The Versatile Blogger – nominated x 2

versatile-blogger-award

I am flattered and honoured to have received two nominations for the Versatile Blogger Award so a big, big thanks x 2 goes out to mythinkout and also pointless & prosaic who were kind enough to nominate me. As an Englishman this delights me and makes me feel very awkward, in equal measure. I confess I contemplated ignoring the nominations, but that would have been very rude and impolite, so thank you once again from the bottom of my blogging inkwell you two!

So, in accordance with the VBA rules, here are 7 things about me:

  1. I look like the Before photo in every Before/After fitness transformation photograph that was ever photographed.
  2. I’m 51 years old, but I think I’m about 34.
  3. I was born, grew up and still live in England, but have also lived in Munich – Germany (’97-’99) and Virginia – USA (’00-’02)
  4. I have an INFJ personality type which means I’m in the smallest, most select group alongside Gandhi (good), Plato (smart), Wittgenstein (wow, cool), Dostoevsky (get me!), Hitler (awkward), Bin Laden (wtf …?)
  5. I hate mushrooms
  6. The last time I cried was when our family dog died. He was called George. He was ace.
  7. I’m listening to Joni Mitchell as I type this (Court & Spark album)

My nominations are all bloggers who have either 1) blogged about something that made me go “wow”, 2) made me laugh or 3) inspired me to carry on blogging.

In no particular order:

Antondotreks

Emma Fleming

Cars and cooking

fromroad2trail

3389 miles & further

dazz22

Greater than gravity

 

 

Film review – The Revenant

First off, I should say I’m not a film reviewer, nor am I aspiring to be one.  As my blog seems to be changing to become more of a place where I collect and deposit my thoughts, it seems sensible (and quite useful for me) to also park my thoughts about books, films, theatre, sporting events and other life events I experience. I’m notoriously bad at recalling things as I get older, so this might help refresh my memory and perhaps be useful to a few readers of this blog in the process.

I will try and categorise such reviews under film/movies, books, sport etc, so those that are interested can find them, and those that aren’t can ignore.

I should also mention up front that I’m very much a non-film buff. I’m the sort of person who usually has film conversations with friends that go like this:

Me: “Have you seen that film about that man who escapes from that prison on a motorbike? There’s mountains and green fields in it. You know, it’s got Clint Newman in it … no Paul McQueen, yes Paul McQueen that’s it.”
Friend: “Errr …”
Me: “He throws a baseball against the wall a lot, and eats boiled eggs, loads of them. No, hang on that’s Papillon, no, that’s about butterflies, this is a motorbike definitely. Anyway, have you seen it?”

At which point I’m usually confronted by my friend’s rather withered, horrified look. The conversation can go on for hours until we find out what film and what actor I’m talking about:

Friend: “Steve McQueen?”
Me: “Yes!”
Friend: “The Great Escape”
Me: “Yes!!”
Friend: “Yes I have, many years ago, why do you ask?”

At which point I’ve usually forgotten why I mentioned it in the first place:

Me: “Why do I ask what?”

It’s not always easy being my friend, so in an attempt to smarten myself up, become a better friend, and aid memory recall in future, making such conversations less painful for friends and acquaintances alike, here’s my first film review:

Date: 25th February 2016
Film: The Revenant

I’ve always been indifferent towards Leonardo DiCaprio, meaning I neither dislike him or think he’s mega talented, just a decent Hollywood A-list actor. He is, however, superb in this film, where he plays the part of a fur trapper in the wild-west(?) of 19th Century America. Not sure if it is the wild west as it’s covered in snow, in fact I googled it and it is in fact Nebraska. I don’t know where Nebraska is, more shame me, but it’s ever so cold.

The film is basically the story of Leonardo’s character (I forget his name) who spends the film trying to get home after being brutally mauled by a grizzly and left for dead by a nasty, vindictive Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) – I think I have my brackets the wrong way round there. Sounds basic as far as plotlines go, and some people (all my 3 kids in fact), thought it dragged and was too long. I however loved it, but then I love long novels like ‘World According to Garp’, which are about people and don’t have much plot. I like that, plots often confuse me, and I really identified with Leonardo’s character, so much so that I was gripped from beginning to end. I was with him as he dragged himself back to life, fighting against endless elements and losing his son in the process (Reggie Kray again). The film is gruesome, brutally so in parts, but it doesn’t feel misplaced. Leonardo is fantastic and indeed the supporting cast are brilliant too, including a few Brits who do rather good American accents, at least to my untrained ear.

