Last of The Summer Wine

A harebrained time of year to go sober

I swill the negroni in the glass, lilting the liquid around the ice cube, I am Bond at the bar in a DJ. The girl throws her head back, all gums and giddiness, my words are poignant, memorable, twist of humour.

The doorbell goes, I am back in reality, stood there in my flat in Y-fronts with a glass of frothing electrolyte. Watermelon flavour. The Ubereats guy hands me a soggy bag.

Laughter and cries echo through the air from the pub across the road, I think back to the girl at the bar, and what the hell I’m doing with my life. May is no month to stop boozing. And yet here we were the three of us, together yet achingly alone, my sobriety, a halloumi wrap, and I.


It started a month ago.

I’d been suffering from a case of blue balls.

Nil intimate relations was a status quo I no longer questioned, my relationship with my left wrist was up and down. But on the wind the nofap revolution had arrived, and with frying pan and wooden spoon I’d followed them down the street. I got a threatening email the other day from a hacker, and the feeling of innocence that washed over me was transcendent.

I’d engaged in neither for months, I was in the clear.

I forwarded the email to my mate Stan, whose reply was damning.

I thought what the hell and forwarded the above-intel to his wife, decanting some popcorn for the ensuing shitstorm.

Romance in 2024 was alive and kicking.


Having come to terms with my celibacy, could I compound the smugness I wondered. Opening the fridge to crack a cold one I stared down at the condensation on the can beckoning to me. Pale ale was the love of my life. It’d been years since I’d questioned my drinking habits.

But to take this enlightenment-stuff seriously, did I have to go where it hurt. The monks taught that true freedom came not from satiating desire, but from wanting less. To realise what we already have is all we really need.

No fap. No drink. No drugs. I’d be super-human. The more I thought about it the more sense it made. I’d be the man, everyone would know it, chewing organic gum in slacks, cracking expertly chilled Voss. And so it came to pass. By the time sobriety eventually came knocking, I’d slid into her DM’s already.

My timing has never been great.

My half-volleys bobble, my Y-fronts soil, my punchlines are off. Stopping drinking in May is truly one of the world’s dumb decisions. There’s a reason dry January is a thing. That hibernation exists. That beer is served chilled, to quench and refresh as the mercury rises and the long days draw out. Picture Dufresne on the roof with his coworkers, 3 beers a piece. Drink up while it’s cold ladies.

The buds of May over some ice-cold Buds.


I’d hate to be a teetotaller. Imagine waking up and thinking that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day.

Dean Martin

Mankind has always been partial to a tipple. The Greeks thought wine had a spirit. Entheos, they called it. Wine would put them in touch with the divine graces. The Egyptians got leathered. The Romans went hard. Gin almost destroyed London. Give a great ape a martini and see what happens.

My therapist told me his addicted clients were the most vital people he knew, I love their company, he said. The type that burned burned burned à la Dean Moriarty. That lived in entheos. It might not be a place to live, your liver could tell you that, but high-fiving it now and then, what was life for if not that. To drink and make merry.

That intoxicating feeling of summer nights, the shrieks of laughter, the sound of glass on pavement, the ones coming through my window as I stood there with my watermelon electrolyte, was the spirit of entheos in full swing.

The one that took you by the hand and off into the din. Dancing and laughing as the spirit swirled above you laughing back and dancing and pirouetting in the air. No one had anywhere to be, no one cared, all the world was right there in front of you, at the bottom of your glass.

I found a note I’d written on my phone at the start of some spring.

First time I felt string, it read.


First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I said I stopped for the novelty. But novelty is a bit Daily Mail Weekend. My novelty denoted the need for something new. I thought things were normal, yet cracking a can had become second nature. No bath was ever undertaken without one, no film, no football match. The food in my fridge regularly froze over so the beers would be just right.

If I was feeling good, if I was bad, if I was amped, if my sorrows needed submerging. Just one I figured. I’d drink to feel like a new man, and it would work. But the new man wanted a drink too. Hangovers were spent unproductively getting over them. The train would leave the station and splutter to a stop.

Turning 40 and some vague idea I must take my life by the horns was part of it. The I’ve put this off for far too long Bilbo moment. No real idea of what, but some strange deep feeling I would find something at the end of the rainbow. I think I’d just come to the blinding conclusion that the status quo needed a bit of a slap.

