Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 87: make like a tree.

After another frazzling day, I am going to do the only thing I can fathom: pack up my puter and head for the hot room. As I think I have pointed out before, without bottles of red or white at your disposal, the only effective way to unwind is to exercise. Tonight I'm choosing yoga because it should hopefully give me calmness in the head department, coupled with an energy shot for my bod (which this week it sorely needs). Whoopee whizz fizz pop bang wallop. I'm tired. Can you tell? So yeah, as I begin to contemplate the coming tree-pose, it is also time to do something else tree-like: leave. (Tee hee. Thank you Back to the Future. Although as I recall, Biff always got the joke wrong: "Why don't you make like a tree and get outta here!" Poor boy. Not very clever.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 86: stuff, time, energy.

Today I wrote 13 letters, invited 22 people for lunch, signed off some proofs, and discovered swordfish is high in dangerous ocean metals. I am a little exhausted. I kind of have been all week actually. Lord knows why. It's not like I have booze binges to blame anymore, and I've been being pretty healthy on all fronts as far as I know. I suppose sometimes you just get a bit tired. And there has been quite a lot busying around under the surface that is quite likely sucking out its fair share of energy. Psychologically I've been preparing to leave a longstanding job (and all the friends and security that goes with it) and begin a new one (new people, great expectations, trial periods, new routines: cue secret freakouts!). Then there's all the physical stuff to take care of, like cleaning out six and a half years of work stuff (dismantling my work toy collection and picture wall is a big enough job in itself, let alone sifting through all the very important paper I have accumulated). Just trying not to think about it is tiring! And then you add the normal stuff, like working, exercising, socialising, and trying to become a rock star. Phew. But really, I'm going to have to find a way to boost my battery packs. Because while I've been doing some towards the music project, and it is chugging along quite nicely, every time I mention the jet fuelled words "rock" and "star" I realise significantly more is required. It would be okay if I'd said I wanted to be a moderately successful musician playing regularly at a range of local pubs. But I didn't say that. I also do not expect to go from zero to rock hero in the space of 365 days. But if I'm going to get anywhere near it I need to start putting a little more zoom in my action plan. Thankfully, the not drinking side of things is going well and hasn't become a taxing mission of its own. Now that it does seem to be under control though, it might be time to sharpen the focus again on the other side of the challenge, and get a little more rocking and rolling. There are three things I can see that should be done while we continue to build our material: 1. Get vocal training. 2. Record the vocals for our tracks in a proper studio with good mics. 3. Hit the practice room to keep our live skills up and work out how we play the new tracks live. Plenty to go on with then. And of course there's the small issue of what we call ourselves. Don't get me started. Naming is one of my favourite things, and band naming can keep me awake for days. Right now losing sleep is the last thing I need.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 85: help yourself.

Today I received an encouraging email. In fact, of late, a lot of people have been really cool and supportive of my little mission, saying plenty of nice things, but today's message was particularly positive. It was from Steve, father to my friend Jane, who volunteers on an alcohol help line in NZ (I've mentioned him before). He said that he thinks the blog (my blog!) could be helpful to some of the people calling in, and that he's already recommended it to a few. His colleagues have taken a look too, and might also recommend it. This is great. To think that I could have transformed from a not-so-secretly off the rails party person barely keeping her shit together, to someone helping people discover the awesomeness that is being off the booze and on the ball, is really quite amazing to me. Like, really?! But seriously, if you are reading, and this is helping, then please maintain the habit. Because let's not forget that your reading is helping me too. Focussing every day on the task at hand, and being able to vent when it gets hard, and having some sense that there are other people who can identify in some small way with what I'm up against, it all helps me stick to the plan. What also helps me stick to the plan, let's also not forget, is how good it feels to have a clear head, a clear conscience, and a generally happy outlook again. These are the rewards you get for not giving in. But then, by now, at Day 85, giving in isn't really the point. Not drinking has begun to feel so natural and so good that it's a lot less of a battle. Sure there are moments when a beer or a Veuve seem like more attractive options than a fizzy drink, but behaving like a cool person (as opposed to a cross-eyed, slobbering mess), projecting glowing good health, and waking feeling fresh and happy, kind of seem even more attractive again. Now if I could just get a cool boy to notice how freakin' attractive I am right now... Kidding. Not really. But anyway. Life is a sweet thing and it's worth not boozing your way through all of it. Thank you all for reading, thank you Steve for recommending, and please help yourselves to as much booze-free blog as you desire.

Day 84: Australia Day.

If you want to talk major piss-ups, Australia Day is your humdinger. It is a day when the nation that prides itself on (among other things) its beer consumption and prowess at handling its drink, comes out in force, stubby in hand, to celebrate in the scorching summer sunshine. It's a fun day. Barbies abound (for the uninitiated, that's barbeques, not a pack of blonde, leggy dolls), beaches pack out, radios pump out Triple J's annual Hottest 100 countdown, and Australians everywhere wet their parched throats with ice cold beer, wine and bubbly, plucked from well stocked eskies and beer fridges. And hordes of bogans (sorry, this is getting very jargony) roam the streets on their way to or from events, draped in Australian flags and plastered in green and gold face paint and southern cross fake tattoos (this part I find a little scary, and generally try to avoid). This year, in an attempt to minimise violence (the not-so-fun side to sinking lots of piss), alcohol was banned at most of the major beaches. I hope it made a difference, although people I know who did the beach thing still managed to get pretty plastered. For my part, I attended another notoriously boozy Aussie institution, the races. As I have found often to be the case when attending events known for their drink factor, my only pangs hit on entering the place. The pre-programmed expected behaviour patterns kick in and you find yourself thinking you're about to order a glass of champagne. But then your actual brain snaps back into action and you order... a lemon lime and bitters usually. It's the drink that alcohol drinkers will most readily and happily allow you to order, I've found. They find it less appalling than if you started straight in on the mineral waters. In fact, the sum total of my liquid intake at the races was three drinks: one lemon lime and bitters, one sparkling mineral water, and one, wait for it, raspberry and coke! This last drink I reserve for moments when I feel like going a bit ape. Hilariously enough, the colouring and sugar content does seem to give me a hit, akin to the kind I experienced at birthday parties when I was a kid. My first sip always makes me smile sort of uncontrollably. Happy associations I suppose. And it's delicious. My race day experience was indeed, pretty much pure fun. My drinking pals tended towards the giggly, funny and happy end, and weren't drinking excessively. We were all frocked and suited up fabulously, and the amazing looking animals that were the horses themselves kept thundering by in all their shiny-coated, muscle rippling glory. Splendid. I followed this very pleasant event with another equally enjoyable one: a fair dinkum Australia Day barbie thrown by real Aussies, my work mate Kylie and her partner Ian. As a New Zealander, making it to this all-Aussie event felt like an honour and an achievement. And it had all the trappings I would expect, including beer infused barbequed chicken, Australian flag stubby holders, and Triple J tunes filtering out over the grassy, nicely styled back yard. We dined on an awesome array of gourmet nibbles, fresh salads, barbied fare and tropical fruit, and I drank dry ginger ale with fresh lime. Maybe it was just the nature of this relaxed yet sophisticated party, with its emphasis more on good food and conversation than on pissing up, but I genuinely did not notice that I wasn't drinking. My drink was exactly what the warm evening called for, and I had no hankering whatsoever for anything of the alcoholic variety. And while not drinking on Australia Day might be construed by many as "un-Australian", I didn't feel any less celebratory as a result. Certainly, none of the Australians I encountered felt strongly enough about the booze factor to even mention it. People, I think we're making progress.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 83: grazia Grazia!

