An alcohol free lockdown. (Or, how to fight coronavirus Corona-free)


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There have been reports that the average drinker is drinking more in the lockdown caused by Coronavirus.

I’ve done the opposite.

In fact I went dry on January 5th as  part of my annual ‘cleanse’.

As is my want I also began a diet and a new exercise regime that is based principally on walking 10,000 steps a day.

This year, for the first time, I also went vegetarian.

All four disciplines remain fully in effect.

101 days later I find myself 53 pounds lighter and feeling the benefit significantly.

I will report on this in a later post but, for now, I wanted to share with you and encourage you, if you’re thinking of taking the sober plunge, with my observation that not drinking through the lockdown is neither the end of the world, nor an unimaginable fate worse than dearth (pun intended).

One motivator for me in this is that I am self employed.  All of my work has dried up and I am not receiving a penny of government support, despite trying to feed a family of five, all adults, and none of us earning a bean.

My son and my daughter’s boyfreind are both just back from travelling – one was too late to find work and the other was unceremoniously dumped the second things got tough – only a few days before the furlough ruling was approved.

My wife doesn’t work and my daughter is a student.

Luckily I have savings and, let’s be honest, our outgoings are significantly reduced (especially as I was able to negotiate a three month mortgage holiday).

So, not drinking (my wife doesn’t anyway) has meant the budget stretches a fair bit further and that could be a primary motivator for you if you find yourself yearning an alcohol-free life just now.

But is it purgatory?

No, I have to say, the good news is it’s not.

The benefits, aside from financial, are manifold and for some of you that get ‘the fear’ when overindulging – thankfully not something I have ever experienced – that could be the biggest one.

In past purges I have substituted with alcohol-free beer, but I think it’s a bad move.  This time I took a conscious decision not to ‘substitute’ in this way and it lessens the sense that I am being punished.

My poison, instead, has been stove-top coffee (Illy Rosa is the king in my opinion) – caffeinated during the day and decaf in the evening.

Some other low calorie ‘treats’ you might like are frozen grapes.  Truly a guilt-free option of an evening.

You’ll find a number of benefits

  • weight loss – if you’re a fat bastard like me
  • good levels of energy
  • much better sleep
  • excellent concentration – particularly helpful in the endless Zoom quizzes you may be, like me, taking part in.
  • I think, generally speaking, better mental health all round

My advice would be to go ‘cold turkey’ rather than trying to wean yourself off.  Get in a good supply of caffeine free diet coke and the aforementioned coffees, but I like to start with a hangover so that at least on day two you immediately feel better.

If you want any support along the way drop me a line.  I’m happy to personally share my experiences.

Mazel tov.

 

 

 

The baby boom there won’t be.


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I love Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’.  It’s a programme about statistics (and data) and it’s brutally anoracky.

But I care not if you think this makes me socially unacceptable, because you learn fascinating things .

Like how misguided you are when your friends say, “Well, there’s gonna be a massive baby boom in nine months after this, eh?” and you nod; because of course there will be.

Well, I have news for you.

There won’t be.

Never is one.

When big events like this happen, and people are unexpectedly shacked up together, for long and even short periods, it simply doesn’t happen.

Not even once.

Not after epidemics, pandemics, floods, power outages, wars.

Never.

That’s what I learned on this week’s episode (available here for a bit).

Here’s why it won’t happen.

a) The biggest cause of pregnancy is teenagers fooling around without protection – but they are all at home: masturbating.

b) In vitro fertilisation has stopped.  It’s bigger than you might think.

c) Family planners have stopped planning families – would you want to conceive right now?

On the other hand…

d) Prophylactics have vanished from the shelves because they’re mostly made in China.

So mistakes will happen.

But a, b and c outweigh d.

I thank you.

 

 

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan: Book Review


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I’m a lifelong McEwan fan, but he has been infuriating me in the last decade with his inconsistency.

I have previously reviewed and lamented Sweet Tooth and Solar – both stinkers, but sandwiched between them was The Children Act, a book of great beauty and provocation.

I’m glad to say that Machines Like Me finds McEwan right back at the top of his game and it’s clear to me that what is making him write his best work these days is moral ambiguity and his adeptness at turning that ambiguity into superb storytelling.  It’s at the heart of  what makes this book, and The Children Act, so great.

The moral conundrum here is truth.

Humanity allows us to decide the difference between ‘white lies’ and despicable self- serving perjury.  But can Artificial Intelligence be expected to compete?

This novel works on many levels.  It’s essentially a sci0fi book about Artificial Intelligence yet it’s set in the past.

A fake past.

1982 to be precise.

A 1982, in which Thatcher has just lost the Falklands War, Alan Turing is alive and kicking, Britain is contemplating a form of Brexit, the poll tax disputes are raging and many of today’s political challenges are being reframed as 1982’s.  Most notably the rise of an elderly Labour leader (Tony Benn) has swept to power on the back of an adoring youth.

It’s playful and brilliant.

McEwan plays with the value of things like money.  Everything seem so cheap: cheaper than the reality of 1982 prices. (The effect of a global recalibration of worth?  It’s unexplained.)

