The state of dry drinking in the UK

As I rapidly approach my 5th month sober I can’t help but reflect on the state of dry (sober) drinking in the UK.

I have a bit of a reputation amongst friends & it goes a little something like this… if I happened to find myself in a cocktail bar with a reasonable selection of cocktails, choice anxiety often meant the only logical conclusion was to purchase one of everything on the menu. I have dropped over £200 in a single transaction to save myself from having to pick a drink.

Luckily (for my friends and my liver) I like to share.

Photo by Helena Yankovska

My sobriety hasn’t ended my social life, far from it. I still visit pubs and clubs and bars. However, I can no longer drop £200 on drinks, though not for lack of trying!

My biggest problem these days isn’t too much choice but the total opposite: for the sober drinker, the choice isn’t “which of these expensive cocktails” but “pepsi or lemonade” and let me tell you, there’s only so many pints of lemonade you can drink on a night out before your stomach feels like it’s going to explode. Even worse, the introduction of the sugar tax means that now many bars are subbing full sugar soft drinks for the diet equivalent rather than put up their prices, and I think diet drinks taste like piss.

I thought that this problem was caused by living in a small rural town, but the bars in the neighbouring town of Shrewsbury have an equally shit sober selection. Further, a recent trek to London (which I anticipated as having a much greater selection) for a friend’s birthday left me just as disappointed. For the first time in my life the only bars I can rely on are Wetherspoons, who at least stock alcohol free Koppaberg, but as I’m anti-Brexit and their founder isn’t, it honestly pains me to support them.

The lack of selection for sober socialites is disappointing, especially as websites like Dry Drinker have a huge range of dry beers, wines and spirits. I don’t expect bars to stock every single thing offered there, but I don’t think it’s a big ask for them to have e.g. one alcohol free cider, one alcohol free beer and — at a push — an alcohol free spirit. Even better, a handful of mocktails (that aren’t just fruit juice) would make me as happy as a pig in shit.

There’s a ton of reasons for people to be sober (it’s not just for semi-crazy hormonal sorts like me) & I’m calling on UK bars and businesses to think of us as we approach the summer. Don’t make me drink lemonade all year, please.

London, baby!

I am … hastily does the maths nearly 29 years old and this weekend I visited London as a tourist and used the underground for the first time. The capital city of my very own country and it’s taken me this long to go and visit it!

On Thursday, Gaz and I went to see Stewart Lee live at The Leicester Square Theatre and we stayed on in London until earlier today, determined to crack some more items off my list of things I’ve never done (which is a surprisingly long list).

Other firsts over this weekend include my first time in a casino (we left with a profit of 25 pence), my first oyster card (genius invention), first time seeing attractions such as the Tower of London and the London Eye, and my first time in a strip club (more about that in a second).

On the Friday we visited the Taste of London 2014 show (another first) and sampled as many alcoholic drinks as possible to try to balance the crazy entrance fee (£25 each just to be sold to by a ton of exhibitors?!) We had a wander around the Tower of London; I saw my first selfie stick on the London Eye and we attempted to photobomb other tourist’s Eye photos with stupid faces; we ate at the first steak restaurant that basically involved cooking my own meat (Steak & Co.) and bar-hopped the night away.

On Saturday we went to Harrods and the British Museum, and I’m not sure which took the longest to get round. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the designer infantwear in Harrods, with Gaz spotting a little leather jacket for babies priced at over £900! I think I’ve spent less than that on clothes for Isabel in the entire 5 years of her life.

Saturday evening we went out for food in Prezzo which, while very tasty, ended up giving me the shits causing me to have to find an available toilet in the middle of Oxford Street on a busy Saturday before Christmas. NOT FUN. (First ever diarrhoea in a public loo.) After that we did the only logical thing that one does with a dicky stomach and filled it full of cocktails. I did manage to stop pooping, thanks for asking.

Cocktails demolished (there’s something fucking hilarious about watching your boyfriend ask the female bar staff for a screaming orgasm) I suggested we head back to Leicester Square to visit a “gentleman’s club” we’d walked past on Thursday night because it seemed like a logical way to end the night.

Weirdest. Place. Ever. Quite apart from the £15 entrance fee (each), the world’s most expensive ATM in the corner (£10 charge for withdrawals!) and the fact that I was the most-dressed woman in the room, I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable in there. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but we were pounced upon by women from the moment we walked in til the moment we left, desperate to sell themselves. At one stage I was being groped by one of the dancers who thought that fondling my boobs would get me agree to a private dance. I was almost tempted, just to see what it would have been like, but Gaz stopped me (by sensibly pointing out that we were going to miss the last train if we didn’t leave). Obviously I checked my feminist card in at the door.

After we left the strip club, we hopped back on the tube and I ended up sharing a fellow drunk passenger’s McDonalds chicken nuggets. It felt slightly odd to be eating McDonalds when it was a Maccy Ds loo I emptied the contents of my stomach into earlier that night, but the woman seemed insistent I help her out with those nuggets.

Daft drunken escapades aside, it was incredibly weird to be walking round London seeing things that I recognised from the TV or films, and actually being there and it all being real. I was oddly fascinated by the red buses (also known as buses, to Londoners) which have always seemed such an iconic London thing but have never really registered as being actual public transport and available everywhere. I realise that this probably sounds incredibly stupid, but I’m from the country: we’re lucky if we get one bus around here a day, let alone anything more frequent or indeed painted red.

I was also blown away by the massive multicultural feel to London, and the fact that 95% of the conversations I overheard as we walked down the street were in languages other than English. Attempting to listen to a conversation between a French family on the Thursday night (because I’m rude like that) made me realise that I remember absolutely no French from school whatsoever. So much for that GCSE.

I’m not even close to covering my whole experience, and I was so busy just doing stuff over the past few days that I took ZERO pictures, which I don’t think has ever happened to me before. Still, the memories I’ve got (what’s left after the effects of too much alcohol) from this weekend: fucking amazing. :)