Did it…

Friday 31 January 2020

Another January draws to a close, but this is no ordinary opening slog of dark and dreary endurance. It is one where, just as I pause to proudly cheer “I did it!”, I find myself bowled with joy because my eldest really and truly ‘did it’! She went and got herself that University offer…

I did Dry January! Today I reach the end of a 31 day alcohol-holiday for my body. Tough times at first – bottles of white wine gleaming like exotic jewels of temptation on the supermarket shelves. Turning the key in the lock after a late night rehearsal but not relaxing with a glass of whisky… it all felt very dull. Was it worth the perseverance… absolutely!! From the middle of the month, I rediscovered a natural tiredness and slept like a baby most nights. And today, as I prepare to wave goodbye to total abstinence, my skin is clear, my stomach settled and water, how I crave H20, seems far more refreshing than … anything. Above all however, I have fallen a little bit in love with my clearer, fresher mind. This old brain won’t ever revive the glorious romps of my 20s, I know that, but without doubt, it is sharper and speedier this month than in the previous 5 years. Alcohol, yes it was difficult to give up, but for me, giving up fog-free thinking … now that will be impossible. I think my drinking habits are reformed for ever…eek!

Today also marks ‘done it’ for my course of antibiotics. My finger still looks pretty awful but it is usable again. I can write once more. I can turn on light switches. I can rummage for keys on my bag. And, ‘Hallelujah’ I can at long last, return to playing my oboe. So I have ‘done’ rehearsals again this week – hip hip hooray!

And it doesn’t quite end there. This is Friday, which means that I ‘do’ a run! It’s a gruelling and windswept ordeal tonight, but my run buddy drags me around the muddy course. By the end, my mood is high … and it is about to go stratospheric. I am just collapsing into my car when the mobile rings, it’s my eldest,

“Mum, I’ve got an offer!!!”

Happiness, pride, relief, incredulity, all these emotions and more flood the system. So much hard work, so much stress, so much waiting, … but suddenly it all seems worth it. My girl, against all the odds, has ‘done it’, and she edges ever closer to her medicine dreams. I am completely over the moon. Forget your fizz and cocktails … this feels like a high that will never end.

So I bid you a fond farewell January 2020 … possibly the best January ever!!

The Guardian Crossword

Saturday 18 January 2019

Well what d’you know! Dry January Day 18 and I find that I can actually do some of the cryptic crossword. Are my brain cells re-awakening?

Reading the newspaper, just once a week, was one of last year’s New Year Resolutions. I thought it was a brilliant idea. My eldest was starting to think about University interviews, Prom-dress Daughter’s English teacher had recommended it. Small Boy always seemed genuinely engaged with the world and gifted with a brain that hears something once and never forgets it … I actually thought he would enjoy it.

“Let’s all choose one article to read each week and discuss them over mealtimes.”

I was heard to suggest, like some middle class twerp. The teens were unanimous in their response,

“No Mum. We won’t be doing that!”

And true to their word, they never did. Oh I lie actually. There was one, and only one, occasion when the newspaper did get opened. That was the day when Small Boy and I had an epic row. I eventually flounced tearfully out of the house. Upon my return, I found my son, who knew that he had really upset me, sitting in the lounge eagerly leafing through the Saturday Guardian and greeting my appearance with a peace offering of,

“This is a very interesting newspaper Mum!”

That incident aside, it was so rare for the supplements and reviews to even make it out of their (compostable) wrapping, that by mid-February I decided to save myself a weekly £3.20 and shelved the plan.

This New Year however I stayed with friends who do take a daily paper. I read a few articles and … more importantly … rediscovered the cryptic crossword! Now that was a trip down memory lane. My lovely mum taught me how to tackle the challenge of the ‘non-simple’ crossword setters, many years ago. On our long summer holidays, at the family caravan in Wales, we’d sit together over the crossword every morning. And each year, by the time the days began to shorten and the August sun take an autumnal turn, we’d both be pretty nifty at the thing. Not so at New Year 2020 alas. I was totally rubbish and managed about one clue (a pitiful anagram), over the course of several days!