My story just hit the stands in Grazia magazine! Hurrah! (If you're interested, check out page 82 in the "Would you call these women fat?" issue. (the answer is no!)) Oh and according to the article, it seems there's even a whole charity supporting staying off the piss. So if you'd like to join me in soberland for a month, check out As for me, I'll just be bouncing around the place, high on the zing that is acknowledgement by the media. What's this? Someone wants me to do work? How mundane! Do they know who I am?!

Day 82: boy troubles.

Over the last maybe week, I have been vaguely troubled by the lack of a boy in my life. I say vaguely, because in general I’ve been feeling ace about just about everything. I don’t feel like I need a boy to feel good about myself or like a completed human being, but the thought has occurred to me that it might be nice to have one around. Sydney is a tough town for boys. No, let me rephrase that: Sydney is a tough town for single females. Finding good boys is the tough bit. By good I mean clever, interesting, spunky, successful, but mainly with any clue in their head about how to treat a female, or any interest in treating one well. Of these there are very few. Mainly men in Sydney are gay. Of those who are not, a large percentage are arrogant, dim-witted players with bad style, or just so emotionally retarded and commitment-phobic that any meaningful interaction is almost impossible, and certainly infinitely pointless. Or maybe I’m just mixing with the wrong crowd. This could well be the case. For a start, I know plenty of really cool, emotionally stable and genuinely interesting and charming boys all of whom are of course taken. Surely some of these boys had to be single in Sydney at some point? Which means maybe there might be others out there somewhere, right? Maybe I just need to try going to different places. Which brings me to another problem: going to places at all. While I have definitely made an effort not to completely avoid popular watering holes (in fact I have seen it as a test of my metal to see whether I can go out sober and still have a fun time), I haven’t been going to bars as much as I used to. The appeal of hanging out around increasingly drunk people into the wee hours has not been as strong as that of getting more sleep, getting up earlier and going out for a jog (for example). Which is all well and good, except that in Australia (as far as I know) you don’t meet boys on jogs. You meet them in bars. Or at parties; drunken ones. “What about yoga boy?” I hear you ask. You’re right, he may well be the perfect man, but I haven’t seen him in class for two weeks, which could mean he’s on holiday, or that he’s stopped doing yoga, or merely that our schedules are out of kilter. Do you see how difficult this is? Even the fact that I’m thinking so much about a boy who I haven’t had a proper conversation with, indicates just what a dearth of good available men there are in this town. But honestly, worrying about it really isn’t something I currently have energy for. So I suppose I will leave my level of “troubled” about boy or lack thereof at “vaguely” (or maybe turn it down to “not at all”), only resolving to at least try and put myself more in the way of the miniscule scattering of quality boys remaining in this town. Getting up the courage to talk to said quality, should it happen along, without the aid of alcohol is of course another matter. But then, if the man is indeed as quality as he looks, he shouldn’t have any trouble in taking care of introductions himself.

Day 81: alarming behaviour.

The more I don’t drink, the more I am alarmed at how much other people do; the quantities, the frequency, people’s social reliance on the stuff. I know “they” are simply “me” 81 days ago, but as the distance grows further between me and that whole routine, I am starting to appreciate the enormity and ferocity of the beast that is our drinking culture. Drink is everywhere: at dinner parties, at picnics, in bars, at work, at lunch, in homes, at the movies, the rugby, the cricket, on aeroplanes, at the hairdresser’s. It is used for celebration, for sadness, for relaxation, for courage, for socialising, for stress relief, for meeting the opposite sex, for sex itself, for having a good time, and for forgetting a bad time. Versatile stuff yes? That or we’re hooked on it, to the extent that any excuse will do. Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of alcohol, it’s donuts people are consuming. Let’s map out a not abnormal week for a twenty-to-thirty-something Sydneysider. “Well, I’d usually have one or two donuts with dinner on most weeknights, and anywhere from two to five donuts with lunch on a Friday depending on if it was someone’s birthday at work, or we were having a long lunch at the pub. Then I might have say four more donuts later that night out with friends if it wasn’t a big night, maybe eight if it was. Then on Saturday night I could have anywhere from four to twelve donuts depending on when I started, then on Sunday I might just have a couple in the evening, to ease me back into the working week”. If you knew someone who was eating between 14 and 35 donuts a week, you’d think they had a problem right? (And don’t even start to give me question marks on where that mystery layer of lard sprang from.) For a lot of people I know, that little run-through constitutes a modest estimate. Why are we doing it? Are we trying to fill gaping holes in our lives/personalities/confidence/personal achievements gulp by gulp? The problem with that approach (I have found) is that the alcohol quickly drains away, taking useful things like brain cells, energy, good looks and good moods with it, leaving a bigger hole than before and fewer resources with which to construct something more satisfying and lasting to fill the void. As I have pointed out before, you’ll notice that quite a lot of the world’s more conspicuously successful people, aren’t big on getting hammered. They know the value of keeping their beady eyes in sharp focus, and their minds whirring and tick-tocking in the best possible working order. (Not to mention the general helpfulness in any career or endeavour of good skin, bright eyes and perky, lean muscles.) In any case, what I think is starting to dawn on me, is that where before I thought alcohol overconsumption was a symptom or manifestation of other problems, now I’m starting to think it might be the source of much that hampers us as humans. Depression? Frustration? Stagnation? Unhappiness with our bodies and appearance? Antisocial behaviour? A lack of energy or motivation? Feelings of failure or not being in control of our lives? Just not having your shit together? All of these things can be linked directly to drinking too much. And then we drink more to try and block out how bad we feel about the whole sorry state of affairs. Alarming right? And an alarming proportion of our society is geared towards behaving this way. The problem is enormous. It’s sprawling and almost impossible to control. It’s like some fast-moving runner bean plant or vine, squiggling like a maniac on some zooped up fertiliser. It’s freaking me out! I think I need a drink (of green tea or camomile or something).

Day 80: hot and bothered.

It is hot as hell and I am suffering from a bout of don’t know what to do with myself. I just walked home lugging my laptop, an exercise that saw me sporting a fresh slick of sweat within minutes of stepping out of air con into actual, honest, swindle-free air. Now I am having difficulty deciding what to do. I have a nice chunky window of Friday evening free time and so many activities with which to fill it, but a strange scatty brain that won’t let me settle on any one thing. I kind of want to read/write/do Sudoku/blob/watch TV/hang with my friends/sleep/eat/not eat/be on the other side of the world. It’s tough. So far I have actually managed to eat a Macca’s soft serve cone (50c worth of ice creamy, fake tasting perfection), have a couple of swigs of Chi (my new favourite drink) and buy a coffee from the nice boy on the corner. Congratulations (weird choice on the coffee though if it’s really as hot as all that). What I should probably be doing at a time like this is a nice, calming hour and a half of yoga, but it’s way too hot for that. In olden times I may have cracked open a beer and calmed my rattled nerves that way. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll just lie face down on my cold leather sofa until I’m calm enough to make another move. Awesome. We’re doing fabulously.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 79: getting famous.

Excitement! I just did my first ever magazine interview about My Year Off The Piss. If you're in the vicinity of Australia on Monday, pick up a copy of Grazia magazine to check it out. It's kind of mental. So far the process of pursuing rock stardom by way of non-drinking (go figure) is making me more famous than the actual music itself (admittedly, until about a week ago none of the music had made it far outside the walls of Ben's music room, which might account for the lack of hullaballoo). Anyway, being the attention whore that I am, I'll take fame from any place I can get it (will I? I can just see Kurt Cobain shaking his head in rock heaven right now.).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 78: keep on trucking.

