‘I’d rather hop naked down the length of Magdalen Street than give up alcohol for a month’
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC 2
January is a tough time for those of us in the pub trade. After all the fun and festivities of December, it can fall a little flat. The decorations are down, the pine needles have been swept from the floor and the novelty pump clip has flashed for one final time. The last party popper has popped, the last turkey, curried. All that remains is the ache in our feet and the ghostly scent of mulled wine in the air.
So it was with an unpleasant sense of shock that I checked social media on the first day of the New Year and saw, in amongst the standard duck-pout drunken selfies (there'll be a column on those at a later date), the frequent use of #DryJanuary. Two words, usually accompanied by a motivational quote or smiling image of positivity, bandied around with merry abandon and blissful ignorance.
Even now, as I write, I can feel the terror claw at my stomach. #DryJanuary. Five syllables designed to chill the blood and raise the hair on the arms. Cue tumbleweed. The toll of church bells.
#DryJanuary. Never has a hashtag struck such fear into the hearts of publicans around the nation.
After working every hour under the sun during the festive period, pouring Jagerbombs for officeworkers in Christmas jumpers and small sweet sherries for elderly relatives on Boxing Day, they see their loyal customers coerced by the fear of moral judgement into staying at home. Fuelled by the power of social media and a nagging awareness of December's excess, pub-goers have been persuaded to steer clear of the poison alcohol – and to avoid those devilish landlords who would serve you up a pint of your favourite tipple.
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The benefits to wallet and waistline make it an attractive proposition – and with more and more people jumping on the bandwagon, it's one which is hard to ignore.
To those of you who have decided to run the gauntlet of Dry January: I salute you; and to those of you who have sought sponsorship for charity in the process, I applaud you all the more.
On the stroke of midnight, as February dawns, you may raise your glass of red to your lips and know that you have earned every last drop. Slim, sober and smug, you have achieved something that many cannot. I include myself in that bracket. I'm not a binge-drinker, nor an alcoholic, but I do enjoy an occasional drink of an evening.
To be frank, I'd rather hop naked down the length of Magdalen Street than give up alcohol for a month. It's not because I can't. But I firmly believe that the more you deny yourself something you enjoy, the more miserable you become – and in January, after a month of overindulgence and sweeping pine needles off the floor, I'm pretty miserable anyway, and I don't want to do anything to exacerbate the situation.
I found one particularly pernicious website advocating smoothie cocktails, suggesting that liquidised kale and silken tofu would be a perfectly reasonable replacement for a gin and tonic. It's a wonder I didn't reach for the blender right away.
So this month, I've decided that I'll be a devotee of #Tryanuary. Originally designed to help out the struggling pub trade in the darkest month of the year, it's a concept that has real appeal, not only from this point of view but in a more general sense. #Tryanuary encourages those who enjoy their beer to try something different: an unfamiliar ale, a different pub, a new microbrewery.
It's not suggesting that publovers should be drinking every night; indeed, for some, the challenge for the month could be trying to stay more sober than usual.
But the residents of this fine city of ours are blessed with some of the friendliest pubs and the best breweries in the region, if not beyond. Why boycott these businesses for the sake of personal denial?
But even if you're deadset on the crusade of abstinence, the theory behind #Tryanuary doesn't just have to be about alcohol.
Use the idea of #Tryanuary in a wider context, to get you through the January blues.
If you're stuck at home with a bottle of wine calling out your name from the fridge, then get out of the house and try a new restaurant.
Mix up your sandwich for lunch (you could even try kale and tofu). Go for a walk to a different place. Don't head to your normal shopping haunts for the January sales, but visit the Norwich Lanes for a change.
Try a new sport to work off those Christmas pounds, or if that sounds too much like hard work, try taking a different route to the pub instead – and when you're there, try a beer from one of Norfolk's wonderful microbreweries.
Celebrate local. Celebrate different. Celebrate January instead of making yourself miserable; and if all else fails, try sweeping up the leftover pine needles from the floor. Trust me, you'll be there until February.
•The views above are those of Hannah Colby who writes for the Evening News 'In My View column' in association with Cinema City