This a guest post by Grace Fletcher-Hackwood, and follows on from her first post about Dry January.
On Day 2 of Dry January, a group of us descended on one of my favourite bars in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – Common on Edge Street – for a friend’s twentieth birthday. I bought a pint for my friend Chris and asked for a glass of tap-water for myself. I was revelling in the thought of the money I had just saved when another friend joined us with a bottle of something new – “Espresso stout!” he said excitedly. “I’ve not tried it before.” Espresso. Stout. Two of my very favourite things, together in one tempting bottle.
“Urgh, coffee-flavoured beer?” said Chris. I slouched over my water, trying to pretend that coffee-flavoured beer wasn’t the sum of all my hopes and dreams.
This has been a big challenge every time I’ve tried to cut out alcohol – since my friends are still going to be hanging out in bars, and I want to hang out with them, what do I drink while I’m there? J2O is a horrible substance, and ordinary fruit juice comes in overpriced, tiny measures. Asking for lemonade makes me feel like a child (especially since I often have to stand on tiptoes to see over the bar). Coke is marginally better but I can feel it rotting my insides.
I was pleased to discover that another favourite bar, the appropriately named Dry Bar on Oldham Street, serves coffee until late, but as I explain below, caffeine presents its own problems. I like fizzy water, but resent how much I’m being charged for what is essentially a glass of water and air. That tends to leave tap water, which is tasty and healthy and free, but somehow feels a bit rude to everyone else I’m with: “Not only am I not prepared to let my hair down by joining you in a ‘proper’ drink, I don’t even want to invest the price of a soft beverage in this evening”.
My evening at Common started looking up when a friend spotted non-alcoholic ginger beer on the soft drinks menu. I love ginger beer. I also love ginger biscuits, gingerbread and everything on Earth that involves ginger, with the exception of Danny Alexander. Now I know that ginger beer is an option, I’ll be ordering it next time I go back to Common – even if that’s after Dry January is over.
Asking for lemonade makes me feel like a child (especially since I often have to stand on tiptoes to see over the bar)
That week passed in smug fashion, as I got home every night sober and early enough to do things like take my make-up off properly and pack lunches for the next day. On Friday, to celebrate a visit from my sister, Chris suggested a big night out. I suggested, instead, that the gang come over to my house for tea. The gang – and my sister – promptly rocked up with a box of beer each, and worked through them while I made four pizzas from scratch. I might have felt more left out if I hadn’t found a bottle of ‘0% Bavaria’ non-alcoholic beer someone had left in my fridge – it turned out to taste more or less the same as the real thing, and I ended up wishing I’d stocked up on more. Unless you enjoy feeling like the den mother – which I don’t – it’s hard to get in the party spirit when everyone else is glugging from frosty glass bottles and you’re clutching a mug of tea.
The third and most recent occasion I’ve been tempted to leap off the Dry January wagon was last Tuesday when, in accordance with age-old tradition, I went to the City Arms after a meeting in Manchester Town Hall. The main reasons I wanted a drink were because: 1. the meeting I’d just left had lasted over two hours; 2. Chris had got bored of Dry January Grace and had thus taken to drinking pints of real ale in front of me with exclamations of “It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited!”; and 3. after five cups of black coffee at work, two more cups of black coffee in the Town Hall, and two Cokes in the City Arms, I was so saturated with caffeine that I was emitting a faint buzzing sound. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds – especially that night when I tried to sleep.
The following night I walked halfway to the City Arms with Chris before deciding against it, turning on my heel and heading home. Unsociable?
Yes. But hey, at least I got an early night.
Grace is 26 and lives in Fallowfield, Manchester, with too many cats. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/msgracefh