I was exhausted at the end, but in a good way. I have a new found respect for Leonardo too, who has come on leaps and bounds from that film he did on that boat which capsizes, you know, it was the same year as Barnsley won the FA Cup … 1912 … ooh what’s it called .. also has that woman in it from Reading, Emma Winslet … that’s it.

The Revenant (****)* – 4 out of 5 stars according to Andy’s newly devised film ratings scale.

 

 

 

Barnsley 3 Manchester United 2

18 years ago today, Barnsley beat Manchester United in the FA Cup 5th round (replay) at Oakwell. It was a sell-out and I couldn’t get a ticket so had to settle for watching the match at home with my mate Radders.  Remember this was 1998 and the internet was in its infancy and it was us fans that ran the only Barnsley FC Bulletin Board (BBS) back then. Pasted in it’s entirety is my match report from that evening (I didn’t have a blog in those days).

Background:

  • The Outpost is our local boozer in Barnsley on match days where we all used to meet up.
  • HRH was Radders nickname, he founded the website so he was royalty to us. He also lived near me, we were both 120 miles south of Barnsley this particular evening.
  • Mr Tuffers was a larger than life regular on the BBS, prone to baring his arse I assume.
  • E.I Addio and London Tyke were two regulars who are still going strong today.
  • AIRTyke is me, Mrs AIRTyke is my wife.

Apologies for the language, I was young and uncouth back then, not cultured like what I am now.

At 4pm I pressed the refresh button to see the Bulletin Board for the last
time. I must have pressed it 100 times, every time thinking there would be
someone, somewhere, offering tickets – someone must have to work or would be
ill, but there was nothing and I resigned myself to watching the match on SKY.

I called Radders and invited him round to ours for the evening. I called in at
Tesco’s on the way home to pick up a few beers and some nibbles, after all it’s not
every night that HRH comes round! At 19:16pm Radders arrived with a bagful of
Taiwanese beers and we settled down in front of the telly.

Our thoughts were with the crew in the Outpost, we both wanted to be there but we were determined to enjoy the evening. Sky coverage was excellent and we saw the boys lining up alongside the Man Utd team in the dressing room (now you don’t see that very often from Oakwell!).

The cameras scanned the stadium and as we saw the nutters in the Ora Stand and we both laughed out loud, as we imagined the camera panning across to Mr Tuffers who
would be baring his arse with ‘Ar luv mi tarn’ written across his bum cheeks … hehehe!

However, when the fanfare began and Neil Redfearn led the team out onto the pitch, the smile suddenly fell from Radders face, and I thought he was going to cry.

AIRTyke : ‘What’s up mate?

Radders (bottom lip all a quiver) : ‘Don’t take this the wrong way but I wish I was there and not here with you!

It was at this point, feeling slightly paranoid (you know how sensitive I am), I fetched the Tortilla Chips and a large jar of Salsa dip from the kitchen to cheer him up. It did the trick, we cranked open our second can of Taiwanese beer and sat back to watch the match.

As expected, end-to-end stuff – not the best Barnsley line-up in the world, methinks. Appleby at right wing-back and Scott ‘midget’ Jones at centre back were probably the two dodgiest selections in my opinion, but given the injuries, Danny could do little else. The Man Utd team wasn’t full strength but it certainly was not the team of youths everyone was predicting – was it 8 internationals?

Anyway, nine minutes into the game and Hendrie picks up a through ball and skillfully beats Schmeichel to give Barnsley the lead. Hendrie didn’t believe it was a goal, I thought it was offside but Radders didn’t and everything seemed to stop for a few seconds – surely the ref would blow, Barnsley had scored against the mighty Man U for heaven’s sake!! But no, the goal stood, I shook Mr Radders firmly by the hand and finished off my Taiwanese beer. It was now time to move up to the heavy duty German Weiss beer, a throw back to my teutonic past-life in Munich. Radders, who was driving, decided to make it his mission to finish off the jar of salsa dip – he was smiling again, maybe my house isn’t that bad, methinks… hehehe!

