Total amount raised: £2130.00 ... including Gift Aid: £2501.26

Friday, 29 January 2016

Dry January called off early

There she is. Mummy's special grape juice. Not long now!
We have just had word that Dry January has ended early.

A spokesperson said "We're sorry. We forgot this was a five weekend month. Everybody's been very well-behaved but if we don't call it quits now, things could get out of hand."

Faye Cotter, who hasn't touched a drop since 1 Jan, told this blog: "Thank f*** for that. Honestly. I had no idea how horrible it was going to be. Four weeks is enough, isn't it? Good. We've proved something. Now, who wants a pint?"

Although landlords had been looking forward to the boost in trade on 1 Feb, a spokesperson agreed it just didn't seem right.

"Ending on a Monday was shaping up to be a real test for dry drinkers. Go on a bender at the beginning of the week and admit you probably do have a problem? Or try to hold out for another four days? Far better to finish Dry January on a Friday night so Britain's alcohol dependents can kid themselves they're just choosing to put a bottle or two away in celebration."

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Toby Foster Does Dry January

I meant to write a summary of my thoughts after I started back on booze. I spent 2015 not quite getting round to it. It was a busy year.

A couple of days ago BBC Radio Sheffield called and told me their excellent breakfast show presenter Toby Foster was doing Dry January. They asked me if I'd like to have a chat with him about my experiences of going dry for a year. Here is the result:

Or if you can't see the above widget, here is the result, on my Soundcloud page.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Nick is Now Drinking

First drink in 12 months. Champagne, obviously.
I was looking forward to a relaxing wind-down to the end of 2014. At 7.34am on New Year's Eve I got a text from BBC Radio 5 live. Could I come on the radio to talk about my Not Drinking in the context of the general hoo-hah about Dry January?

Of course I could.

We did it from my temporary "studio" in the kids playroom via Skype. It seemed to go okay. Here's an edit:

Shortly before I did the interview I received a £40 donation from a university friend.

Then a nice man from the BBC's General News Service called. He'd just seen I was in the 5live running order. Would I be interested in talking about the same subject to some BBC local radio stations as part of what they call a GNS offer? Of course I would.

Whilst waiting for this to happen a £36.50 donation came in from a couple of friends from Oxford, £20 arrived from a former BBC Three colleague and another £20 came in from a BBC colleague I only really know through twitter. A schoolfriend bunged me £50 and another university friend gave me £20.

A GNS offer involves offering a guest's availability to all the BBC local radio stations for 8 minutes at a time within a specified timeslot (in my case two hours between 3pm and 5pm). I have spoken to hundreds of GNS-produced interviewees since I started on BBC Surrey, but I have never been one before. It was fun.

At 3pm I dialled into Broadcasting House on Skype and over the next two hours I spoke to 15 different BBC local radio presenters about my Not Drinking. Some interviews were pre-recorded. Most were carried live.

One way of getting good at being interviewed is to do lots of them in short succession on the same subject. Here are three of them - interviews number three, seven and twelve of the day (I did a phono with my own station BBC Surrey at 1440). Feel free to dip in and out.

During this time the kids were looking after themselves next door whilst my wife was out doing some last minute present-shopping for our middle child, who has a birthday soon.

There were some noises off during one live interview, but the only time my son burst into the room was during a pre-record, so we were able to stop and pick it up again.

Whilst I was carrying out the interviews an anonymous donor put in £10 and just as I finished a friend from my student radio days kindly put in another tenner.

At 7.30pm we went to Byfleet Dave's house for new year. The children have four uncles, two of whom are called Dave. Abi once decided to differentiate them by location, so they are now known as Far Away Dave and Byfleet Dave.

Another friend from BBC Three donated a fiver.

We polished off a curry by 9pm and got our youngest to bed by 10pm.

Another schoolfriend put in £50.

Temporary studio. Or as it's usually known, children's playroom.
We played a board game, attempted a bit of Nintendo Wii and as the fireworks hove into view on BBC1 I was handed a glass of fizz. As the Big Ben bongs went at midnight I had my first sip of alcohol a year after I had my last.