Today has been a good day of getting on with stuff. I went to yoga bright and 5.30-ish-ly early and had a radical class. I had a generally productive morning, then went swimming at lunch time with the gals from work, which was a sun-shiny, cool-watery experience of pleasantness. And this evening I will record my new song over at Ben's house. This one is a little more pop than the Drinking Song I posted a few days ago (did anybody listen to it? I haven't heard a peep.). It is vaguely about not drinking, or more correctly, about making unpredictable choices and rolling with them; seeing where you end up. I will be posting more songs soon too, as we roll them off the production line. It is an interesting process writing songs. I can never tell whether the stuff I write hangs together stylistically or not. Obviously, we make conscious decisions about production and the like, but mainly I am beholden to what comes out. I pretty much never sit down and say "Today I will write a pop song" or "Today I will write something in the style of death metal". I just feel like something's on its way, and out pops some kind of song. Sometimes I feel like I'm more of a tube than a songwriter, with someone else feeding fully formed ditties in from somewhere in the ether (but that's just silly. People don't float around on the ether writing songs and putting them in the ends of tubes.). Anyway, it will be interesting to see what you lot think as the songs start to pile up. Are they a coherent, related group, or am I a schizoid weirdo when it comes to composing tunes? And is not pouring alcomohol down my own tubes actually helping the songwriting or robbing it of a certain je ne sais quoi? There will be tunes from both the sober and the sloshed sides of the line to compare. Well stay tuned my friends, and the answers to these and many other questions will no doubt materialise. Until they do, I will quite simply keep on trucking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 77: get thee to a brewery.

No, I'm not on the brink of insanity (or dating a psycho Danish prince), but I am planning to hold my work leaving do at "the best beer bar in the land" (according to one Aussie beer writer - yes such a thing exists). Known as The Local taphouse, it specialises in beer and offers a dizzying array on tap (no duh). It also serves great food and is a hop, skip and a jump from my front door (no prizes for guessing the true motivation behind the choice). Seriously though, if I hadn't chosen to take the road of teetotal absolutism, this little watering hole could have been my darling drunken home away from home. As it happens, I almost never darken the doors. But in the name of neighbourly patronage, and in recognition of the maniac my work pals once knew, to the taphouse we shall go. After all, just because I have chosen recently to live like a nun, doesn't mean my fellow revellers can't sink a pint or seven to send me on my way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 76: ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

You might remember around Day 62/63 I had a big decision to make, but I couldn't tell you about it. Now I can. I got offered a job at another agency, and the decision I made was to take it. I've been in my current job for around six and a half years now, so the choice wasn't an overly surprising one. In fact, for a lot of people who know me, the reaction is more like "what took you so long dork-feature?" than "I am dumbfounded at the unexpectedness of this development". What you might find unexpected however, is the reason I'm about to give for this "sudden" burst of upheaval: bikram yoga. I'm not changing jobs because I hate where I work. Where I work is fine. I'm not changing jobs for a promotion. My job will be pretty much the same. More money might have something to do with it, but that's beside the point. I'm changing jobs (I think) because once upon a time I discovered bikram yoga, and since then I've been systematically (if not entirely consciously) changing absolutely everything. I have chopped off all my hair, moved house (three times), and put a stop to an unhealthy relationship. And then what happened? I did the 31-day yoga challenge, and swore myself off alcohol for a year. Could I be any more unrecognisable? Well yes actually, because now I'll be working somewhere different too. And I've started wearing red lipstick (although that probably has more to do with seeing it in Vogue). So everything is changing, and yoga is to blame? My teacher Darren said this might happen. Apparently it happens all the time. Much like yoga unlocks stiff joints and gets your blood moving around your body, it also has a weird tendency to open doors for other stuff to move around in your life. Don't ask me how it works. You could try asking Darren. But then you might have to try doing the yoga too, and who knows what might happen then?

P.S. Yoga boy did a class standing right next to me the other day, which probably means nothing. The only reason I'm telling you is because it meant I did the best standing backbend ever. Yessssssss.

Day 75: life is sweet.

I have already had an awesome day and it is only 9.45am. The sun is out, the crickets are zizzing, and I have a fresh, hot coffee served up to me by one of the attractive and friendly boys at The Shop, my reward for my Sunday morning run. Being a healthy human being on a morning like this is a gift. Having jogged the pretty ups and downs of the eastern burbs, along lanes and streets lined with well kept terraced houses and leafy grown up trees, chatting loosely in between breaths to my big brother, and finishing in the cool, green park that is Rushcutters Bay with its yacht-filled marina, lapping water and harbour and city views, I couldn’t help but appreciate how lucky I am to be alive, here, right now. Just being up at 8am, breathing in the fresh oxygen pumped out by the trees, feeling the brain and body benefits of doing something active. Strolling home through nice neighbourhoods feeling happy and energised for the fresh expanse of day ahead. Passing by the grey, rinsed and sodden individuals still left over in Kings Cross from last night. Knowing the foul feeling of being a night creature turned monster by the touch of morning sunlight, but walking past it fresh as a daisy. There are so many pleasures to be had from the most basic human actions; moving, breathing, seeing, even simply being awake to see the day, I wonder when as a species we first felt the need to medicate for recreation? As children we have enormous amounts of fun without anything stronger than sugar to fuel our activities. Why as adults do we suddenly feel the need to inebriate ourselves? Well, people have their reasons. All I know is that right now, for me, not drinking is making perfect and quite beautiful sense. And engaging with the world in its purest and most basic form is proving quite sweet enough without the addition of any mind-altering tonic.

Day 74: being a dick and shutting up.

One of the reasons I stopped drinking was because I was sick of making a cock of myself all the time and then feeling embarrassed about it. Last night I went out with a group of friends, some of whom it was the first time I’d met, and I’m pretty sure I behaved like a bit of a dick. Not in an obnoxious, nasty, arrogant kind of way. It was more a saying too much, gesticulating too much, contorting my face too much, overly theatrical brand of dickishness. I’ve always envied and respected people who have the presence of mind and calm confidence to keep their mouths more shut than open. Not being one of these awesome individuals, I tend to blither and joke my way through any silence that presents itself, particularly when in the company of new acquaintances. I also err on the side of flamboyant physical gesture, loud laughing, and “comical” acting out of scenes from whatever enormously entertaining story I’m telling. Yeah. Cool aye. OTT behaviour like this brings to mind what one of the young, partying-ish boys at work said to me after having seen at close range what I’m like obliterated on alcohol. He said that instead of being called Claire Falloon (as I was christened), I should be known as Claire Full-on (his powers of creativity were obviously entirely wasted in studio). Only last night I wasn’t obliterated. I was stone cold sober. Does this mean I’m just naturally a full-on social cockhead? Oh man. Here I was thinking that by staying away from booze I was safely tucked away from the humiliation of my own dork-ish behaviour, and now I discover the dork itself is alive and well living happily in my sober veins? At least if you act like a dick when you’re drunk you can blame the alcohol. When you’re sober, the blame rests entirely on your own dork-like personality. To be fair, I don’t think my company last night felt alarmed or assaulted by my form. They are all well developed, animated conversationalists in their own rights. But there were moments when I compared my bouffant arm gesture to their serene drink sipping, or my flabber wonk Woo! to their measured vocal brevity, and thought, woa calm down dickhead. Is my non-drinking giving me too much energy? Do I need to develop a Valium habit to calm myself down in company? Or am I thinking about this way too much? Maybe the real problem is that when you’re sober you are acutely aware of exactly what’s happening and can remember every nitty grit of what went on. If you’re drunk, your nice, relaxed mind lets a few things slide. It cuts you some slack. And maybe that’s why I’ve liked alcohol so much in the past; because my unrelenting standards of perfection can be a bit much to live up to all the time. Sometimes you need someone (or thing) to say “Mehhh, forget aboudit. Give yourself a break and be the mess you secretly know you are for a while.” Oh gosh, and there I go saying too much again. Here’s a thought, maybe I should just learn to shut up.

P.S. Does anyone think anything about our song (see Day 73)? Please comment! I need to know! (If you think it's weird, it's perfectly alright to say so.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 73: drinking song.

