This is our field lady
If you happen to cross through a field of sheep on your travels then you should be warned that avoiding treading on a sheep dropping is as difficult as avoiding alcohol in a pub.
But it is possible.
Today, I did both. Okay, well, one of my crutches went in a Sheep dropping but I my actual self did not.
I am on holiday in Devon at the moment, a week that was supposed to be spent walking and maybe even learning to surf, has been transformed somewhat by the broken toe I currently have and the crutches this necessitates. However, I have managed two reasonably short coastal walks.
Short is in fact all relative, Elijah Wood, is for me perfectly formed, for others he is short. These walks would have been short for my able body but when I have to use my arms to walk, they have actually been long and arduous, and brilliant all the same.
Today's walk started at a pub. I had passed it on the bus a few times this week and decided I needed to go and have a drink or some food there at some point, it has spectacular sea views from the back of it. I woke this morning with nothing on my to do list except publish my first blog post, written two days ago. With that task done I decided a pub lunch, a walk and a sit by the sea were in order.
I got the bus to the pub, from where I would walk back to the beach near where I am staying.
Since I decided to start this blog I have also been thinking about stopping drinking, possibly for a month, maybe a year, maybe indefinitely. It's been lingering at the back of my mind alongside the idea for this blog for a while.
So on the bus I told myself that I would not have a drink today. That I would go for a soft drink. In fact, alcohol didn't appeal at all. As I searched my taste buds I found that not even cider was tempting me. So good, I would not drink today.
As I stepped into the pub, (one you must visit if you're ever in the South Hams / Dartmouth area, The Kings Arms in Strete) I was greeted warmly by the lady behind the bar.
I was informed there was a wait on food and no tables with a sea view. But the welcome was warm and the pub lovely, I was happy to sit without a view and wait for food.
"What do I want to drink?" I asked us both. "Would you like alcohol or a soft drink."
I wavered. I could have a cider. I mean, there was a wait for food, so perhaps I should have a drink I would be able to sip slowly. I could have a cider.
"What soft drinks do you have?"
Now this is truly what clinched it. Had she said, juice, lemonade, coke I would have gone for the cider. But she listed an array of interesting soft drinks, from pink lemonade to ginger beer to some nettle drink. I followed my taste buds and went with a pink lemonade. I washed this down with a ginger beer. Both were delightful and neither left me bloated, red faced or sluggish.
As I said, I am on holiday and every day so far has included a drink. Not a lot of drink but a pint or two, possibly a glass of red wine. Each trip out has been "rewarded" with a drink.
As I started to think about giving up drink, I ear marked Monday as the start. Finish the holiday first, visit the friends as planned on Sunday and then quit drink for a month, maybe more.
This though seemed to ignore the entire reason for me wanting to give up alcohol alongside sugar (to clarify, I mean refined sugar - I will still be taking in good, natural sugars - and this I am starting when I am home with my own kitchen). I want to get out of the habit of "rewarding" myself with sweet treats or alcohol. Been a long day at work? Have a drink. Been for a good run? Have some chocolate. It's the weekend, have a drink. It's Monday and you survived, have a drink. It's 3pm and you've almost got through another day at work, have a biscuit.
On holiday? Eat and drink whatever you like. In fact, eat and drink whatever you don't even like because it's holiday and holiday means having a drink, or a dessert even if you're a bit sick of both.
That's the pattern of thinking I want to break.
I want to be clear here, I don't have a problem with alcohol but I do have a lazy imagination when it's on the table. Especially living in London where despite there being an awful lot to do, it all revolves or exists very close to alcohol.
There's the pub, a restaurant, a trip to the theatre, a trip to the cinema, a walk across the Heath which takes you to many a fine pub. There's alcohol in every catch up with friends and I've become lazy with it.
"What shall we do?" "Shall we go for a drink?"
But what if this wasn't an option anymore? What else might I find when I'm not just going for a drink with friends? Will I write more, walk more, exercise more, visit more cultural things, talk more?
I want to rethink what "rewarding myself" means. Because I love walking, I love writing, I love reading, I love swimming, I love running, I love yoga and Pilates, I love coffee, I love cooking, I love eating good food, I love being by the sea, I love listening to music, I love learning new things, I love looking at art, I love history, I love watching documentaries, I love acting (once I've got over the fear of doing it), I love making new work and I love talking to my friends. So why are these not the rewards? Why is it always alcohol or chocolate or something that doesn't enrich particularly, that I turn to after a hard day, or because I am bored?
So it is entirely fitting that I should give up alcohol whilst still on holiday and surrounded by things I truly love and enjoy. The sea, good books, my own thoughts, a pen and paper, nature, silence, music and the horizon.
In the end avoiding alcohol was far less tricky than avoiding the sheep droppings as I left the pub for a good hike across a coastal path. As I entered the field the sheep all looked at me the way a whole village pub looks at you, a stranger, who just entered their bar and then ordered a soft drink. You strange being you...what brings you this way?
And with a tentative step, I weaved my way through the carpet of their droppings as they stared at me. I put one wobbly step in front of the other and I got to the other side, dropping and alcohol free.