We all knew Man U would level before half-time and I was just saying to Radders how great it would be if we kept the lead, when Hendrie earned a free-kick. The kick cleared Pallister and May and lo and behold up popped Scott Jones to tap the ball with the bottom of his foot past an amazed Schmeichel. No more hand shakes, this was cuddles time, although we swiftly returned to our respective settees before wifey saw us!!

I was just thinking of phoning Mr Addio when, spookily, he phoned me! I could hear the singing and wished I was there, but it was great to hear Mr Addio’s croaky voice saying

We are f*cking tonking ’em! Wot woz Hendrie’s goal like? It looked f*cking stonking from here!

Moments later the phone rang again and this time it was Mr London Tyke:

Eyup AIRTyke, we’re missing you, I thought of you when the 2nd goal went in“.

It brought a lump to my throat to think of you lot at the game and taking time out to call l’il ole me and Radders at half-time.

Second half, the TV was now playing through the hi-fi speakers, I opened another wheat beer and filled Radders now empty bowl of Tortilla chips.

What a 2nd half! Wave after wave of United attacks and 11 minutes into the half, Sheringham scored with a deflection off Adie Moses (who could not be blamed and had another blinder of a game).

Now what odds would you have got on Hendrie and then Sheringham scoring first in both games? It was all gut wrenching stuff, Hendrie was off, Liddell was on, Markstedt went off, Sheridan came on (What!!! Why does Danny do that?). Barnsley earned a corner:

AIRTyke: ‘Don’t let Redfearn take it, he’s crap at corners, give it to Bullock!!

Redfearn crossed a perfectly weighted ball, midget Jones ran from Monk Bretton into the box and headed the ball into the roof of the net.

AIRTyke: ‘Aaaaaaaagh!! Aaaaaaagh!!!!! 3-1!!! Against Man U!!! Aaaaaagh!!! Redfearn corner!!!

Radders: ‘This salsa is really very tasty, my arse is gonna be on fire tomorrow!!

Big cuddles ensued, this time from the floor in front of the TV from where we watched the rest of the game (Radders had a little table for his dips!).  More beers, a tactical wee, a few more dips, Cole scores (10 goals, 6 games against Barnsley) – oh shit, this was surely going to extra time:

10 IF 90 minutes AND Man U losing THEN continue playing.
20 IF no goal after 5 minutes GOTO 100
:
100 Continue playing all night if necessary until the rich club score (I never was very good at programming, but you get my drift!).

My fears were unfounded, Barnsley had done it.  Even wifey joined the post match celebrations, more phone calls followed but not until Radders and I had a final big cuddle – HRH now smelling like a flame grilled Fajita, but I wasn’t gonna say anything.

In depth post-match analysis ensued :

AIRTyke : ‘We were f*cking brilliant!!’
Mrs AIRTyke : ‘Andy, stop being so vulgar, you don’t normally swear and we have guests!’

Radders : ‘Magic….. best Salsa I have ever tasted, any more Tortilla chips AIRY?!!’

Mrs AIRTyke : ‘.. and what’s all this AIRy stuff?’

AIRTyke: ‘ Nothing, he said Andy, – is that the baby crying?’

Sometime later I called Mr London Tyke who was now in the EI ADDIO passion wagon winging it’s way South, they were at Leicester and still had a long journey ahead. At 22:15, the Salsa jar was empty and Radders left to get home in time to watch the match highlights on ITV.

I opened another beer, watched the match again myself and just smiled, all night long. Scott Jones was  interviewed, his eyes are very close together, he looks like Beavis but he’s cool!

I awoke with a hangover the size of a small African country but it was all worth it. Newcastle next, now how do I get a ticket……?