Y'all ready for this? Today I present one of the first songs of the as yet unnamed music project, for your aural appreciation and comment. This song has been kicking around for a little while now and appropriately, or ironically, is entirely about drinking. I wrote the lyrics about a year ago I think, sitting in the sunshine in a favourite pub from my university years, the Dux De Lux, sipping one of their house brewed beers after a winey lunch in Christchurch. As I recall, the words tumbled out in one sitting, and despite the booze fuzz softening my reflexes, I had that writerly tenacity you sometimes get, where I would not pen a line until I could express my exact feeling and thought. The words had to be perfect. It didn't actually take that long (maybe 20 minutes). The booze probably helped. It's an interesting thought that. When I told people in the very first days of this mission that I was stopping drinking with a view to make music and pursue rock stardom, some quite understandably reacted with "what the?!". I mean rock 'n' roll and heavy drinking are co-dependent bedfellows right? Some might say coming up with the rock 'n' roll goods relies on getting wasted. At the very least, most would agree being a little less than straight helps produce the general rebellion and abandon people are looking for in their neighbourhood rock star. So do you need to get wasted to make great art? I dunno. This song certainly wasn't conceived sober, and the concept is entirely drunken. But of course, you might think this song is crap. Or you might not. Shall we have a listen and see?
Here we go then. This is our Drinking Song.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 72: what was I doing again?

Over the last couple of days I've had a weird thing going on with the non drinking, where it feels so natural and easy that I sort of can't remember why I'm doing it. It's like I've gotten so far away from my bad drunken behaviour of previous times, that I can't remember what the problem was to start off with. At the same time I have no particular desire to drink. The thought of getting hammered actually really scares me now. (I can't work out if that's healthy progress or some new adult neurosis I've developed.) I think it has something to do with reading Augusten Burroughs. He was/is a full blown alcoholic. A lot of the people he's writing about are alcoholics or addicts. So alcohol for them is not an option, it's an outright forbidden evil. For me alcohol is something I will presumably get around to drinking again at some stage. But the longer I go on not drinking it, the more insidiously bad it seems to me, and the more off-limits it becomes. It's like it's become a toxic substance that should only be approached in a special suit, gloves and breathing apparatus. But it's not actually that bad is it? The oft famed Mediterranean diet recommends a glass or two of wine a day for good health. And if you can stop at one or two, then presumably all is good. But then there's how the stuff makes you behave. Take the Jessica Davies story in the news right now. This niece of the British junior defence minister, stabbed and killed a French boy she picked up, during a drunken blackout. That's murder dude. Her quite reasonable statement on the incident (for which she has been jailed for 15 years): "What I did terrifies me... I can guarantee that I will never again touch a drop of alcohol". Right you are lassie. You are a terrible drunk. So maybe I am right to be afraid of the stuff. Or maybe I am just obsessing about a substance that is constantly on my mind (I write about it every day) but never in my system. Abstaining from alcohol is becoming a basic norm of my life, while the process is turning alcohol itself into some kind of fantastical, evil taboo. In any case, what I am supposed to be doing with my time is not obsessing over alcohol, but actioning my music project. And I'm happy to say that progress really is being made. In fact to prove it, tomorrow I will be releasing a little of what we've been up to, for the listening pleasure of a very select group: you guys. I would love to know what you think, so please comment up a storm. Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat place (or any random time you feel like).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 71: New York dreaming.

Since I first visited New York city five years ago, I have been enchanted and smitten with the place and have harboured a not very secret dream of living and working there. Considering how sincerely I would like this dream to come true, it's weird I haven't done more to try and make it happen. I guess it hasn't yet seemed like a viable option. Anyway, just because the moment for actually residing in New York hasn't arrived yet, doesn't mean I can't go and get a big apple fix every so often. In fact I am planning a trip right now. The idea is to do New York, Texas and Mexico. New York because I am in love with it, Texas because I like cowboy boots and love hanging with my cousin who lives there, and Mexico because I think sombreros are going to be huge next summer (like literally). And I'll be doing all this some time around June/July. Which means, of course, I'll be doing it sober. Wober! New York without Cosmopolitans or Manhattans? Texas without beer? Mexico without tequila? Well I suppose I'm currently doing Sydney without sauvignon blanc, so how much harder can it really be? And why am I freaking out about it now? One day at a time sister, one day at a time! (Note to self: just because you're reading about an American alcoholic, doesn't mean you need to start talking like one.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 70: drugs and alcohol.

While floating home in a pleasant bubble of post yoga body spentness last night, I passed a Chemist's window advertising a new drug. It's called Revivol (such a pretty spelling) and it claims to be a "symptomatic cure for hangovers", presumably meaning it masks or gets rid of the symptoms, effectively killing the hangover. I just love how "right now" this kind of a response to a problem is. Okay, so people are getting hangovers. Hmm what can we do about this? I know! We'll make a drug! A drug to drown out the effects of the other drug they've been soaking their organs with the night before. Did anybody think of maybe just avoiding the hangover in the first place? Like, I dunno, drinking a little less? But why drink less when you can drink lots then pop a pill and cheat the hangover? Well, cheat if you wanna. But I'll be here staging a little revivol of my own: the straight-up, no bull, no alcohol approach to hangover prevention.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 69: hellfire Monday.

Holy crap it's hot again and the air con is down at work. Usually on workday mornings, I walk in (a 40-minute exercise), work up a light sweat (the dewy kind as opposed to the drenched and stinky variety), then step through the front doors into the welcome and chilly embrace of big office air conditioning. Not today. Today instead of breezing to my desk, the relief of coolness stroking my limbs, I was thwunked with a maddening brick of gyrating heat. Way to put you in a stinking mood. Lucky I don't get Monday-itis anymore aye. Otherwise I may well have turned into that steaming, angry little goat-like creature, the devil herself. (My little brother used to have a line he would use on me when he felt like stirring up some action: "Getting a bit titchy are ya? Titchy! Titchy! Titchy!" It worked like a dream every time because, as the line suggests, I do have a habit of "getting a bit titchy" sort of instantly from time to time. I think it's otherwise known as "having a short wick".). As it happened, I think I fired off a few mild fireballs of annoyance, then calmed down and set to the task of drinking water and green tea. Which I am still doing now. So yes, no burning beer desires today. Just plenty of cooling, calming hydrators.

Day 68: a thirst for beer.

Today was another expanse of searing hotness. Even as early as 7am, when I went running with my bros, it was hot. And by the time we hit the grass in Nielsen Park for a pre-planned picnic at around 11am, it was positively sizzling. Thank Christ for the ocean (although you had to skip across the toasted sand to get to it. Man what a day, though. As long as you could have regular refreshing swims in the pleasantly cool water, it was pretty much perfection. Sydney's good that way. Anyway, by now I have my boozy picnics down pat. Not drinking at them is a piece of cake. Or a ham sandwich, or a slice of bacon and egg pie with coleslaw, as the case may be. Today's was an enjoyable and relaxed affair. All the kids were having a whale of a time, snorkelling, building sand castles, clambering on the rocks and negotiating melting ice creams, while the adults lounged on towels and picnic blankets and chatted, swapping out the tours of duty hawk-eyeing the kids and slathering them with sunscreen. Some drank wines and beers, others didn't. Everything was A-okay. So the picnic was cool. Then at around 5 o'clock I headed to a music festival my girlfriend Kristie was working on. We were on the guest list which gave us the luxury of taking our time turning up. No pressure to get our money's worth, and most of the acts worth seeing were later anyway. What I'd forgotten was that this would be my first music festival off the piss. Well now. As I've said, it was steamy and hot (still is in fact, and none too breezy). The first thing I needed through the gates was a nice chilled beverage, so I joined the queue. And then it hit me: a burning desire for an icy cold beer. People in front of me were ordering up cans of Coopers pulled dripping from ice-filled buckets, cracking them open and glugging them down. I scanned the drinks list for my options and found Lemonade and Coke and water. BUT I DON'T WANT COKE OR LEMONADE OR WATER, I WANT NICE, FREEZING, MILDLY BITTER BEER GODDAMNIT, BEER! I even seriously considered buying a low alcohol one. But then, getting a hold on myself again, it occurred to me that low alcohol is not no alcohol, and no alcohol is the deal. So I bought a water. And resolved to smoke one of Ben's cigarettes as a gesture of rebellion. The whole experience was a little alarming, because it was the first time so far on this mission where I really truly let myself entertain the idea of consciously "slipping up". I'm glad I didn't follow through though, because once the moment had passed all was easy and fine again. I can only assume that the bandy/music environment coupled with thronging crowds of my peers having a loose, happy time in the sunshine was a powerful combo for my drink receptors. I always drink at gigs (my own and any I attend) so it's not surprising the familiar elements triggered a reaction. In any case, the battle was won. If someone could just come up with a non alcoholic drink that wasn't freakin sweet (a no alcohol beer? A dry sparkling grape juice? And no, water doesn't count.) all would be right with the world.