Nonetheless, today, as I push my trolley past the kiosk at the supermarket, I decide that I will resurrect my Saturday Guardian resolution. Not so much for the teens this time, but for me. And this afternoon, coffee in one hand and pen in the other I sit down to pit my wits against ‘Brendan’ setter of Cryptic Crossword No. 28 033 …. and I find that I can suddenly solve a fair few clues!

Can this really be the lack of alcohol? Let’s face it, there are many things it could be, but I am claiming this one as a Dry January triumph … for two main reasons. Firstly, my brain has definitely felt clearer, sharper and less ‘foggy’ for quite a few days now. But secondly, that apart, I have felt absolutely no other benefits from my days of abstinence. My waist is no thinner and, laid low with a viscious, energy-sapping cold bug throughout most of the first month of 2020, I feel cheated of the promised boost to my health and vitality. So as I face another 13 days partying the nights away on Diet Coke and Schloer, I draw upon the motivation that my mind at least, if not my body, may be heading back someway towards its former glory.

Anyway time for me to get back to my crossword. Six more clues stand between me and a chance to win that coveted prize of the ‘Can you solve my problems?’ paperback. 1 down anyone….

Dry January!

Saturday 4 January 2020

Last year, my January resolution was ‘No Man-uary.‘ Not the greatest of challenges I have to confess, as the first 31 days of 2019 did not often call upon me to beat a trail of eligible suitors from the door! So for 2020, I have taken on a much sterner test, ‘Dry January’

‘Dry January’ is not a new concept, indeed the first campaign, by Alcohol Concern, occurred in January 2013 and gathered momentum, as adults rallied to recover from the huge Christmas hangover. On our shores alone last year, the British Liver Trust report that approximately 1 in 10 of the drinking population signed up to a ‘Dry January’. And the phenomenon, of giving your body a 31-day holiday from booze, has spread globally too. Alcohol Change estimate that around 20 percent of downloads for its Dryanuary-tracking app are outside the U.K.

Yet I had previously thought it a ludicrous notion.

‘January is bleak enough‘; ‘Parenthood is tough enough’; ‘I don’t drink that much anyway?’; ‘Isn’t a daily glass of red wine good for your health?

were all reasons I’d used to opt-out. I reassured myself that I could do it if I wanted to, it was simply that I’d chosen not to join in. But this year, as I gaze upon the mountain of spent bottles in my blue bin, I decide that it is time. Time to ditch the hangover and time to see if 4-plus weeks without alcohol really do make me feel any different. Will it reduce the waistline? Will it boost my energy? Will it improve my sleep patterns? And, above all, will I be able to do it?

I have to say, I am feeling pretty determined, if only to silence the worrying chorus of incredulity coming my way as I embark upon my quest.

“I’ll believe that when I see it!” laughs Small-Boy, as I announce my resolution. “A fiver says that you will never manage it!” adds my eldest.

Even the Tesco delivery man is doubtful,

Are your sure love?” he gasps, unloading the cans of Beck’s Blue Alcohol Free Lager, “How about starting next week?”

Hey I’ve already done 4 days. I have survived our annual girls’ night out at the Theatre without a glass of fizz and I have coped with our first nose piercing (Prom-dress Daughter) revived only by a strong cuppa! I have also drawn upon my experiences of other alcohol-free episodes, such as three 9-month pregnancies without a drop of liquor. Back then, my (now Ex-) hub would brighten our evenings by purchasing lots of exotic, non-alcoholic drinks. His thinking was, if you feel like a drink, have something exciting and delicious that’s alcohol free to choose. And so that is my plan. Alcohol-free beer in week 1, to ease me into the ways of abstinence and then enjoy exploring the wonderful world of elderflower presse, ‘aqua libre’, mocktails, smoothies …

Next week, it’s true, I am back to work, but bring it on! Me and my trusty Beck’s Blue have got this….