There was another thing. A feeling of anxiety provoked by strange events not totally of this world, that had lodged itself unknowingly in my head, and although I tried to play it cool, I was a duck under water, doing my best to drown out its existence.

Like all novelties, the first two weeks were great.

A feeling of clarity, of self-containment, a smugness. I felt a continuum absent from the conveyor belt for too long. Picking up where I last left off, sacrificing immediate pleasure for long-term gain, 0.5% beers and clear-headed cycles home at half eleven. More than anything, the time I had was startling.

You okay, or just taking a breather?

Asked a mate over the phone.

Of course I would prop up bars in future European cities, swill a Puglian red on a hilltop. Yea just a breather, I replied. But I did wonder. Right now though, I was Captain Planet. On it went, the days brought with them a creeping momentum, a dawning self-worth. A now a month later, post the abyss, life right now is superb. It really is.

What was that you said.


Two weeks after the Captain Planet stuff I fell off the edge of the earth.

Gaze for long into the abyss, said Nietzsche, and the abyss gazes into you. The novelty went to the dogs, a storm-cloud moved across my mind. I could find enthusiasm for nothing, could hardly get out of bed. Not that I wanted a drink, I wanted to hide. Life, with nothing to soften the hard corners, was staring me in the face. My wrong turns, my overshares, my inertia, my pride, all the demons of my past leered at me.

This was the hardest aspect of sobriety. An understanding of how much kicking the can down the road we do. The mood-loosener, the edge-taker, plucking our feelings from inside us, putting them in a glass, swilling them around and softening them, while inside the part of us crying out we attend to them becomes stretched and thin, like butter scraped over too much bread.


As the train slowed to a stop late on Sunday afternoon at the station of Little Kimble, the foreboding feeling only the day before the beginning of another week can impart, the abyss still towering, I felt my life begin to tumble. I waited for it to hit my like a truck. Only it didn’t. The birds kept singing, a peace in my soul reigned, a fire began to crackle.

The abyss began to clear, the storm before the calm.

I felt for the first time, out the other side of something.

No-one ever quits anything, a wise man once said, they replace it with something better. You know what’s better than alcohol, he went on, an adventure.

All relationships need realigning I suppose, a renewal of vows. While it’s good to look after ourselves, a friend told me once, sometimes it’s important to not be holding ourselves together perfectly. We all go through seasons. Sometimes we’re on, sometimes we’re off. Sometimes, we’re striving, sometimes we’re survivalists, nothing is constant, our brief is to be gentle and aware of the seasons inside us.

None of this was without meaning I figured, all that was happening and is happening to us always is part of some bigger supernatural process and we are divine beings within it. Wake up, breathe, take a deep breath in, hold yourself, remember the miracle.

Reach for the San Peli.


A shortcut is supposed to be difficult. That’s why they call it a shortcut. If it was easy it would just be the way.


Maybe there is another world, existing all around us, we think only the drink can get us to. And getting us lost along the way, it is more a shitty shortcut, but there or thereabouts we arrive. Not knowing it’s within our grasp to conjure a different kind of entheos. The one music gets us to. The one children have access to. We think we need the booze but do we just need to sit in ourselves.

And still…

The delicious crack of the 5.5% in the bath, purring with condensation.

No-one wants to be the soft drink guy.

There is a fuzziness and softness to a glass of something, a clear-headed cold-heartedness to sobriety the last month showed me never really leaves you. A drink is a saloon-door swung open to the unknown. A loosening, a breathing out, the drifting off of worry, the nestling in of hope, the streetlamp casting its beam and shadow, the twinkling in the gloaming.

Fun shit happens when you’re licked.

A colour to the monochrome, a softening of life’s hard corners. Raising the glass, proposing the toast, the birthday champagne, the negroni at the bar with the Bond girl, the solo-sharpener surveying the landscape of the night’s possibility, the grappa of the piazza, the woozy night-cap, the sweet lick of Buckfast from the dregs of the bottle.

No verse can give pleasure for long, nor last, that is written by drinkers of water.


So here we are.

It is 6.14am, and the birds are singing.

What’s everyone drinking.