I have been monitoring the number of my alcohol-free days since 2005. Over a decade ago I was drinking alcohol almost every day, and often drinking a beer alone in my flat after work in London. Now I have a target of 50% drink-free days each month and I have achieved that for the last three years.
When I retired 5 years ago, I realised that although I was starting to achieve the target number of drink-free days, I was way off the target for units of alcohol recommended by doctors. To galvanise myself for change, I set a monthly target for alcohol units consumed too. That target is 100 units of alcohol per month. That is still almost twice the recommended level but 50% less than where I was in my first two years of retirement.
I have achieved this personal target for the last two years but it’s been a struggle, especially this year (for reasons I’m yet to quite fathom). On days when I drink, I find that I average 6-7 units; that’s two thirds of a bottle of wine or three pints of beer (not, I think, an unreasonable amount of pleasure to have on a sunny evening in the garden, at a celebration, or in the pub garden on a lazy Sunday). But multiply that by 14-15 days and I’m closer to the 100 unit target than I would like.
I have been helped in recent years by the advent of decent no, or low, alcohol beer; I like those from BrewDog especially. But now I have a new helper: ‘Clear Head’, a low alcohol beer served on tap at our village pub. It’s quite a refreshing, hoppy and nice tasting pint. Its recent availability on draft means that I can visit the pub more often and feel as though I’m having a proper pub drink (not the soft sugary stuff that I generally avoid, or mineral water that I can get out of the tap at home), while keeping my alcohol unit consumption down.
The net effect has been that Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I have visited the local pub more often during this summer, especially during the recent heat waves, but I have still stayed within my alcohol unit target. That’s good because the pub is so central to the community and our visits create opportunities for us to have impromptu meetings with other villagers and we just enjoy hanging out in the relaxed atmosphere there. The only downside is that LSW is probably drinking a bit more alcohol because she usually goes for a can of the relatively strong craft beer rather than the low alcohol variety, but then she drinks slowly and so is well below the recommended unit levels.
Another bonus is that 5% of Bristol Beer Factory’s revenue on sales of Clear Head go to Talk Club which is the valuable charity organisation that helps establish and organise Men’s Mental Fitness chat groups such as that I have been attending in recent weeks in our village. The sessions that I mentioned in my last post have continued to be fulfilling and have had the side effect of making me feel even more a part of the community. The pub landlord, who helps run the sessions, even gives participants a pint of ‘Clear Head’ to accompany us through the meetings; really nice!
So, the heat waves are over for another year it seems. The cost of living crisis seems to be drowning out concerns about the climate and related biodiversity crises. However, the recent weeks of intense heat have underlined the need for us all to think about reducing our carbon footprint and adapting to the new climate that is inevitably going to envelop us.
LSW has planted most of our flower beds and terraces with relatively drought resistant plants so the garden has looked great throughout the summer with just minimal watering. However, during the greatest heat, we had to have the blinds down all day in our kitchen/diner extension with all its glass. Rather than be able to look out over the garden from the extension, we spent much of the heat wave sheltered in the cool of the old part of the house.
We are thinking about ways to further adapt to persistent high temperatures in the future at the same time as trying to work out how we can isolate rooms we want to heat in winter so that we reduce overall energy demand and so save money in the face of escalating electricity and gas bills. We won’t be alone in that.
Later this week we are off north to Edinburgh to see First Grandchild and his parents again. The relative cool of Edinburgh may look an increasingly attractive medium/long term location as the south of the UK feels the impact of our changing summers. Short term, though, I’m sticking to home in our village and an occasional pint or two of ‘Clear Head’ on draft.