Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Day 24: not even thinking about it anymore

My first job in TV was to present a documentary about alcohol. Part of that involved attending the dissection of an alcoholic's brain, and interviewing the pathologist during and after the operation.

The alcoholic concerned was, you will be happy to know, well and truly dead, and had been for quite some time.

We watched (and filmed. On PROPER film too, none of this video rubbish)as the skull was sawn open and the brain sliced. The single most memorable fact for me was the shrinkage of the brain, a shrivelling.

Over the past 23 days, I've visualised my own sober cerebellum expanding to fill the yawning spaces inside my skull, all the time awaiting great new insights, creativity and feats of memory.


Sunday, 29 March 2009

Day 22: Diet coke, coffee, Shloer (grape) and honey chilli chicken chow mein...

To my favourite Chinese takeaway, just down from the awfulness that is my regular hotel in the Granite City. Secure parking and within BBC budget, though. It's either that or the Salvation Army.
In Aberdeen, still not tempted by red wine or whisky. Much.

I was amazed the old Suzuki GS1000G (American model, shaft drive, 80s muscle bike) started almost immediately after five months untouched in Stewart's garage. Not only, that, it needed nothing doing before blasting off towards Aberdeen today, fortunately in dry, if very windy weather. And that bulletproof Japanese parallel four never gave a hint of trouble. Much nicer to ride than my last bike, the much more modern BMW R1100R.

The John Gillan gig went well, I think, slightly low on numbers maybe, but a good 100 or so folk. All kudos to Funk Connection (11 of them) for donating their fee to Roxburghe House, the hospice in which John spent his last days.

It was a hard slog for me, playing across an empty dancefloor through loud foldback, plus a Phenergan and NorthLink hangover, to an invisible and largely inaudible audience. The songs are all about the lyrics, really...some nice comments afterwards, though, and it was all in a good cause.

Ridiculous £40 single for the train to Glasgow yesterday, but great to see Magnus. Out to Clydebank to get the bike, and then dinner with Mag and old pals Stewart, Maggie and Gill. F

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Day 19. Goin' South.

I'm getting lazy - this is basically the same as today's Beatcroft post. All I can say is that I STILL haven't had anything to drink, though I did sniff some Macleod's single malt last night. The aroma thereof, not the liquid itself. Just to see if it appealed. It didn#t it smelt of plastic and nail varnish remover.

Catching the boat tonight to Aberdeen.

Originally, I was transporting James to the National Youth Orchestra rehearsal weekend, which has been cancelled. On the back of that, I organised the collection on Sunday of my Suzuki GS1000 from Stewart's garage in Clydebank, and, when I was asked to m/c and play at the John Gillan Memorial Concert in Aberdeen, I was happy to agree.

Deal was I'd then stay in Glasgow with James and Magnus until Susan brought Martha down to the mainland for her orchestra rehearsals. Alas, we've not found anyone to look after the dogs, so I'm now hastening back across the Great Sea of Separation so Susan and the boys can go gallivanting in (wait for this!) Pisa. The one in Italy.

I get to babysit Lulu.

Oh well. I'm looking forward to the gig tomorrow night, actually, with Funk Connection and Wray Gunn and the Rockets. First live outing for the battered old Fender Malibu I bought recently on eBay.

The gig will celebrate the life of John Gillan, a well-known figure on the north-east music scene, a former Lemon Tree DJ who also worked at Bruce Miller's. All proceeds go to the hospice Roxburghe House.

See you there!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Day 17 - tested by Muscadet

...but not that hard. I had probiotic drinking yoghurt instead. Better with chilli.

Coffee consumption going down,I think - one bad latte, one very good double espresso.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Day 14: why have my breadmaking skills deserted me?

Truly felt like a beer or three, not during the Calcutta Cup (fell asleep) but the unnervingly tense, classically brutal and joyously old skool Wales-Ireland match. Really, it was crying out for Guinness. Or preferably Murphy's. Or it was crying out for me.

Still, I can sit and remember my first encounter with Murphy's Stout, back in 1978, in Cork. I had checked into one of those classic commercial hotels, I think called the Railway Inn, during a journalistic assignment to check out the imminent Irish oil boom (ah, the Porcupine Trough, out there in the Atlantic). I remember going down to the bar, where that precursor to Father Ted, the sitcom Oh! Father! was on the telly. I ordered Guinness, but of course they only had Murphy's on draught.

I have mever tasted a pint like that one. Creamy, sweeter than the Dublin stout, delicate and somehow, spiritually enlivening. At that time, Murphy's was unavailable in the rest of the UK. I bought several bottles to take back with me - weirdly shaped things, like milk bottles - but of course it tasted thin and dull back in Glasgow.

Now, I think I'll have a cup of tea, while waiting for my disastrous bread to bake. I don;t know what's going on, but for the last fortnight, my normally dependable breadmaking skills seem to have deserted me. After more than three months now of having no shop-bought bread in the house...

It's the revenge of the yeast!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Day 12. Ho hum...

I'm finding that I get a lot more done.

Must be all that coffee. I've also discovered an abiding passion for cake.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Teetotal Ten

Susan was right. Drink or the lack thereof stops being an issue. So much. Lovely day, as well, which cheers everyone and everything well and truly up

And what's more, I successfully made it through today without consuming any chocolate. Well, apart from the chips (the tiny, tiny chips) in the biscuits I ate during the programme. A bad idea. Biscuits always make me choke.

Onwards and upwards. I made some melon, raspberry and carrot smoothies earlier, but no-one will drink them but me.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Day eight, Sunday. Exercise and sausages.

