I’ll have a coke, please


Trendy bars. Shiny taps. Bongo house music. Fucking dreadful.
Trendy bars: Shiny taps. Bongo house music. Fucking dreadful.

In search of cocktails, we headed for what was apparently quite a trendy night spot in Northampton. I can’t quite remember the name, but I don’t think my tie is fat enough nor my job title ambiguous enough to be qualified to even say it. Plus, I don’t call my wife ‘babe’, drink MochaChoccaLatteFuckingTastelessMilkyFroth, nor do I drive a VW Scirocco, care what anyone thinks about my hair, enjoy breathy, weak-chinned cover versions of brilliant records or speak almost entirely in phrases borrowed from the US. I’m surprised they let me in at all, actually.

I am the epitome of uncool.

Anyway, let me in they did. And, on passing under the ‘yeah, retro, man’ neon sign, we were met with a queue. Yes, a queue to get into a drinking establishment. More accurately, it was a queue to get up the stairs to the entrance of the drinking establishment. My mind filled with what possible wonderment these people were clearly so desparate to see. Cocktail-shaking spider monkeys? A toaster which has more than one usable setting? A reformation of Pink Floyd?

As it turned out, the trail of impossibly cool hipsters were waiting to get into a room. A room fuller than any room I have ever been in. Full enough to make detaching your arms from your sides impossible. The bar was an ocean of people away, the generic, percussion-laced dance music almost drowned out by equally inane, shouted chatter. Suffice to say, we left and ended up having a far better time in my living room. This in turn left me with a question I’m still yet to answer: why were people so keen to get in there? Isn’t ‘going out’ supposed to be fun?

Perhaps that night a seed was sown…

Back in December, I agreed to take part in the January ‘dryathlon’. This required participants to not touch a drop of alcohol for the duration of the first month of the year.

Immediately, this sounded stupid. Why? Why give up the one thing that has an almost medicinal quality in rescuing your mind and body from a particularly trying day at work? Why stop doing something which assists in awkward social situations when you have to pretend that you’re genuinely interested in what someone you once went to school with now does for a living?

Unfortunately, the person requesting that I take part was my wife, and, as every married man will know, they are a far superior being and should not be messed with. Generally, they’re right and we’re wrong and we should pay attention to what they’re telling us to do because, invariably, we’ll regret not doing so later on when we’re reminded that we should have listened.

So, I participated. And the result? Something of a revelation, actually.

I’ve never depended on drink. I love it, no question, but I don’t need it. I didn’t realise that until I went a month without it. Sure, there were some instances where it proved particularly difficult to resist; an away day to watch Northampton Town play Chesterfield in what was easily their worst performance in living memory being a particularly good example. But I managed it, and still had a good time dissecting the game afterwards with people I find genuinely interesting.

In January, I discovered something I bet few drinkers will be aware of. That feeling on a Friday night, or after a long drive, or after reading a particularly irritating Facebook status update… you know the one, when you desperately, really, really need a drink? It goes. Quite quickly. When you’re not allowed to have one, the feeling dissipates within an hour and, once it’s gone, you’re quite happy to drink a cup of tea. As a result, you don’t fall asleep half an hour later, nor do you continue drinking and wake up with a head which feels like Eric Pickles has taken an almighty shit inside it. You feel fresh. Feeling fresh is nice.

As Ghandi would say, I’m not going to ‘go all Cliff Richard on yo’ ass’, but the dryathlon has changed my attitude towards alcohol, no question. Since taking part, my better half and I haven’t consumed anywhere near as much and, quite often, just one glass of wine or beer has been enough. What’s more, we enjoy it. Having drunk regularly for my entire adult life, I fear the taste may have started to become less impressive. The subsequent hit expected. Now, it feels genuinely-earned and special, which I think any treat is supposed to.

Maybe I’m getting old. But, just as the passing of time makes you care less about inadvertently insulting people or consistently rushing around for others when everyone else is either late or preoccupied with themselves, I don’t really give a toss.

If I was reading this two months ago, I’d think ‘what a dick – just have a drink and enjoy yourself’. Head back ten years and I would have laughed this blog out of the park. Back then, getting as drunk as was technically possible was funny and a challenge worth undertaking. Now, it just seems daft. As does heading out ‘into town’. I’d rather spoon my eyeballs out than be met with a crowded bar lined with shiny taps and lion cub tear-flavoured cider bottles.

Alcohol, like Facebook*, gives us a heightened sense of our own importance and a genuine belief that everyone wants to hear about what’s going on behind our closed doors. Truth is, they don’t. None of us do. Unless you’re Shane MacGowan, your life is boring, and what better way to enjoy it than being 95% sober?

Anyone fancy a pint?

*and, yes, blogs.

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