It tasted funny. I had been up since 3.40am so I was quite tired anyway. I tried a beer, which didn't go down very well. At around 2.30am I had a nice glass of Sauvignon, which I did, finally, enjoy.

So that's it. I'm drinking again. I had three beers on New Year's Day at my in-laws, where I ceremoniously handed back my copy of Dr David Marjot's The Diseases of Alcohol to the priest who gave it to me.

Thereafter a neighbour gave me £20 and my best man, who already donated £20 at the start of 2014, gave me another £100.

On the evening of 1 Jan I was asked to go on the Mark Forrest Show across the BBC in England to talk about what giving up had done for me and tomorrow I'll be talking to Dan Chisholm on his regional BBC show about New Years Resolutions and how to get through them.

Over the course of three days (31 Dec to 2 Jan) my fundraising total had gone from £1530 to £1921.50, not including gift aid, which has taken it way beyond £2000.

This morning I was in the gym at 6am. Some habits acquired over the last year are going to take a while to shake off.

I'm going to write a couple more blog posts before winding everything up on here. If you have donated I am profoundly grateful. It made me happier than I thought it would every time someone felt moved enough to chuck a few quid in my direction. Thank you.

There is, of course, still time if you want to add to the final total.

Thanks for reading this blog. I hope you have a happy and prosperous 2015.

Friday, 26 December 2014


Walton PureGym 7.30am, Boxing Day
I am a big fan of laziness. I champion it. I think time spent in idle contemplation, relaxing, reading, drinking and socialising is time well spent. It has to be balanced by work and productivity - I think you should earn your leisure time to make it more meaningful - but it seems too many of us have bought into the myth of hard graft making us all winners. For most of us, our labour is making someone else a winner. And that winner is usually a prick.

In the light of the last 12 months, I might have to reassess the above sentiment. It could well have been the booze talking. This year I was sending work emails on Christmas Eve and in the gym by 6.30am on Boxing Day, where for a full hour I was joined by no one. Which surprised me. I thought there'd be a few. When there isn't one other person doing what you're doing you start to wonder if what you're doing might be a little bit weird.

Thing is, much as it's nice to spend time clearing up after and sorting out arguments between the kids, I rather enjoyed being productive on Christmas Eve, and I rather enjoyed going to the gym this morning. Christmas Day itself was... well... calorific?

I've enjoyed working hard this year. Possibly far too much. But it has brought its rewards, and I'm enjoying those too.

I guess it's all about balance.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

One week to go

So then we started this hip-hop outfit...
It's been an interesting year. I'll admit, not drinking has given me the capacity to work harder.

Or at least, I think it has. It might just be that I've had more work.

I've certainly had less fun, but I've become more determined and learned a lot.

I've got a sober Christmas to go, two days work at ITN and then we're off to my brother-in-law Dave's, for NYE.

Rather than post the traditional "Wahey!" video of me having my first drink in a year at midnight, I am tempted to collude with Dave and the other houseguests to recreate the scene below. For lolz.

But I have a feeling they'll all be too pissed.

This project has a sponsorship element. If you have been holding off donating to see whether or not I make it all the way, believe me, I've got this far - Christmas won't trip me up. If you can see your way to bunging the four worthy causes I'm supporting a few quid, I would be most grateful.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Home straight sighted

I've already chosen my first drink when this is all over. Some very nice people sent me a Christmas hamper the other day.

It contained three bottles of booze, including a bottle of Fortnum and Mason champagne. I felt it would be appropriate to put the champagne aside for midnight on New Year's Eve.

The last drink I had as the pre-bong Big Ben bells rang out on NYE 2013 eleven months ago was champagne so it seems like a neat ending to the project.

I suspect thereafter the pattern will follow a similar one to the last few New Years Eves - watching the fireworks on the telly, switching back to Jools Holland straight afterwards and falling asleep on the sofa at 1am before dragging ourselves to bed ready for the 6am onslaught.