Day 67: hot and dry.

It’s 1.22am (so officially it’s tomorrow not today, but officially I don’t care) and it is extremely warm. It’s like a very hot day, only it’s night. There’s bugger all breeze and I can tell sleeping is going to be difficult. On the upside, the air smells wonderfully of frangipani and jasmine flowers. And I’ve just realised there’s no 8am yoga class on Sundays, so I don’t have to get up quite so early, so sitting up wide awake late into the night isn’t such a big deal. Maybe I can squeeze in a bit more book time before my lids grow heavy. I just started reading Dry by Augusten Burroughs, the autobiographical tale of an advertising copywriter coming to terms with his raging alcoholism. My good friend Jane (like me, also a copywriter) put me onto it. And it’s a compelling read. One might almost say addictive. I ripped through almost half today while first lounging in bed and then lying on Bondi Beach, and I would like to finish the rest before the weekend is out. His antics are certainly making me feel better about my own previous drinking habits (I couldn’t sink a bottle of Dewars Scotch over the course of a month, let alone one every night), but alarmingly too, some of his behaviour echoes things I’ve done in the past. Like drinking my way out of a hangover, only to find myself hung over again the next morning. Or having hurriedly to think up a suitable excuse to explain why I’m so alarmingly late to work (I have done the 12pm wake up on a work day. It’s like the Uma Thurman Pulp Fiction adrenaline shot scene. Suddenly your body and mind registers that usually you are somewhere very different at this time of day and shocks you into horrifying, gasping awakeness.) instead, that is, of the real reason, which is that I got slaughtered the night before. I too have had the joy of a colleague commenting on how much I reek of booze, although that was the day after a big agency party and just about everybody else reeked horribly of booze too. What’s interesting though is that, also like Augusten, at the time of committing these sinful behaviours I and many people around me saw nothing wrong or out of the ordinary in what I was doing. Now however, peering at my former self from the much more fragrant side of the glass, that kind of behaviour seems nothing short of putrid. Only recently I’ve been subjected to the pungent huffings of drunken companions, and it’s not a pleasant noseful. You can literally smell the syrupy turps oozing its way greasily out of people’s skin. It’s pretty foul. And to have it thickening the air of a meeting room while everyone else is crisp white shirts and Listerine? Nasty business that, nasty. It’s funny, as I progress further along this sober line, I am starting to wonder if I will actually want to drink again once this challenge is done. Maybe, like Mr Burroughs, I might actually prefer to stay dry for life.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Hooray! Tonight I'm going to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I'm excited. I have freakin loved their latest album and I'm really interested to see how they handle the electronic elements live, not to mention what Karen O is doing with her hair and her stage get-up these days. She's the man. Seriously. This whole tour is cute too because the Yeah Yeahs have made a conscious effort to play all ages venues. I heard an interview with Nick Zinner and he said the move was motivated by his own frustration at not being able to see cool bands when he was 16. I totally see his point. I mean, 16 year olds are retarded for their favourite bands. Way more up for it than tired 32 year olds like me (but not actually me because I'm TOTALLY up for it and currently have energy to burn!). So the kids will be out in force. Yeah! And that should mean the range of non-alco-bevs should be better than usual. Yeah! And in other news, on my way to work this morning I saw a normal lad in his early twenties, sitting at a table reading the newspaper and drinking a beer. Yeah! Sinking your first schooner at ten to nine in the morning? Oh what a glorious future all those under-agers have to look forward to.

Day 65: fabulousity.

I apologise for being annoying, but I have to say it: I’m feeling freaky amazing. It could be the vitamins I finally got around to taking, or maybe there’s something in the water (I drink a lot of the stuff these days), but over the last little while I have been feeling so damn good. I have basketloads of energy, my mood is UP, my skin and hair are bright and shiny, and my brain is excited, interested in everything and whirring along like a bee with a propeller on its arse. I am happy. Very. And to be able to say that, believe it or not, is actually a bit of a feat. For whatever reason, over the past however many years, I have lived in a state of frustration and general disappointment at my position in the world. I was frustrated with my progress, uninspired by my work and career prospects, disappointed with where my music had gotten to. Everything I wanted to achieve seemed huge and impossible. I felt trapped and powerless to change my situation. It was depressing. But I don’t feel that way anymore. And what’s changed? I still have the same job and do very similar work. The difference is I like it now. I haven’t made any amazing extra progress since those days of feeling shit about myself, so nothing’s really changed there. But I can see that what I’ve already achieved in my life is actually quite good, and that with a little effort there will be more to come. And if anything, my music projects were enjoying more success a while ago than they are now. But I am feeling really happy with our current level of progress, and positive about what we’re capable of. Suddenly now everything I want to do seems totally possible and achievable. So it’s not any concrete event or bit of progress or achievement that’s changed, it’s just my state of mind. Oh yeah and one other thing: I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for 65 days. On reaching this baby milestone day (only 300 days to go!), it is becoming apparent that not having alcohol in my life is a very good thing. Because alcohol, even in small amounts, does affect your head. And mine without it, is feeling freakin’ fabulous.

Day 64: faking it.

According to fast company magazine, right now in England, scientists are working on a synthetic alcohol substitute. Why would we need an alcohol substitute when we have perfectly good alcohol to do the job you may ask? The substitute claims to give you all the pep that getting a bit tipsy does, but with none of the messiness that accompanies it. And it comes with an antidote pill that switches off the alcohol effect when you're ready to drive yourself home. Woa-a. Everything just went bananas. First up though, is it just me or is the "pep" factor of alcohol kind of intrinsically linked to the messiness bit? Like, it's the loosening up that makes alcohol fun but also means things get messy. Whoops! There goes my glass etc. If things aren't getting messy, it sounds like they're creating not a substitute for alcohol, but a new kind of drug that can be sold over the bar by the glassful. In fact, this new elixir is made from "Valium-like benzodiazepines". Uh-huh. Apparently too, it's easily cleared from the body so won't give you a hangover, and it isn't addictive. That last point probably explains why big alcohol brands haven't so far shown much interest in it. But wait a minute, a fun pissy high with no hangover, no glass breakage or word slurring, that you can turn off whenever you like? Sounds pretty addictive to me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 63: decision-making via jogging.