This is what Phil Neville (Man Utd) and Dave Watson (Barnsley) said 18 years later:

Neville v Watson ’98 FA Cup clash: who came out on top? | Flashback

 

If I could turn back time …

Slide2

I suspect this is a question which has piqued us all at some point:

If you had one turn in a time machine, where would you set the dial?

What a wonderfully indulgent thought, to be given the opportunity to set the record straight, to right that wrong, to write that book. Would you go back to last week to relive that argument with your best friend? Would you go back to your last job? Your first marriage? Back to school? Even back to the crib? Or as far back as the womb?

I’m tempted to say I would go back to being a baby and do everything again. I’d grow up eating healthy food, I’d pass on the deep fried spam fritters and 1/4 pound bags of kali (northern English word for sherbert) that undoubtedly rotted my teeth beyond redemption. I would have continued running, cross country running was my thing, I was good at it as a kid, as a teenager. I found running easier than walking, and I should have exploited that, not neglected it.

I would have been more confident, less shy. I would have asked girls out at school and I wouldn’t have turned down that kind offer from Jane T. in 1981. I was bright and fairly academic, but I wasted my education. Had I applied myself I would have certainly attained better grades and that in turn would have led to better career choices and more money and … and …

So many choices, how far back do I turn the dial? So many choices! However, university was probably my greatest tragedy – 3 years of drinking beer and very little else, probably the single, greatest downturn in my life, certainly the period I look back on with the most regret, and so that seems to be a good place to return to in my time machine.

But wait, I met my wife at University. The Butterfly Effect, borne out of chaos theory, tells us that infinitesimally small changes can have huge longer term effects. Had I not been a beer monster, I may have turned left into the library rather than turn right into the top bar at Essex University. Had I done that I wouldn’t have seen her, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the girl that rocked my world. We would never have married, and in turn, our children would have never existed, and that’s unthinkable.

If I step into that time machine, whichever point I choose to return to, I risk losing everything I now hold dear. The butterfly effect tells us that anything we do differently during our trip back in time, risks changing everything from thereon in. If I stop eating kali, perhaps I replace it with something else more sinister – I may have nicer teeth on my 2nd attempt, but perhaps I have a more addled brain. If I start running more in my second life, perhaps I end up at a different university, studying a different subject, and most certainly never get to the top bar at Essex University in the spring of ’82, and never actually meet that girl in the green combat trousers.

To imagine, or to wish for a different outcome from our past, is to risk changing everything going forward, including all that one holds dear. I don’t think we can pick and choose, we just act spontaneously and we must therefore live with the consequences of our actions. You pays your money, you takes your choice, and you have to accept all that comes with it.  I might wish I had better teeth and a flatter stomach but would I risk everything for that? To change anything about us is to change ourselves forever, and that has unintended consequences.

On reflection I think I’m OK after all, so I think I’ll pass on the offer of a spin in the time machine, thanks.

These boots were made for walking …

These Boots Were Made for Walking

The boots shown below are my walking boots. I bought them circa 1991, so long ago I forget their exact age, but I think they are dated ‘BC’ (before children). I was with my wife in the Yorkshire Dales, I think we were walking Malham Tarn that week, and we treated ourselves to brand new Scarpa walking boots.

It’s never a wise thing, some would say foolish, buying boots and walking in them straight-away, especially up and around Malham Tarn, but we were young and reckless back then. You’re meant to wear them in, gradual mileage at first, allowing them time to mould themselves to the unique shape of your feet to prevent chafing and blisters. We did none of that, we just put them on and walked and we were just fine.

In 1992 our first child was born and within 5 years we were a family of 5 and walking was soon a long forgotten pastime, replaced by visits to zoos, petting farms and the seaside. Nevertheless the boots made regular appearances over the years. Weekends in the country often involved a sturdy walk, carrying the kids in slings or backpacks.  Both sets of parents enjoyed walking and our boots always accompanied us on day-trips and weekend jaunts.

In 2005 I took my boots with me to the Himalayas for my charity Trek in India. We endured all weathers and all terrain and my Scarpas, already teenagers by then, behaved impeccably, never once letting in water or rubbing.  Friends with newer and fancier boots fell by the wayside whilst my trusty old Scarpas marched on proudly.