Into a 32 year old dropout’s life (Charlie) arrive, almost simultaneously, a stunningly beautiful but enigmatic 21 year old neighbour (Miranda) and a ‘robot’ of almost perfect physical attributes (Adam – one of 25 AI humanoids – 13 male, 12 female).

Charlie’s bought Adam thanks to an inheritance from his mother and the book explores the relationship between the three main protagonists, but throws in a secondary moral dilemma in the form of a four year old abused boy, Mark, who inveigles himself into their lives.

In Miranda’s past an event of monumental emotional significance has consumed her and the repercussions of this form a significant strand of the moral backbone of the story.

So we have fun (made up history) sci-fi (lite but fascinating in the form of a humanoid robot, whom it turns out is capable of great knowledge – Google, before Google existed- but also a form of moral judgement) relationships (tangled) and simply brilliant storytelling.

The science is interesting, the philosophy just light enough to engage dullards like me and the story so compelling as to turn pages lightning fast.

The whole premise throws up so many genuinely interesting questions that it’s like manna to McEwan who feasts on the riches that his great invention feeds him.

I adored this book.  One of McEwan’s best ever and leaves only Nutshell, out of his 17 novels, for me to read.  It’s a noughties write, so who knows.

 

 

Mouthpiece: at The Traverse by Kieran Hurley


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The tricky disclaimer

I have to first declare my physical challenge with this night in the theatre, one of my favourites, and not previously the purveyor of spasming pain in my right knee.  However, tonight the cramped legroom of Traverse 1 caused me such physical discomfort that I was counting the minutes till the end.

It was probably me, but the seating didn’t help.

The common gripe

This is the second Kieran Hurley show I’ve seen. Square Go by Paines Plough, like this, started brilliantly but seemed to run out of steam.  This less so, but it was a game of two halves for me.  The first pain-free, the secondly most certainly not.

The difficult narrator issue.

Narrated plays when the performers talk about what they are up to as they do it is not my cuppa, I’m afraid.

The describing of structure as the structure unfolds in episodic real time.

See above.

The holding of mirrors up to middle class audiences technique.

Herein lies my real problem with this production.

The performances by Shauna Macdonald and Angus Taylor are both very good and the story is engaging, but it’s about working class (underclass) strife meeting middle class privilege – a bit Pygmalianesque, but trying very, very hard not to be.

This whole ‘theatre-holding-a-mirror-up-to-its audience’ schtick, as we look in on how others live (it happens a lot in black theatre, queer theatre and class theatre) is starting to tire me out.

In this, Hurley intermingles the fortunes of a deprived teenager with a failed but privileged early-middle-aged writer, but in such a way that life starts to imitate art, become art, debunk art and eventually question art to such an extent that I started to run out of emotional connection.

Hurley does his best to take the whole ‘Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’ cliche and subvert it, so that Mrs Higgins rapidly descends from hero to villain and Master Doolittle morphs from victim to hero to victim to hero so much that I began to wonder if I was really all that bothered any more.  Or maybe it was the knee.

The site-specific thing

If you haven’t seen it you won’t get this reference.,  But it is very clever.  I liked that.

The Martin Creed references.

You know what, I’m moaning a bit here.  This was a good production.  I’m just a grippy bastard sometimes and it had too many flaws for me.

But, at the end of the day…Everything’s going to be all right.

 

 

 

What to do with the EU Commemorative filth. An idea that may do just a little good.


I’ve read about people saying that receiving the new 50p coin can be compared to the reaction you get as a Scot when you give a London cabbie a Scottish tenner.  People are saying that they’ll refuse them.  That’s not fair on the shopkeepers who try to pass them though.

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I have a better idea.

Let’s do something constructive.

I will give them to homeless folks I meet on the street.

Wanna join me in this?

To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine: Book review


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Viv is about 60 but she retains the spirit of her 20-something Slits guitarist days.  She wrote about that eloquently in Clothes. Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys Boys, Boys.

The title of that autobiography was drawn from her mother’s criticism that that was all she thought about as a late teenager.

It’s an absolute belter.

But now we’re considering her SECOND autobiography and it raises the bar even further.

What a thing this is.

It’s not a laugh, I have to say, but there are humorous moments.

Essentially, it takes the form of a description of the day her 95 year old mother died, told in short snippets interspersed with Albertine’s memoire of her family, and love, life.

It’s grim, abusive stuff.

Midway into the book she finds her estranged father’s diaries and later her mother’s.  Both forensically detail a period in the young Albertine’s life where they are preparing to divorce and it ain’t ‘Little House on the Prairie’ that’s for sure.

But what Albertine does most in this history of her life is reveal her inner thinkings in a way that is uncommon on autobiographies.  She was a punk, a rebel, a man-hater – that loved sex with men – OK, maybe not a man-hater, quite, but a fierce feminist for sure – and with reason.  And underpinning that personality trait is self doubt, insecurity, self loathing at times.  All explained, all considered, all consuming.

It’s gripping, utterly compelling stuff and as the death of her mother plays out we are treated to, shall we say, an unusual farewell.

It’s also beautifully crafted.  Viv Albertine can wield a pen even more successfully than she wielded guitar in her Slits days.

Highly recommended and only £3 at Fopp.