Third fierce coffee of the day. Dave Hammond and his German TV producer colleague arrived aboard the Charles Lidbury, the Severn-class Aith Lifeboat. I was out for a wee walk-cum-jog along the Ness of Hillswick when I heard its motors, and then she (why is it 'she' if the name is Charles?) came powering down Ura Firth with a bone in her teeth. Thrilling sight. The RNLI is my default charity. Let's face it, as Mr Hammond says, if you live on an island and mess about in boats, it's not giving to charity, it's insurance.

By the way, it's quite a calm day, misty and warm for winter. That picture's courtesy of the RNLI.

Meanwhile, Susan, used to long stretches of teetotalism due to being on call, assures me that after a fortnight you just stop thinking about alcohol. I suppose it's a sign of its importance in my life that, while I have no real compulsion to have a drink, it's on my mind a lot. But, hey. It's 30 days. And there's always caffeine.

Just started John Bingham's book No Need for Speed: A Beginner's guide to the Joy of Running. The fates seem to be ganging up on me, dangling trainers and trackie bottoms. At the moment, I feel vaguely sick after jogging 100 yards. Mr Bingham's 'walking and jogging' regime seems sort of civilised. We shall see. Bicycles seem more fun.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Seven days: No non-alcoholic beer in Lerwick!

Coke Zero (2)
Britvic J2O (1)
Coffee (Equal Exchange fair trade dark roast beans)(4)
Nambarrie tea (2)
Two-finger Kit-Kats (2)
Mini Mars Bar (1)

Cheese...now there's an idea.

Searched for non-alcoholic beer (both Furstenberg and Becks do good ones) but nothing in Lerwick. Good grief, that J2O stuff is horrible. Slimy fruit juice. Apparently you can get it in alcopop form.

That's twice I've walked out of the Co-op and once from Tesco in the last four weeks, unable to thole waiting at checkouts. This time, trying to buy a Guardian at Tesco ( I know, I know) a huge queue developed behind a man to whom BOTH staff devoted what seemed like hours. A man who was trying to claim money from last week's lottery ticket. Except it wasn't last week's at all, it was tonight's...

Friday, 13 March 2009

Day six: it's Friday; have a cup of tea

How does alcohol function in someone's life? Well, if life is a video, alcohol is:

(1) The fast forward button, zipping you through the boring bits. Unfortunately, it leaves you bedraggled and unable to cope quite as well with the interesting stuff as you otherwise might have. Not to mention fatter and more out of breath.

(2) The on-off switch. Turning off so that, when you switch back on again, everything seems clearer and more comprehensible. Or, on the other hand, not.

(3) The eject control. Alcohol, as anyone who's tried to write something will know, can, in suitable quantities, allow your mind to flip right over into another story, another way of looking at things. Swop Mamma Mia for Citizen Kane. Or vice versa.

(4) Focus. It can make the movie look sharper, clearer, better. Or fuzzier.

"Between briliance and oblivion/that's the condition that I'm living in."

Or, on the other hand, there's tea. Anyway, that's day six, which has included my first unhungover morning flight back to Shetland in recent history. Less scary. Fewer palpitations. Gone are the British Airways Budgie days when they would serve brandy with your morning coffee...

Note to self: do not substitute buying guitars on eBay for alcohol...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Teetotal day four: the woman who poured my Amrut whisky down the toilet

I have never been searched more thoroughly. Well, my hand luggage, anyway. Sumburgh security is legendary for its detailed rummaging through bags, and I thought I'd removed everything confiscatable. But I'd missed the pewter whisky flask (50th birthday present from old pal Stewart)full of Amrut Indian single malt (unfiltered and world-class, really).

"You can only carry this on board if it's empty," said the woman in charge. I looked at her. She looked at me. I thought, 'this is only day four, and if I don't drink this...'

"Would you mind," I said, "getting rid of it for me?" She took the flask into the toilet and returned it, empty. I feel confident she didn't drink it.

Glumly, I drank mineral water on the flight, which was bumpy as hell. But I had sour cream pretzels.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Day three: Dreams of Guinness and dust

No, really. Proper, hallucinogenic dreams last night involving a bar where the gantry was all clear, empty glasses and bottles, and Guinness, extra cold, on draught. I could taste it.

That and a road coated in white, choking dust.

Not that I'm a great fan of Guinness. I did have a transcendent experience in Cork in 1978, where I first tasted Murphy's Stout. Much nicer.

Thing is, I woke up without any desire for an alcoholic drink. I've only ever been tempted in that direction on two, mega-hungover occasions, one involving a funeral. No, what I wanted was tea and some of my fresh-baked bread. Which, I must admit, did taste a bit yeasty...

Anyway, I've decided that for the next 27 days I will not stint on grub, eating what I like, without guilt. So today at 11.45 am I was in the Skipidock scoffing macaroni cheese and chips with real enjoyment. Yum.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Moderation Management and the First 30...day two

Here's a thing: Moderation Management is an organisation set up to help folk who want to cut down (but not necessarily give up) on their drinking of alcohol. It's the un-Alcoholics Anonymous. Have a read at their estimable website for more.

MM have one rule: you can't drink moderately, they say, unless you can do a straight 30 days without touching a drop. I've done this once previously - annotated in the late lamented 'Soda Water and Lime' blog - and, in the run-up to the radio series I'll be doing soon about alcohol and its attendant health and social issues (working title: How Not to Drink)I'm having a go at it again.

So far, this is day two. Day one doesn't really count, as, after a splendid night out at friends, I was in a Martin-Amis-after-Interviewing-Antony-Burgess state of hungoverness yesterday.

So far, so easy. I know it won't begin to bite until Friday, that-end-of-the-week-reward moment. The remnants of a toxic headache remain to taunt me with the words: gin, red, white, Balvenie, Grouse. Enough, already.

I'll be using this blog as diary and reminder to keep on the straight and narrow, with some asides into hopefully interesting drink-related territory. If I become a sobriety bore, do tell.