And then, in 2015, wild camping with friends in the Lake District, my 24 year old Scarpas marched their final journey. It was cold and very wet, we were trekking with 15kg rucksacks on our backs, often through boggy, sodden ground for 12 hours a day and I noticed my feet were wet, tired and blistered. In over 20 years they had protected my feet through all weathers, over many different terrains spanning North America, Europe and Asia, always uncomplaining, always doing their job impeccably and unflinchingly.

However, that wild camping weekend was to be their swansong. They could no longer keep out mother nature, they were tired and finally flagging. They had done their job and some. In an era when things aren’t designed to last, my Scarpas refused to comply, their ne’er say die attitude saw them through the most of the 90’s, all the 00’s and half the 10’s.

I have new walking boots now, and I like them, but I don’t yet love them. They’re just not my old Scarpas.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away and so I still have them now. In fact this photograph was taken this evening. They still sit out the back – wise, proud and loyal.

These boots weren’t just made for walking, they were made for me, and if it’s dry tomorrow I might just take them for one last jaunt down the lane, for old time’s sake.

FullSizeRender

 

In pursuit of rubbishness …

My blog hasn’t gone viral, my blog barely has a runny nose and an imperceptibly mild rash at best, but there are bloggers out there, seemingly ordinary people that blog everyday things, just like me, yet every now and then something they say resonates with their readership and beyond, far beyond – when everything goes a little mental and interstellar.

In this blog which can be found here, Cheri looks at four bloggers, four everyday blogging people who at some point said something remarkable and extraordinary. Cheri sums up what happened to them in her opening paragraph:

You wake up one morning, check your phone, and spit out your coffee. You have thousands of likes on Facebook, hundreds of retweets, and an inbox that has exploded. Your little blog — which normally gets a dozen views per day and has an audience of exactly two, your spouse and mother — has been shared all over the internet, and that post you wrote last night, in your pajamas, has gone viral.

Twelve views would be a good day for me, a fist-pumpingly awesome blogging day in fact, and I have to reluctantly admit to frequently having that gorgeous ‘what-if’ indulgent thought where my imagination runs wild, imagining a parallel world where I wake up to a chirping phone, lit up like the BBC switchboard on comic relief day – a day where my blog goes interstellar.

As a kid I dreamt of scoring a goal at Wembley, as a teenager I was the singer in the band at Wembley (a different Wembley day to the football I hasten to add – even for my egocentric imagination, scoring the winning goal to win the FA Cup and also serenading 100,000 singing Hey Jude, all on the same day, is a little far-fetched). Nowadays I imagine writing a blog that sparks the imagination of people across the world, just like the four bloggers outlined in Cheri’s blog.

They’re all amazing stories of everyday tales from everyday folk. Their blogs haven’t made them rich, but they have made them visible. They all now have a voice, a raised platform, a heightened status, a metaphorical megaphone and a substantial audience which spreads right across their social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. They’ve made it!

But then you read their back-stories, and you realise that all isn’t rosy in the garden of blog superstardom. As ever, success seems to come at a price. Suddenly these people are having to deal with trolls – people that write nasty, spiteful, hurtful and personal insults, and in every case they felt a pressure to maintain their newly found and elevated levels of success. Your next blog can never be as good, such a feat can never be repeated and the truth is the only way forward is down. You have peaked. That’s it, you’ve done it now – pressure, anxiety, expectation – these appear to be the new norm, the consequences of your new found popularity.

Whereas me, I can carry on dreaming, hoping, aspiring, sitting cross-legged at the bottom of my hill staring balefully skywards. My blogs can easily get better, I don’t have to try very hard to make improvements, and that’s the beauty of being rubbish. It doesn’t take a lot to cheer me. Even one new follower perks me up, I’m ever so easily pleased down here in my valley of loneliness. Any shard of light – a comment, a like, a new follower – I lap them all up graciously and covet them.

It’s good down here in my sun-starved blog-valley where the light is obscured by the majestic peaks of successful others – great and worthy, epic bloggers.