As the home straight approaches I have been planning a bit of a cheeky January. There are some old friends I haven't seen for a while, and I'd like to fix a night out to say thank you to those who have kindly put some money in the kitty.

In the meantime, I have work to attend to. A couple of sponsors have asked questions:

1) Could I write something on the metabolism of alcohol in relation to other energy sources?
2) Have I finished Dr Marjot's second book Addiction: A kind of loving?
3) Having left thousands of avid blog readers on tenterhooks with This is Hardcore Pt 1, could I write up This is Hardcore Pt 2, so everyone knows what happened in the second experiment?

To which the answers are:

1) Yes I'd love to, it fascinates me, but I need to get research time which I currently don't have.
2) No, but I'd love to. I spent a bit of time with it recently and finally understood a key part of the reunion/attachment theory, which I'd also love to write up, if I had the time.
3) See answer 1).

I will try to get something on one of the three subjects together before the end of the month, but, y'know... work... Christmas...

One thing I will be writing about over the course of the next 31 days is sponsorship. I'm not a good hustler, and the world is full of people constantly asking other people for charitable donations.

But the joy of seeing the money come in, the response from the charities (heart-meltingly grateful and charming with it) and realising what a very generous bunch of people I am lucky enough to know has made me determined to try to prise a few more quid out of those around me.

To be honest, the charitable donation element to this project has served its purpose. Having bound myself in to several early sponsorship commitments, a dual sense of pride and parsimony (I committed to refunding double any donation out of my own pocket if I did have a drink this year) stopped me from falling off the wagon.

There was one moment in late March where I know I would have cracked if the prospect of a very public humiliation hadn't stopped me. Whilst cussed determination might have got me through the last eleven months, it was entirely fuelled by your generosity.

If you would care to join the merry throng of freewheeling debit card dilettantes, this is how to get on it. If you would rather wait until 1 Jan 2015, then my double donation cashback offer becomes redundant and you lose any possibility of ever seeing your donation again. But you will actually know I have done what I set out to do. Either way, I am keeping the fundraising page open for a few weeks into 2015 to hassle people some more.

Finally if you think this is all massively over-indulgent, faintly pathetic and have absolutely no intention of making a donation - I can't say I blame you. I haven't really done much. Your eyeballs on this blog are reward enough.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

It’s a bit like being a vegetarian

Carrot on Steel - Nick Wallis (2014)
Being sober in a drinking world is like being a vegetarian. I don’t know why it’s taken me eleven months to realise this. 

The moral high ground, the generally feeling healthier, the creeping certainty other people are having more fun than you…

I respect vegetarians and vegetarianism.* I aspire to eat less meat. I could probably go quite happily without it.

Vegans are proper hardcore. I once tried a vegan diet and lasted two weeks. It’s a lifestyle which requires great bundles of morality and fibre.

Being teetotal is much the same. All these drunk people ruining the world, ruining themselves and me. Me. Me being a little bit special. Not just a better person, but also able to remind people of The Path I Have Chosen every time we go for a drink or a meal.

Richard Herring stopped being a vegetarian once he realised he probably liked slightly annoying people with his moral superiority more than he enjoyed not eating meat.**

I would hate Britain to become the sort of society where having a few sherberts after work is no longer considered okay. Where career, family and vegetariansim/environmentalism/charity/church/over-consumption of material goods become life’s be-all and end-all.

I’d like to think there is a place for hedonism, rueful recovery and the occasional opportunity to put aside our worries and celebrate being alive. So long as most of the time we’re all eating carrots.


* Though my friend Natt (a comedian and journalist currently pulling up trees at usvsth3m) points out vegetarians must not like animals as they clearly want to see far less of them around. Natt only eats animals who have lived well. If the restaurant doesn’t know the provenance of its meat, he’ll take  a vegetarian option.

** The person Richard told this to (Sara Pascoe, in another excellent RHLSTP) eloquently argued he should have remained vegetarian notwithstanding - if you believe in the idea of vegetarianism voting with your wallet makes a real difference.