Okay, so I have made my decision. And I still can't tell you about it. Might I recommend though, for the next stressful, life-changing conundrum you face, that you try reaching for your joggers instead of a glass of wine? Now to be fair, I don't know that a glass of wine wouldn't have helped me to make the same choice. But what I do know is that a glass of wine wouldn't have had the same effect on my thighs and butt. The beauty of jogging as a method of problem-solving, I have discovered, is that you just have to keep going until the problem is solved. My little session of mental to-ing and fro-ing saw me circumnavigate the entire cycle circle of Centennial Park. Usually I would pussy out and cut across the middle half way around. So by the time I clattered to an oxygen deprived halt at the big park gates, I didn't just have my dilemma neatly ordered into yes option and no, I had also burned off at least one layer of Christmas cake, raspberries and ice cream (staples of my holiday diet, naturally). And what would a more wine-based approach have achieved? Some fuzzy logic no doubt, and a little extra padding to aid me in sitting on my arse. Oh how good it feels to be a pious, jogging, teetotaler. Then again, if the decision I've made turns out to be a fizzer, I reserve the right to run straight for the bottle (but only on day 366).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 62: mind boggled.

I have a big decision to make and some serious thinking to do. I would love to unburden myself by telling you more about it, but until the decision is made I have to keep my mouth shut. Now how to work this whole thing out? Looks like some exercise is in order.

Day 61: Heineken is history.

My second flight without alcohol went off without a hitch. Coke seems to be my new best friend, especially since I discovered that artificial sweeteners literally melt your organs. Better watch the Coke habit though. Don’t want to get enormous now do we. Not buying duty free saved me some dollars too. Awesome. And on swinging back into town, I discover Sydney is wet and positively arctic at 19 degrees C. Not quite the tropical hot house I have been painting for my kiwi compadres. Nevermind. Incidentally, as I was leaving the airport, my cab passed a billboard displaying a large Heineken beer bottle and the line “Some things you can’t share on a blog”. Like a beer dude. Apart from the rampant paranoid anti-blogism it’s displaying and a bemusing apparent desire to align the brand with techno-archaism, I liked it. But of course for this blog, they kind of missed the point. Not sharing a beer is the point for this blog. It’s why it exists. And wait a minute, what point are they actually trying to make? Presumably that Heineken is the real deal, a beer that originated before any hair-brained nincompoop generations started doing newfangled things like blogging. Unlike a blog, a Heineken is something you can hold. It’s something you can taste! Yes? No? Whatever. I am perfectly happy to be crowned Head Weirdo and blaze a trail into a non-beer-drinking, pro-blog-writing future. Are you with me? I’m guessing Heineken’s probably not.

P.S. I have always actually really liked Heineken. I definitely have nothing against their tasty beverage (except of course, in my current predicament, that it has alcohol in it). But I wonder who they’re targeting with their billboard. Older, slightly techno-phobic businessmen who secretly yearn for the old days when deals were made in person over as many drinks as it took to get the job done? Do people like that exist anymore? Or did that breed die out long ago of liver disease?

Day 60: the last supper.

It is the last night of my holiday in New Zealand. Tomorrow I must pack my bags and leave the farm for the airport, and wing my way back to steamy Sydney. It’s okay though. I have had a great time, survived many a drinking challenge, and spent pleasant interludes with innumerable family members and close friends. I’ve also got plenty of things that need doing this year and I’m keen to get started. I spent today lunching with my grandparents (who are aged 90 and 91), Dad and my cool aunty. These are all people I love and love being around, and they are all key members of my strength core (to coin a phrase); just the thought of them and their presence in the world helps me to carry on and to feel safe and strong. They have helped to build me, and they continue to help me stay standing. Then this evening, my dad’s good friend Jacqui took me and Dad out to dinner, which we followed with a drink at a tiny French cafe in one of the new, hip laneways in the city. Naturally I didn’t partake of the Mandarine Napoleon digestif or special port chosen by Jacqui and Dad. I opted instead for a Coke, poured from the tiniest, best looking glass bottle Coke have yet produced, and an espresso. Apart from a millisecond lamenting that I wasn’t sipping champagne in this darling pocket of Frenchness, it was an entirely enjoyable experience, and a fitting end to a fantastic break. And now what? I set back to the task of getting somewhere: with my music, my work, my relationships, my body, my brain, my bank balance. Will a new me rise from the rubble of my old ways in 2010? We can only wait and see.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 59: oh one, oh one, one oh.

And so the new year begins. Where I’m sitting, the day could only be described as perfect. My table is shaded by a large green umbrella, the expanse of lawn surrounding me is green in parts and golden in others, and the wide sky above me is crisp and blue, whisped across with light white clouds by cooling breaths of breeze. And it is hot. The dry heat that belongs to these farmland plains, the changeable country that sits equally as easily with icy conditions and swings violently between baking the earth and freezing it from one day to the next. There’s something I like about New Zealand’s way of doing things though. It’s raw and fresh and devastatingly honest. It does what it feels like. And last night it felt like being freakin’ cold, but clear skyed and perfect for a full moon and silver lighted sea. Because for the whole of last night’s party, that was the view that greeted every glance out the window. And what a party it was. The setting and house was vividly reminiscent of something you would find on the Hollywood hills, except for the temperatures. The short sun-frock I was determined to wear proved highly inappropriate for the weather, even with a hoody over top. Lucky Ren, usually residing in Tokyo, had a pair of thick and enormous outdoor kimonos. I adopted one as my housecoat and all was awesome. Those voluminous sleeves even looked quite high fashion. Radical. And the party was ace. Everyone else was getting pretty steadily hammered, but none of them were nasty drunks. As one guest observed, as you get older you tend to associate less with dickheads you don’t like, and more with cool people you do. I don’t know if that’s strictly true, but our crowd was a good one, a varied selection of fun, happy, relaxed and interesting people. Kiwis as a rule do tend towards relaxed and happy, especially ones actually living in kiwiland. It’s not surprising. I woke this morning, on the first day of the year, to the breathtaking ocean view I have already described (without a hangover and feeling awesome. Waahoo!). Now I am sitting in a rural setting rich in rustic charm. And a couple of days ago I was weaving my way along winding roads, through Giotto-esque hills, lush, green and sheep-dotted, to a winery in a quaint, quiet bay. It’s just prettiness galore. And there’s so much space. It keeps things calm. Accordingly, at last night’s party there was no fevered talk of resolutions. Everyone was pretty relaxed on the whole thing, and I loosely committed myself to only one. Apart of course from my non-drinking and my mission to create musical amazingness (and anything else cool that occurs to me), I have resolved to finally learn to drive. My lack of a license has been a shameful inclusion on my loser list for some time now, and this year I plan to do something about it. Indeed, the next time I visit this farm, I plan to be fully qualified to get behind the wheel. And funnily enough, for the first time in my existence I actually feel like I am starting to steer the course of my life, as opposed to going simply where I’m taken. What a coincidence. Did I mention by the way, that I literally started today with a bowl of cherries? I think I like the way this year is shaping up.

Day 58: a party is found.

It’s amazing how, even in a tiny, sleepy city like Christchurch, when a party is needed one will be found. Tonight, the festivities will be hosted by one of the old crew Ren and held in her minted pad high on the hill in Redcliffs, overlooking a spectacular view of beach, ocean, mountains and an impressive swoop of coastline stretching right up to Kaikoura some many miles away. You’d be hard pushed to find a better party spot in my humble and not yet travelled enough opinion. And the moon will be full tonight, and blue. Not in actual colour I am told, but in the sense of that often quoted and very rare celestial occurrence. It’s quite appropriate really, considering that if you’d told me, say, five months ago I’d be heading off to my New Year’s Eve party armed only with a bottle of tonic water and a lemon, I would have given it a blue-moon-ish rating of likelihood to happen. But it is happening my friends, and I am not fearful in the slightest. I am happy and a tinsey excited and looking forward to having a good time with a cool bunch of solid crew, gathered from the corners of the world into one idyllic spot. And to think, as my friend and sister-in-law Kate pointed out, that in previous years, right now would be the time to be deciding whether it would be a two bottle of champagne night, a special variety of wine night, a bottle of vodka night, or a start with beers and progress from there night. The complicated decision-making of it all! The expense! The dizzy intoxication driving the locomotive towards a morning train wreck. Not this year. This year we keep things clean, pure and simple.