I pity them, their future looks bleak up there in the bright sunlight, and the truth is it kind of feels OK down here, hidden amongst the gloom, being ever so slightly rubbish. Yes, I like it here.

Yay for me! Yay for my rubbish blog!Slide1

The idiocy of being me …

I’ve been set an assignment by my Blogging101 course, to ‘write a blog to my target audience, on any subject, but with an interesting twist’.

I immediately panicked, I don’t have a target audience…

Target audience -> all human beings

That feels a bit vague …

Target audience -> people like me

This is hard, really hard.

The Blogging101 students have a common room, an online chatroom. I’ve already been on there several times and seen that loads of people have already done their homework and this is just like school all over again, all those feelings I used to have, have come flooding back. I’m more obsessed by how far others have got on their assignments than actually doing my own, and the more I procrastinate, the bigger my crisis becomes.

And yet it feels ever so slightly comforting and familiar, like slipping into an old pair of jeans. Part of me likes being told what to do, part of me likes to rebel, I will do my homework assignment but not without a small drama, a quiet rebel yell, a Tim Henman-esque fistpump.

It’s getting late, but here I am, doing my assignment, writing about not doing my assignment. This is like a bloody John Le Carre novel.

And this is a picture of a twisty snake, next to Tim Henman, fist-pumping. Pretty interesting huh? My classmates are gonna love this …

 

twisty snakeHenman

My name is Andy and I’m a blogger …

Of course you knew that, regular readers, but you see I’m doing a ‘Blogging 101’ course through the kind people at WordPress, my blog hosts. I want to try and improve my blogging, and my first assignment is to re-do my introductory blog, to re-visit and re-answer the basic question:

“who I am and why I’m here”

When I first did this at the very beginning of my blog back in 2012, which can be found here, I made up all sorts of excuses about how random and unpredictable my blog would be.  But I was right! It is random, sporadic, unpredictable. My blogs are like London buses, nothing for days and suddenly two come along at once.

So why do I blog? Because I love the edginess of blogging. I could write in a diary or journal, and in fact I used to do that but I found it too easy to become sloppy. I often wrote in shorthand and used bullet points and abbreviations. I scribbled in my already shoddy handwriting. I didn’t have to explain or justify things and it all felt rather staid and loose. Worst of all I wrote about the same things – about how I was feeling, about my likes and dislikes but always in a very insular way, and even I got bored.

With a blog you can at least pretend you have an audience, you can imagine critical eyes being cast over your writing and that demands a certain level of effort. Being accused of being boring is quite an insult for me, and so with a public blog I am forced to try and say something original, something new, something funny or interesting, or at the very least thought provoking.

An analogy would be working from home versus going into an office. When I work from home I can wear a scruffy t-shirt and jeans, I might wash my face but may not shower, I may not brush my teeth until mid-morning. When I go into the office I always wear pants, I will always wash, always brush my teeth, wear sensible shoes and clean clothes and generally make more of an effort.  To me that’s writing a diary/journal versus blogging – one can live a pantless, scruffy, unshaven existence but it’s not very nourishing.

Blogging therefore challenges me more than writing a private journal ever would, and from challenge emanates a degree of personal growth. It enforces a level of discipline on the undisciplined me. Often I get the urge to blog long before I have a subject, and in such situations I just write from a blank page and am constantly amazed at how stuff just appears. It’s not always great, but is forever unexpected.

Sometimes I just have a spark of an idea, and I use the blog to work and expand that idea further. Often I might not have a strong opinion or even a conclusion to my thought, and sometimes through the act of blogging I may even change my original point of view – I thought I believed A but in fact through blogging realise I believed in B, and I love that sense of personal discovery.

I also get a kick out of any blog interaction as few and far between as they may be. Comments from people who have taken the time to read my blog never cease to cheer my wearisome soul. People lead busy lives and there’s a stack of stuff to read and do, and so if through my blog I can solicit a comment, it means I have stirred something in someone else, somehow moved some electrons somewhere else in the universe, and that’s a lovely thought which makes me feel alive, makes me feel connected.

And yes, I have an ego too. I may never be famous, but through my blog may I never be forgotten. Please, not that.

