Now!…but actually next week

There’s a new Now! album out today, which is always exciting. Unfortunately I’ve been travelling for the last couple of days and haven’t had time to prepare a review! The review will be posted next Friday instead.

Geth and I went to Manchester yesterday as we had tickets to see the Midnight at the Albert Hall. It was an amazing gig, made even better by the venue layout (we were able to watch the band from right above the stage!). I know I keep saying this about every gig, but it really was one of the best ones I’ve seen this year. I’ll be catching up with a few gig reviews from the last few weeks very soon!

Back in Newcastle today. Geth is out boardgaming tonight (there’s a new Keyforge release today so he’ll be at tournaments all weekend), so I’m having a quiet evening watching Christmas cookery shows and planning out a few updates for my most recent text adventure game.

It’s going to be a busy weekend with a few more gigs and hopefully a vintage fair trip!

Food Network Christmas shows
Not an OOTD: I haven’t even eaten meat for over twenty years, but every year I put these cookery shows on and watch in fascination as TV chefs spend hours making these incredibly complicated-looking Christmas roasts.

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Midnight – Gloria
Tyler Lyle – Lost And Found (The Midnight Remix)
The Midnight – Days Of Thunder
A-ha – Hunting High And Low
The Midnight – Lost Boy
A-ha – Take On Me
Eisenfunk – Pong
Michael Land – LeChuck’s Theme
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Locomotion

Life without alcohol: nine months sober

Three-quarters of a year sober today. For most of my life, that would have seemed utterly impossible.

Autumn trees

Every month, it becomes marginally easier, and marginally more normal. I still think about drinking a lot, and every time I plan a night out, my first instinctive thought is that I will be drinking, before I remember that I don’t anymore. It’s just one of the many ways in which I haven’t managed to detach my brain from drinking culture yet – for instance, I still automatically assume that I’ll have to wait a while before I set off if I’m planning to drive in the morning (despite the fact that I only properly got back into driving this year, after I got sober!) and when I’m offered a booze alternative like Nosecco or even ginger beer earlier in the day, my first instinct is that it’s a bit too early to start yet – when in actual fact, it would be perfectly fine to drink Nosecco all day long, as I would still be stone cold sober at midnight!

Drink is also showing up in my dreams a lot, usually in tandem with the strange reappearance of my recurring nightmares about my late cat, José, which have started happening a lot again after a few years of respite. As I expected, they usually take the form of ‘oops I forgot I was sober and had a drink’, similar to the ones I have about vegetarianism. Thankfully I’ve not recently dreamt about actually being drunk, which I always found to be a horrible dream even when I was still drinking.

I’ve reviewed one booze alternative this month:

I’ve got a slight backlog of booze alternatives to review, but hopefully I’ll catch up before the end of the year.

It’s been a very busy month and I’ve not really been looking after myself mental health-wise. I’ve already set a few things in place to make sure this is less of a problem throughout October.

Life without alcohol: four months sober

I find I’m settling into sobriety now. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss cider like a missing limb, but at the same time I’m now completely in the habit of having a ginger beer instead. It’s become routine not to drink alcohol, which is all I can ask for, really.

Plants in May

I can’t believe how much my mental health has calmed down over the last few months. I still have depressed days, obviously, but they feel manageable in a way that they never did when I was drinking, and most importantly, they don’t have as much of an effect on my ability to get on with work and other important things.

Anxiety dream wise: I’ve noticed something very odd. I expected what would happen would be similar to the vegetarianism anxiety dreams I’ve been having for twenty years, where I suddenly realise halfway through my dream that I’ve accidentally been eating tuna fish (it’s ALWAYS tuna fish. I do not know why this is). I presumed that I would have similar ‘oops, I’m accidentally drunk!’ dreams. I haven’t yet, which I’m really glad about, because I expect they would be really upsetting.

However, what I am dreaming about – every night, which is just bizarre – is taking up smoking again. I quit smoking in 2008, which is eleven years ago now, and I’ve not had a craving for nicotine in waking life in…probably seven or eight years? I find the smell gross and offputting nowadays, and I would never want to jeopardise my running fitness by damaging my lungs again. I am the total stereotype of an ex-smoker. But I’m dreaming about it every single night. Maybe it’s my brain’s way of telling me it misses having a chemical stress release. I don’t know.