Day 57: eating and drinking in the rain.

Okay, all this eating has got to stop. Today we went to a winery in Wainui, a bay not too far from Akaroa, for lunch. It was a nice excursion on a freezing and rainy day (welcome to summer in the South Island of NZ) and a very pleasant catch up with old friends. It was fun. Surprisingly, not drinking was incredibly easy, and really we didn’t go overboard with the food. But when we returned home we fell easily into our now routine of grazing randomly on various post Christmas snacks, and then ate burgers for dinner, with oven fries and coleslaw, followed by ice creams and afghan biscuits (homemade! Sensationally delicious!). This is a recipe for becoming enormous. I am only glad that again I wasn’t adding alcohol calories to the mix. It’s probably the only thing preventing me from returning home to Sydney with decidedly chubby chops. Maybe this arctic weather has sent us all into survival blubber mode (need insulation…eat more food). Oh well, I suppose it is the very end of the year and the wheels have to fall off at some stage (or spare tyres pile on as the case may be). I will try to correct matters somewhat by exercising tomorrow and laying off the choc (which should be easy now that we’ve eaten it all). In any case, a very enjoyable day was had by me and all. Bring on the last day of the year.

Day 56: eating and drinking in the sunshine.

Today the sun came out again after two days of rain. In typical schizophrenic Christchurch style, it was a scorcher, dry and hot and burny. As you never know how long these sunny spells will last in this coastal, small island-ish part of the world, we made the most of the day. After a leisurely breakfast (involving chocolates) and some time spent reading in the sun, I, my Dad, my big brother Nic, sister-in-law Kate, baby nephew Rex, and an old family friend Mike, went on a sojourn to Sumner beach in search of fish and chips. We found them. They were awesome (go the kumera chips!). Interestingly enough, it turned out that Mike’s girlfriend works for some part of the government concerned with protecting people from the harmful effects of alcohol. I think her division was called something like “limiting harm”, which says quite a lot about alcohol and what it’s doing for us. Anyway. We had also made plans to have a barbeque out at the farm with one of my oldest and closest friends Jane, her family, and her partner James, so we headed back home to get things ready. Dad and I went via the supermarket (we picked up some ciders, some non-alcos and various other supplies, like cherries and lollipops), and Kate and Nic went via a winery, did some wine tasting and picked up a case. And then we made the food, our guests arrived and we had a wonderful time sitting in the sunshine sipping drinks, eating nice things and talking. Now as it turned out, not many of us were drinking alcohol. Jane is pregnant so she was on the juices with me, her mum said wine tends to send her to sleep or give her a headache so she wasn’t drinking, and James just isn’t big on booze. This made me think. The more I go on with this mission, the more people I discover who just don’t get into alcohol that much. Jane said that even when she is able to drink she usually sticks to one or two glasses at the most because of the effect it has on her. And lots of other people are just quietly taking a moderate approach to drinking. They’re not making a big song and dance out of it, and they certainly don’t see the need to blog about it. So what’s with me? Am I some kind of lightweight, making out that something normal and easy is hard? Have I just been rolling with an alco crew? Well interestingly enough, Jane’s dad is a volunteer on the alcohol helpline here in Christchurch. If his experience is anything to go by, mine isn’t the only crew with an alcohol issue. Lots of people are struggling with the stuff, especially at this time of year. What’s more, alcohol accounts for around 1,000 deaths every year in New Zealand alone. (That’s a lot more than the one death last year from the drug P that everyone’s so obsessed with down here.) So is anything being done to try and curb people’s consumption of alcohol? Funnily enough again, Jane and James both work in advertising with one of their accounts being the government alcohol and drug safety bit (I don’t know the proper name, as you can probably tell. Maybe it’s the same unit Mike’s girlfriend works for?). Apparently the next attempt to stop people drinking so much might be based around calories. Judging by the number of Magnum ice creams, chocolates, sausages, cherries, cheese, and chips consumed in this household over the past day, it’s probably lucky most of us weren’t drinking.

Day 55: cherry bomb.

I did something vaguely naughty today. I ate a chocolate filled with cherry liqueur. Two actually. I do not, however, consider this a breach. In the first place it was a miniscule amount of alcohol (if even truly alcohol at all). Secondly, I didn’t want to consume the alcohol, I just wanted the chocolate. Thirdly, this whole thing is about not drinking and not getting hammered. It’s not about going to ridiculous lengths to avoid the tiniest droplet in a piece of food. And fourthly, who needs a fourthly? It was two chocolates. Let’s move on.

Day 54: a measure of road.

There is a stretch of road that runs alongside our farm, between two tiny churches (the Methodist and the Presbyterian). Every time I visit this part of the world I ride up and down it on one of my Dad’s bikes. It has become a homecoming tradition of mine. I have ridden up and down this road a lot of times. I’ve ridden it when my life was so carefree that boys and how fat this holiday was going to make me were my only true concerns. I’ve ridden it wondering desperately what work I should really be doing. I rode it relentlessly in the dark days when my mum was sick and I was afraid of the future because I knew what was coming. I rode it when I had no idea where to go, and I have ridden it in a bikini in the sunshine feeling the amazing warm relief of having survived a storm you feared might beat you. A little bashed around, but mainly recovered; a strong little soldier with scars. And I rode it yesterday and I rode it today and I will more than likely ride it again tomorrow. It’s a very straight, very quiet piece of road. Most of the time you’re the only person on it. And in front of you are corn coloured fields with dotted trees and the odd unruly hedge, animals browsing the grass, a stark range of mountains and the biggest wide-open sky. Maybe not surprisingly, my rides along this road have come to be a kind of measure of where my life is at. It’s a clear space where I report in and find out how I feel about the general state of my world. And today I felt good. Not 100% certain or confident or bulletproof, but good. Calm. Under control. Okay with shit. I still have my insecurities, I still feel lonely at times, I still have things that need to be done, things that make me feel small. But none of it feels like it’s getting on top of me. I feel like I’m getting somewhere, and I’m interested to see where I end up next.

Day 53: keeping things interesting.

Today I went for a ride on the back of my Dad’s motorbike. It’s a red Ducati Monster. That’s what it’s actually called. I wasn’t going to, because I was a bit scared (and am generally of motorbikes), but Dad quickly persuaded me based on the premise that it’s good to experience new things. He was right. Whipping along on the back of the bike, leather jacketed, jeaned and helmeted was an exhilarating ride. When we pulled in to the supermarket, eyed appreciatively by selected males, it felt pretty cool. And seeing the red machine sitting there all mechanically amazing, and then actually being one of the ones allowed to get on it and whizz away, I kind of appreciated why dudes seem to like motorbikes so much. And cornering was wicked. I’m glad I did it because it’s reminded me to be more of a yes person than a no. I have too much of a tendency to shut stuff down before I give it a chance. Over the next year I want to work on changing that. It also reminded me that there are a million things out there yet to do, and you can try pretty much whatever you like. Why restrict yourself? Why not keep things interesting? I mean, not drinking is an exercise in shifting gears, swapping some shit out and seeing where it takes me. I might as well keep applying that attitude to other stuff I encounter. If I’m honest though, today was one of those days when not drinking kind of seemed like a drag. I guess I’m just so used to spending my summer holidays at this house mildly and constantly sozzled that it just feels weird to be straight in the head. What precisely I’m going to do for New Year’s Eve too, is an interesting question. It’s just another one of those little freak out moments where you go, is my life actually boring without alcohol, and therefore boring in itself? I read an article the other day about drinking that said that even very moderate drinkers are using alcohol to fill the emptiness in their lives. Yip, sure, I can see that. But man, with the amount of drinking going on these days, as societies we must be leading some extremely empty lives. You know how you read about people, famous ones usually, who just seem to lead the most action-packed, never-a-dull-moment existences? That’s the kind of life I want. I don’t want to waste valuable moments not experiencing cool things or not hanging with fun, interesting people. But you don’t get that kind of life by sitting around and wishing for it. You have to make it happen. So what can I do to make sure New Year’s Eve is not a bore-fest? Give me a couple of days and I’ll see what I can cook up.

