#Day 6: camomile and cinnamon

Still off the booze and holding up well. In fact I’ve hardly missed it at all, which surprises me since I’ve been to two parties, one formal dinner and spent an evening in a pub gigging with a blues band. With the last of these in particular a few pints is usually a prerequisite for me to create an authentic blues/jazz/rock/folk hybrid sound with my classically-trained fiddling, but I found there was enough atmosphere to get into the right mood even without dehydrating my brain. I started off drinking J2O, but our keyboard player pointed out that the preservative they use reacts with the citrus elements to create benzine, so a bottle of J2O is in fact as bad as a whole packet of cigarettes. (Okay, no statistical basis for the last sweeping statement. Probably more like 0.02% of a cigarette.) So because rough and ready country pubs pour scorn on the very notion of alcohol-free lager I stuck to coke.

Actually, nowhere seems to sell alcohol-free lager, except for the Traveller’s Rest on the Huntingdon Road, which is quite a distance to go for the sake of something so conceptually repugnant, so it’s been pretty much coke all the way. I was pleased to get the chance to see a few Footlights alumnis in Cambridge on saturday evening before they went off to see the spring review which I have failed miserably to get to, and Kevin Baker bought me a coke. He was genuinely worried by his failure to obtain a slice of lemon, since I had specified “a little ice perhaps and lemon would be nice”; and although I brushed it off with a “not at all, I didn’t really want the slice of lemon anyway” it was amazing how something so little had, in my alcohol-denied existence, taken on such importance in my head.

Kevin also ordered a steak and guinness pie, which I believe he enjoyed very much, and which led to a discussion of whether morally I would be allowed to eat a pie which contained guinness. What would the alcohol content be after cooking, I wonder? More than 0.02%?

Definitely a grey area, and probably left well alone.

James Casey, who had the lasagne, told me that rather than giving something up for Lent he’s taken a more positive approach and has taken up reading things he feels he ought to have read – he’s currently reading Mere Chrisitanity by C. S. Lewis, which would certainly be high on my list of things to read during a period of spiritual contemplation. And I can’t help feeling he’s got a better deal than me.

Yet, possibly a hangover from an education in a Catholic primary school full of stern teachers who hated me, I think I subconsciously feel there ought to be an element of suffering in Lent. So if I were to take up reading something in this penitential season it would have to be Dan Brown books, just to ensure I didn’t get any pleasure out of the experience.

I also had a small debate with James about the legality (in my current situation) of drinking communion wine, which contains considerably more that 0.02% alcohol. It led to a discussion of transubstantiation, something I wish I’d been better prepared for, and I’m not sure how relevant the conclusion was to my current situation, as I’m pretty sure we agreed that it didn’t constitute a physical change into actual non-alcoholic blood (which would be okay for me to drink). I think that given the concept of the Eucharist plays quite a significant part in this bit of the church year I’m alright to partake of it. James also pointed out that it’s not an issue on sundays, because officially they’re not part of Lent.

Not that I’m taking the easy way out and allowing myself to get trolleyed on feast days. Even when I found myself at a cross-dressing party last night with members of my old choir, I wasn’t tempted by the lure of the demon seed. Well, okay, I was tempted. It was a thoroughly hideous occasion and there were people wearing thongs who should never have done so, or at least should have kept it to themselves.

But I didn’t drink. I calmly made myself a “mocktail”. This I found to be a therapeutically creative process and not unrewarding – the selection of juices being rather limited I opted to include in my ingredients the contents of the larder, so my creation was ultimately a mixture of apple, pineapple and coconut juice with soda water, a squeezed lemon and a splash of lemonade, shaken up with cinnamon and a camomile teabag.

The result was drinkable and even quite exciting. It wasn’t nice, but I’m pretty sure that the addition of vodka would not have helped at all. Maybe a slice of lemon…

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