The driest of Januarys …

Edit: I only just realised by re-reading some of my old blogs that I did dry January 3 years ago! I have no recollection of that, so apologies, this wasn’t in fact the driest of Januarys, but certainly one of them.

As I’ve blogged previously, the new year is always an important time for me, a time to start afresh and right the wrongs from the year just gone. And in recent years I have been following other people’s Dry January with interest – a challenge where folk try go the first month of the year without any alcohol.

Unfortunately for me, my birthday is on 2nd January which makes Dry January extremely challenging. Of course my wife who has a healthy outlook on such things, just suggests I start Dry January on the 3rd day of the month and continue through to 2nd February. As always she is being hyper logical, but to my OCD mind that’s a horrific nonsense and a complete non-starter. That would make Dry January not at all Dry January but Dry-for-most-of-January-and-a-little-bit-of-February which is just plain silliness.

For some reason this year I really wanted to do Dry January and through December it was all I could think about. I was bored and tired of boozing, having reached the point where I was drinking out of habit. I was drinking good stuff too, quality wines, not cheap plonk, yet I was still feeling indifferent, somewhat ‘meh’ about the whole thing, like what was the point?

And so, at midnight on New Years Eve, I toasted in 2016 and put down my Prosecco glass. It was actually 12:07am which made me feel slightly sick, but I managed to convince myself that’s OK, it was a drink that I began in 2015 and it was New Year’s Eve, so I cut myself some slack and started the clock, managing to navigate a dry birthday on day 2.

By way of background, let me add that my previous alcohol-free, all-time-since-I-have-been-an-adult record was 17 days achieved in January 2011. I know that because I record these things and have done since I was 22 when I started to jot ‘AFD’ on the corner of my pocket diary on each day I had no booze (alcohol free day). What happened in January 2011, after 17 consecutive AFDs, was that my wife and I were invited next door for dinner and I couldn’t say no to some wine. My journal entry for the following day was littered with self loathing to levels even extreme for me.

January 2016 felt different, and it was. I remained dedicated to the cause, I remained full of resolve and breezed through to Feb 1st with only the slightest wobble on a business trip to Athens on 25th Jan when I was offered a glass of Ouzo to toast a new business relationship. I surprised myself by politely declining it and toasted instead with my glass of Athenian sparkling water.

Apart from the challenge in and of itself, I found the 31 day journey quite enlightening. My sleep was definitely of a higher quality, and I noticed early on how my mental state of mind had improved. I felt less paranoid if that makes sense? Maybe it only makes sense to paranoid folk, but I definitely felt it, and I felt much calmer, more relaxed, less on edge. I was also eating better, resisting the urge to snack on crisps and other snacks which always went hand in hand with a pint or a crisp glass of wine.

I also lost weight, around 11lbs (~5Kg). I wanted to lose weight, I needed to lose weight and so that was a great bonus and incentive for me. I know the caloric reduction from no booze wasn’t the only factor, but not drinking made me eat better, exercise more and sleep better, all factors which contributed to the weight loss.

So what now? I panicked on February 1st, imagining my first drink undoing all the good from January. I actually dreamt waking up on Feb 2nd at 4am in a prison cell with no pants on, I was clearly 5kg fatter with popcorn stuck to my gob and curry sauce on my chin. As you may recall, dear bloggers, I don’t do moderation very well and so I knew it wouldn’t just be one drink, it would be a bottle and possibly more.

Drinking would of course also mean breaking my AFD run, I would be back at square 1, I would have ruined everything so what would be the point in doing anything after that other than drinking more? Awful scenario. My mind works in mysterious ways.

So here I am, Tuesday 2nd February 2016, still 2016 clean and very much enjoying it. I have decided however not to set any more targets, no more goals (for now), instead I will just take it one day at a time.

If I want a drink, I shall have one. The thought of never drinking again makes me feel sad, perversely the thought of having a drink also makes me feel sad, and so I am taking it one day at a time, each day on it’s own merit, and perhaps one day in the near future I will decide the time is right to have that drink.

And I sincerely hope that when I do, I don’t wake up naked in a prison cell.