This is one of my 26 minute blog posts that I write on a train journey home. Errors abound I imagine.
And so this sobriety stretches from Autumn, through Winter and Spring, and now to the thirsty Summer. I will remain teetotal backstage at Glastonbury and onstage at Latitude, and what of those late, late bars at the Edinburgh Fringe. Is this the interim report which prefaces the stumble and fall. I am uncertain whether I am surprised or not.
My regular drinking began at about 20 and lasted until I was 44. I had dabbled in drinking before in my teens, but only for the occasional surprise of waking up to be surprised that I had vomited, usually quite neatly, some time in the night. In my late teens, I was most regularly drunk on five pints of Lowenbrau. I would get home and make the simple meal of boiled rice with a tin of Campbell’s Condensed Mushroom soup on top of it. By accident, not design, this was a neat vomit, I would usually find it in one neat, near circular gathering near my pillow, barely degraded my stomach acid.
My Australian friends were teetotal, so my foraging through the arthouse, Stockpots, and budget Greek restaurants, was coffee and Appletize fuelled. Mississippi Mud Pie, late 80s London was going through a flirtation with big American desserts back then, was good enough without brandy.
Then, the drinking began, I would say “to dull the pain”, but the pain was mainly there because of the drinking.
At 44, while touring with the torch singer, Josie Long, and political anecdotalist, Grace Petrie, the dry year began. My last drink was in Norwich, though I have had a couple of liqueur chocolates, but what’s a minimalist syringe of Cherry Brandy into a chocolate case between post-boozers?
I wondered how much it might change my life but, as with giving up smoking, it has just reduced the amount of time I stand on pavements while people shout near me.
I am not sure it has led to me being clear-headed, but I think it has led to me talking even faster on stage and delivering words with a sharper, snapping sound. Where once I sometimes had a whisky as the audience entered, and a pint in the interval (drunk slowly, I was a professional), now I do sit ups, brush my teeth, and drink tea. If this sobriety has given me more spare time, I am not sure where and when, but it means I can right these messy posts at midnight and I could read a clever book, if I wasn’t distracted by Angry Birds or a Twitter argument. Honestly, I am only playing Angry Birds because my son asks me to get a few more levels when I am on the road.
Sometimes I wonder if it is healthy to be living with a conscious mind whose late night edges cannot be blunted by Glenfiddich or Guinness. I toy with the idea that I should drink a little red wine for my well-being. I can’t remember, did it shut up the inner monologue or just make it slur.
The problem with giving up is that people and publications insist it is a battle. A melodrama is created to sell self-help books and courses. People feel that they must miss these things, crave those cigarettes and that pint because it defines them and they have been informed they you will never really be right again. 50 years after stubbing out your last Marlboro Light, you’ll still drool as you watch Clint Eastwood chew a cheroot. You’ll find nothing that replaces the peaty flavour of a good malt and you’ll discover that, when changed perpetually to your sober brain, you are a bore, it was only the lowering of awareness by alcohol that made you passable (I am not saying it is not a battle for many, and a dangerous one, but it is not helped by the constant refrain of “how difficult it must be”).
My main relief is that I don’t have that feeling of worry after a late set that I may not be able to find somewhere to drink. The hotel has a kettle, I will be fine. I remember my fury after playing a museum venue that had no post show bar, then getting caught in one way traffic that led to a panicked call to the Premier Inn to keep their bar open PLEASE. I felt I could not unwind, to curtail the adrenaline and thoughts without taking them out for a drink. I ended up punching the glove box like some afternoon soap Nicholas Cage. And now, with my insomnia predominantly curtailed, barring the occasional ceiling staring bout, I wonder what all the fuss was about.
Pointless Anger shows with Michael Legge coming up in Leeds, Salford and York, plus a gig with Grace Petrie in Hull, and solo shows in Swansea, Newport, Newcastle, Glasgow and on an on – Details of these and new dates HERE
All new Edinburgh Fringe show is now on sale HERE