In the waking world, I’m still finding the range of sobriety resources available online and offline really helpful – it makes me feel a bit less alone with this thing.

Booze alternatives I’ve reviewed over the last month:

Things haven’t been totally plain sailing in recent weeks – I’ve realised that I need to plan better for events where everyone else is drinking, because at the moment it makes me feel a bit outside of things – but on the whole, I’m doing better, and learning to manage it better, and I’m hopeful that this will get even easier over the next few months.

My twenty-year veggieversary

It’s fairly cliché to bemoan the fact that 1999 doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, so I won’t dwell on that. But even though it’s hard to believe it’s two decades since Easter Sunday, 4th April 1999 – the day I became vegetarian – I think twenty years is something worth marking.

1999 – the year I started making my way through the world as a vegetarian.

I was fourteen then. A child to my eyes now but a fully-fledged adult as far as I was concerned at the time. I’d been weighing up the pros and cons of vegetarianism for about two years, and took the leap because it seemed there weren’t many cons left worth considering. I’d always been uncomfortable with the fact that meat was actually just rotting animal corpses. I didn’t like most red meat dishes anyway, hated seafood, thought poultry was utterly cardboard-tasting. Pretty much the only remaining drawback was that I wouldn’t be able to eat gummy sweets because of the gelatine, and that seemed like a small price to pay for having a good excuse not to eat burgers (blech) or anchovies (double blech) whenever I was out for a meal.

I wouldn’t say it was hugely difficult to be vegetarian in 1999. Restaurants did always have at least one veggie option on the menu, even if it was usually lasagne. But it was a world away from 2019, where even vegans have a range of choices in many restaurants, and dishes are clearly marked. The most difficult thing was eating out in continental Europe, which was not (and is still not particularly) veggie-friendly, and threw up the side challenge of attempting to make a successful meat-free food order in a different language. I ended up developing a list of standby options that I knew were safe: spätzle in Germany, galettes and crêpes in France, tortilla española in Spain, margherita pizza in Italy. These have served me well to this day.

It’s funny how vegetarianism has become so second nature to me over time. I never feel deprived from not eating meat, or like there’s something missing, and it actually feels quite jarring when I have to explain to somebody new that I’m veggie – because it feels like such a normal thing not to eat meat. Standing in the meat aisle at the supermarket when Geth is choosing bacon feels like looking into a subculture I don’t understand – the animal flesh on display looks cold and clinical and completely unappetising – and because I’ve never eaten meat as an adult, I’ve never learnt how to cook it, so it just feels like something completely removed from my world.

I’ve been thinking about the above a lot over the last few months, because I’ve been trying to compare it to the experience of giving up alcohol. It would be nice to think that in twenty years’ time, I won’t miss alcohol at all or even think about its existence most of the time. However, I’m not quite that optimistic, as it’s not a totally comparable situation. I was never the biggest fan of meat anyway, and it’s not an addictive substance. I’m hopeful that sobriety will get easier, but I don’t think it will ever be as easy as vegetarianism.

I know I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the ‘where does the time go?’ stuff, but it is weird to think that I’ve not eaten meat since the 20th century. I still remember vividly the taste of the meatstuffs I did like – bacon, salami, real haggis – and maybe that type of memory won’t fade, but I’m happy for it to remain a memory.

Over the last twenty years of vegetarianism, I’ve been stricter sometimes and looser sometimes. I’ve occasionally had gelatine lapses, though I can say for certain that I’ve not eaten animal flesh since the 4th of April 1999. I’m not as strict with rennet-derived cheese as I used to be. Sometimes I’ve eschewed leather products, sometimes not. I’ve occasionally considered going fully vegan due to my increasing discomfort with the dairy and egg industries, and I’ve occasionally considered dialling it back to pescetarianism (despite my dislike of seafood) in an attempt to get more protein into my diet.

But on the whole, right now, I’m very happy being a common-or-garden lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I think that’s where I’ll stay for the foreseeable future.