I have to confess to a sullen prejudice against journalist Sarah Vine since our brief encounter some years ago when she shoulder charged me out of the way at Gilpin Lodge Hotel in the Lakes whilst waiting to pay our respective bills. Even Basil Fawly levels of obsequious fawning by the hotel management over her and her spouse, the current Secretary of State for Education, had not persuaded her to acknowledge the quaint concept of the queue.
So it was with grudging empathy , I warmed to her article this week in the Times on the subject of January abstinence:
I don’t believe in diets, detoxes or dawn workouts. Sadly for me, it seems quite a lot of my friends do. Which means that, halfway through week two of their special new-year-new-me health and fitness plan (ie, now), life has become intolerably dull. Second Wednesday of January: officially the most dreary day of the year.
I know at least two people who are doing the Dukan, three who have enrolled at British Military Fitness (which, as far as I can tell, involves paying a lot of money to be shouted at by men in the park), another who’s cut out all carbs (no, apparently it’s not the same as the Dukan; would you like me to explain why, no, of course you wouldn’t, you’d very sensibly rather staple your ears to your desk), and one poor fool who’s doing the repulsive cabbage soup diet.
Meanwhile, my husband, who can normally be relied on to join me on the sofa with a packet of Minstrels, has been leaving the house at half six in the morning to get half an hour’s workout in before breakfast, lured by the prospect of “dropping two dress sizes in six weeks” (I don’t care how successful he is: he’s not borrowing any of mine).
The most boring part, however, is the lack of drinking. Why anyone ever attempts a “dry January” is beyond me. No other month is quite as grim. Dark when you get up, dark by teatime, freezing weather, credit card bills and, of course, the dreaded tax return. Trying to cope with all that without the aid of at least a small glass of something strong cannot be good for the health. Any other month of the year, fine. But not January.
It wouldn’t be so bad if people just got on with being quietly sober; but no, they have to make a big song and dance about it. Extravagant refusals, complicated requests for soft drinks (“can I have half and half fizzy and still, please, with just a little dash of elderflower and a slice of lemon”? Um, there’s some Tizer in the cupboard . . .), disapproving glances (or is it envy) as you reach for the Good Ordinary Claret. Almost hourly bulletins about their progress, how much better they feel, how well they’re sleeping, how much money they’re saving, how they’ve rediscovered their sex drive. Endless dreary details, causing the minutes to drag like the knuckles on a Big Brother contestant.
Sarah Vine. The Times January 11 2012
This appeared in a week, when the latest from Nanny state is the advice to have two alcohol free days a week. This of course becomes the latest meejah thing. 2 days off is the new black, war horse, glamping, meh……On the same night of early January evening televison we were exposed to local TV and radio presenter Becky Want and her tales of her month of abstinence during December, then not 15 minutes later Mike Diljoh , the nature presenter on The One Show ( he of the inability to pronounce the letter R and the pointless sunglasses on the head), describing his similar privations over the festive season: “No wed wine or wum for me..”.
An old saying was that Work was the curse of the drinking classes, when restraint was enforced by poverty and the need to get up in the morning to work in factory or mine. A novel idea obviously in politics and the media.
*The Band of Hope was a organisation founded in Leeds in 1847 to encourage and promote temperance in children. A pledge to abstain for life would be signed.