After a recent winter sun ‘working break’ in Tenerife, during which wine flowed, beer foamed and I discovered the importance of mango tequila, I found myself ruminating on the nature of drinking days.
On day one, a second bottle had been taken at lunch: ‘It’s Tuesday!’ one of my hosts had exclaimed as she summoned the waiter to order more wine. ‘Tuesdays are the new Fridays!’ Tuesdays? Blimey. My mind whirled with possibilities. And wine.
An hour or so later, in that delicious twilight world between lying down on one’s bed for an afternoon nap and drifting off into drooly sleep, I considered the role of the week in boozing; what you might term the drinker’s internal calendar.
When my hosts moved out to the Canaries they witnessed many ex-pat booze casualties – people who had come out to retire in the sun and, with little else to do, had taken to drinking in order to fill the hours. Their calendars were shot. Very quickly, often within a year, they were back in Blighty with yellow eyes and distended livers, knackering up the NHS or bothering undertakers. If God had intended us all to become alcoholics, I murmured to myself as I slipped now under the duvet, he would have made every day Friday, like it is in Tenerife.
I do not advocate a life of abstinence – my liver enzymes are as elevated as the next man’s – but back in the UK even I enjoy some respite from the booze during the week. Indeed, most Mondays I’m positively looking forward to it, as I concentrate on recovery with a brisk walk and a vegetarian brunch (egg and chips).
But one’s weekly habits change over time. Age, health, societal convention and the unjustly rigid constraints laid down by employers are all considerations that can get in the way of drinking during the week, not to mention during the day. But if we wish to optimise our drinking, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For, ironically, there’s nothing like good health to give a pint that sweet, holy taste, to make us feel at once worthy and wonderful.
Here’s how I keep my figure.
‘It’s not Mondays that are shit,’ goes one of our Half-life’s favourite sayings, ‘It’s your life.’ In fact, Half-life calls Monday ‘Mollyday’ as that’s the day he wakes up at noon and goes for a pie, a pint and a pinch of MD to see how he feels.
‘You get your pub back after the weekenders have fucked off back to work,’ he tells me, or anyone who’ll listen.
It’s unusual for me to drink on a Monday though, a hangover from working life, I suspect. Then, it was to aid recovery, so that I might at least fulfil some duties and obligations; now, funemployed, it’s mainly to let my body perk up again in order to enjoy it later in the week.
Sometimes I get a booze twitch around six o’clock, particularly if there’s wine in the fridge, but if I can get through to 8pm I find I can no longer be bothered to get up off the sofa. Here I go again, I think to myself, as I reach for the Cadbury’s Whole Nut, off on another health kick.
If you’re going to have days off, doctors tell us, make them consecutive. Drinking on a Tuesday is avoidable but this can be tricky if there’s something’s on, like being served mango tequila in a hot tub.
I generally abstain unless there is a very good reason not to – a pick up in the weather, perhaps. Some years ago I had to make a choice between working and enjoying myself. While limited in contenders, it wasn’t a close contest, but it was short. And this is why I am now able to enjoy an impromptu porch party if, say, you get a 20 degree day in February. That, Tuesday or no, demands a drink or two in my view. As did, it turned out, my postman and the nice lady from the gas board, who joined me.
I thus awake most Wednesdays energised and productive, full of kindness and compassion, like a thirsty saint. Quick, get shit done while the going’s good, I tell myself, talk to people, arrange things, look at email, do the shopping… Because Wednesday is drinks night and that shit sho’nuff ain’t gonna be happening in the morning.
If the football’s on later you might even get out early and make an afternoon of it with some like-minded slackers. This is what I tend to do now I’m not working – and even when I was, come to think of it.
By Thursday, the working week has hitched up its skirts and is making a dash for the weekend, which lurks in the mid-distance, promising dark secrets and untold mysteries, a bit like last weekend.
I admire Thursdays. I like their mood and their promise. Even the Europa League was sent to give us an excuse. I mean, who can’t get excited by a 5.55pm kick off featuring Vorskla or BATE Borisov, when required?
And of course for the worker, if you overdo it then at least you have your hangover on work time. As we have counselled time and again, being hungover on your own time marks you out as a fool.
It is for that reason that I often take Fridays easy. Every day off the booze improves body and mind for the following day, that’s just physics (or similar), and with the weekend at the door you have to be careful not to scare it off by going wild too early. The weekend demands respect. It is the apotheosis of mankind, which is why we at Deserter will not rest until a universal five-day weekend has been achieved.
Deserter associate Deadly Hedley declines invitations on this day because of what he refers to as the ‘Friday madness’, a sort of edginess born of a combination of having worked all week, sleep deprivation, alcohol and sheer excitement. An edginess that can quickly develop into full-blown panic, as it did for me last Friday.
There I was, sitting in Franklin’s, having taken it easy all afternoon with various local reprobates in the drinking establishments of East Dulwich, when I was overcome with the smell of burning hair. Instantly, after a couple of minutes, I remembered reading that the smell of burnt hair can be a precursor to a heart attack or a stroke, which I urgently related to those present. It created a moment of genuine alarm, along with an uncharitable discussion about whether I should therefore be left out of the round that was currently being bought, before Roxy announced that she too could smell it. And when Pompey also got a whiff, we all relaxed a little, despite someone mentioning the possibility that we were all having a stroke.
It turned out that the burning smell was from a jacket that had been put down on top of a candle, which was a tremendous relief to all of us, except Dougie, whose jacket it was. That’s Fridays for you.
On this particular Friday I carried on taking it easy – first at the House of Tippler up the road and then long into the night at Two Thumbs Tony’s hash tea and techno soirée, which was immense. And therein lies a lesson. If a quiet day goes wrong (right), do not beat yourself up about it. Embrace it. Don’t make yourself feel bad for allowing yourself to have a good time. For what are rules if not to be drunken?
Saturday is legend, especially for the sports fan. You can have a pint before the game, a pint during the game and – why not? – a pint after the game. You feel great, everyone’s up for a lark and there’s bugger all to do tomorrow.
Having young children can interfere with these simple pleasures as you are required to ferry them between swimming and Max’s pirate party, but as they get older, Saturdays are gradually returned to their rightful owner – you. Especially if you forget to take your phone out with you.
These days my preference is to get right on it early and be home in time for a baked potato and Match of the Day. But that’s because I’ve fallen in love with Sunday.
Sunday is decent enough as a ‘day of rest’ before rejoining the rat race, but a Sunday without work the next day is a revelation. There’s no washing, no panic, no creeping dread.
Once a time for great clan gatherings over roasted food at a pub or round someone’s house – often due to the requirement of parenting – Sunday has now become for me a period of quiet reflection, even ‘work’. A couple of dreamy pints at the Canopy tap room with the laptop (where I sit now as I write), perhaps a spliff in the park for the walk home, followed by a bottle of red for the evening, after cooking. And, let’s face it, during cooking.
Countryfile, Antiques Roadshow and other well-meaning drivel slips past on the TV but you no longer even feel the urge to rail against them. You’ve reached that special place that only a week well-lived can get you. Peace reigns, contentment courses through you veins, along with the Malbec. Nothing can disturb you.
Then Roxy or someone will invite you out for a late pint somewhere, to put the week to bed, and you might go or you might not, because you are your own man, mostly. And when you get back, finally, you can put yourself to bed, sleep enveloping you, knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care, until you awake ready to start the week anew, not fresh, exactly, but happy, which is even better.