully in depth conversation with a large shaven headed Russian man at a beach bar in Greece, despite the fact his English was as good as my Russian. Non-existent.
I could go on, much as I do when I have had a few drinks.
Of course, people give up drink in January to raise money but with the secondary advantage of improving their health. Doing without alcohol undoubtedly gives your liver a chance to recover – I think it’s one of the few organs we have that can ‘repair’ itself. In a BBC report (6th January), Sir Ian Gilmore, senior adviser to the College of Physicians, said:
“It’s always a mistake to think you can undo the sins of 11 months in one month’s good behaviour.”
Heck, what does he know? Bloody lightweight. What’s more, I predict a flood of posts on Faceache and twatter and all the other social notworking sites tomorrow with messages of ‘my first hangover of 2014’ or ‘having a lovely beer’ or ‘trying to consume all my January units in one go.’
I quite like the honesty of my friend and old fag from school, Gerald. He made a brave attempt at being a dryathlete but cracked after a couple of days, freely admitting his downfall. But everything is relative.
Gerald is a bona fide drinker, who competes at an international level. Whilst residing in a hotel in Rome, he was offered all the facilities of a free bar in the residents’ lounge. By all accounts, the waiter had never been so busy, Gerald easily demolishing the bar in a few hours. The sommelier, noticing Gerald’s amazing capacity, was told to hide all the best wines since the bar profits had slumped considerably. To be fair, Gerald does have long periods of time when he abstains from drinking. It’s called sleeping. Then again, there was that time…
So, does doing without for 3 weeks really make a difference? The medical boffins can’t tell us. Researches by psychologists at the University College of London suggest that forming a new drinking habit in one month is a myth. Do you know how long they suggest, dryathletes? 66 days. That means going without alcohol from January 1st to (hang on, quick sum), March 8th!
Could you do this?
Of course, I’m not demeaning your efforts. You’ve all raised amazing amounts for charity and done something to improve your health. Be proud.
But here’s the thing. I’m going to carry on and go without drink until after the marathon, mainly because – and this is a hard thing to admit – I feel so much better not drinking. I remember listening to Ricky Wilson, lead singer with the Kaiser Chiefs, on the radio, being interviewed about his running habit:
“The difference between drinking and running is that when you drink you feel good at the time but rubbish later; when you run you feel rubbish at the time but fantastic later…”
Latest research suggests that for unborn babies, alcohol is far more damaging than smoking. Dr Neil Aiton, a paediatrician at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, said:
“If it is a choice between a drink, a smoke or a spliff then ‘don’t drink’, would be my recommendation.”
But then, he does live in Brighton where skunk is notoriously cheap. Allegedly.
In fact, only today, The Sunday Times is carrying a story suggesting that pregnant women could be arrested for drinking alcohol! I really don’t want to see groups of women being bustled out of Mothercare, handcuffed and slung in the back of a police van just for supping on a WKD.
But let me think of all the good things about being alcohol free:
- I feel positive.
- I don’t have hangovers.
- I don’t get depressed.
- I don’t feel overly stressed.
- I appreciate the moment.
- I don’t become boorish, loud(er), argumentative and rude.
- I don’t fall asleep in company.
Why not just have the one drink? You may be asking me. The problem is, I have the sort of personality where one drink isn’t enough. Frank Skinner, the comedian, who hasn’t had a drink for over 20 years, describes it beautifully. He says he can’t understand people who have one glass of wine with a meal. What’s the point? Surely the whole purpose of alcohol is to make you drunk. Either drink the whole bottle or don’t drink at all.
Also, whatever I drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, I drink a lot of it; I’ll happily drink at least a litre of fizzy water during a 3 course meal.
So there we are. If pregnant women can go nine months without a sniff of the old Pinot Grigot, I’m sure I can cope with three. Even if it means looks of incredulity and suspicion from friends. Lady Barton St Mary is delighted. No designated driving.
“Can you not drink forever?” she asked sweetly last night.
I’ve always said never trust anybody who doesn’t drink.
Which probably means I don’t trust myself…