Day 52: happy birthday Jesus.

It’s ya birthday, it’s ya birthday, gonna party like it’s ya birthday. Or… gonna get up and eat crepes for breakfast. Make a coffee and open some presents. Scrape some spuds and go up to my Aunty’s. (Actually Dad scraped the spuds.) I don’t know if fiddy cent would approve of my new lyrics. Anyway, Christmas Day is almost over. It was the kind of lush yet pleasantly relaxed affair I thought it would be. The food my Aunty put on was freakin delicious and we managed to stuff ourselves without making ourselves sick. I got some great presents, people liked the ones I gave, and Dad and I are about to sit down and watch some of the Alistair Cooke America DVD set Dad got from me. All in all it’s been an enjoyable and stress-free day. There have however been many moments today when I thought a drink would be a damn nice idea. Not to get through any stressful moment, or boring conversation (all the conversation was really interesting and the whole event was perfectly chilled) but just because it would have been nice. A nice glass of Veuve Cliquot would have been decidedly better than my sparkling grape juice (way too sweet). An ice cold beer would have been nice on their verandah as the temperature started to climb (it was uncharacteristically hot in Christchurch today, at 29 degrees C). And right now a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc would go down a treat. But these are the moments that abstaining, or one’s commitment to it, are all about. Aren’t they? Or maybe not. I mean, it’s not like I’d be using Christmas Day to work on the music project under any normal circumstances right? And chances are Boxing Day would usually be out too. So would it really hurt to have an alcoholic beverage or three across the course of a day and an evening? Probably not. Except that’s not the deal. Not this year at least. Maybe though, we will make a note that Christmas is one of those occasions where a little tipple seems entirely appropriate. Not a big honking munt fest, but a clink and a sip or two to celebrate the day and the generally relaxed and free status of a human on holiday. In any case, another hulking event has been survived. Onward sober soldiers.

Day 51: twas the night before Christmas

and all through the house, not a thing stirred, not even a mouse. Well actually I can hear Clyde (arguably the best cat in the world) miaowing. And I’m tapping away too. But it is definitely very quiet out here. I just spent a very pleasant evening in the city with a group of my best and oldest friends. They are always such a joy to behold, their awesome faces so beautifully familiar and at the same time completely refreshing. It’s like drinking a big glass of water hanging out with them; it fills you up with pure goodness, and fortifies your ability to keep on living and doing what needs to be done. They are good peeps and I love ‘em. One had a bit of disturbing news though: apparently Angostura Bitters has gone out of business. And apparently they are the sole owners of the famous bitters recipe, and indeed the only people who know what’s in it. Could it be that another drink is off the menu? Jesus H. Speaking of whom, it’s almost birthday time. Better get some zeds so he can come down the chimney and give me presents (that’s how it works right? Or have I got things mixed up?).

Day 50: homeward bound.

7.50am Waiting at the gate to board, I’ve already been stung for a mediocre latte. Over five bucks for any coffee not containing alcohol is a rip. I hate airports. No actually, I love them. I would be loving this one a lot more if it wasn’t in a state of under construction flux, and if Macca’s was anywhere to be seen. Don’t they know that eating a McDonald’s Bacon and Egg McMuffin pre flight is a sacred part of my travelling ritual? Now I’m hungry as hell and a bit pissed about my exorbitant coffee. Never mind, I’m about to get on a plane! I love planes. LOVE planes and anywhere they want to take me. Of course, another part of my travelling ritual is also drinking alcohol and buying it duty free. It’s early, so not drinking is no problem. And frankly, not having a bunch of clinking bags to lug is suiting me fine too. I always end up feeling like a packhorse in airports. I need to work on carrying less. Anyway, so far feeling fine. And hell, I’m on freakin holiday!
6.55pm NZ time. I am back at the farm. This place is some kind of rustic wonderland heaven. In summer it stays light way into the evening, sometimes until about ten at night. Right now the sun still feels hot and like you could almost burn. But that’s New Zealand for you: the land where things are so pure and raw they hurt. From where I’m sitting, outside on a gentle hillock beside the farmhouse, I can see a sun-filled meadow of overgrown golden-hued grass, backed by big, old, sprawling pine trees in dark green, the mauve-grey mountains behind and a huge, clear, Canterbury planes blue sky. I love it here. But I always find my first few hours after arrival confronting. Coming home to the city where I grew up and spent some of my early adult years, always floods me with an unprepared for spray of memories. I feel vulnerable because I’m not sure what will come to haunt me. It’s hard to ascertain which visions of my many former selves are fact, which are my own rose-coloured versions. I can’t remember everything that went on here, and I know I may encounter people who know bits I don’t necessarily want to be reminded of. It’s okay. It’s a classic case of the wandering small town kid. You go away and build a new self in a new place, but when you come back, the you that was there before is still somewhere around. You just kind of hope you don’t bump into it too often. I don’t know why though really. I had an awesome time in this town. I guess you just keep moving, and looking back or reliving the past isn’t always useful. And of course, when I return to the farm, I am always hit with the loss of my mother. The house and this place pulses with her for me. It is full of her touch – certain books, pictures, rugs, the way things are put together. There is a definite sense of her energy. And there are so many memories. So it is also a ritual when I arrive in this place that I cry for the mum that is so much here but isn’t. Then I clear the tears and enjoy being back in the presence of what she was, and back in this beautiful, honest part of the world, surrounded by the stories lived by the generations of our family that were here before us. Oh yeah, and I usually crack open a bottle of one of my Dad’s selection of crisp New Zealand whites, or a beer from one of NZ’s impressive little boutique breweries. Not this time. Today I toast the holidays with a glass of clean, pure Christchurch water; the best tasting stuff you’ll find anywhere, straight from the tap.

Day 49: happiness is…

It’s just past midnight and I am finally finished packing. I seem to be physically and mentally incapable of doing things like this any earlier than the last possible moment, although compared to other years I’m doing pretty well. My cab arrives at 6.30am. Plenty of time for shut eye yet. Part of the reason I started packing late-ish was that I had to do my Santa Claire rounds, dropping off presents to my beloved family members who will not be in NZ for Christmas. I did it on foot, as that’s how I get around mostly, so it took a little while. Ahh but what pleasantness. I started by visiting my little brother. I adore my little brother (all my siblings actually). I always have a fun and funny time hanging out with him. Tonight we watched the tail end of New Zealand’s Next Top Model together, which I kind of love, but which also triggers flurries of cringe-waves through my delicate cultural constitution. It was a perfect pocket of bro/sis happy hang time. Expectant nieces however, waiting patiently in the next neighbourhood with a fast approaching bedtime, meant I had to push on. There is nothing better at Christmas time, in my opinion, than a family home geared to kids and festivities. My sister’s house was the picture of pleasant pre-festive buzz. House guests with same-age kids, and other drop-in visitors gave the whole place a nice relaxed sociability. The children themselves had that magic only just contained excitement that specifically accompanies things like Christmas trees and presents wrapped up under it. It was one of those scenes where you feel so warm and at home and appreciated and just gosh darn happy… I felt like a very lucky girl. In particular, my sister and brother-in-law have really respected my decision to not drink and embraced the possibilities of the whole project. That kind of positive support really strengthens what I’m doing, and I’m really thankful to have people who are that cool in my life. On top of it all, I get to fly home to the farm tomorrow. Although if I want to make my flight, I’d probably better get snoozing right about now.