Taking the Pledge: going dry for charity

One of the great dangers of alcohol is that you readily submit to public humiliation
One of the great dangers of alcohol is that you readily submit to public humiliation

Drat and double drat. Jonesy, aka my darling wife, has persuaded me that I should give up booze for January. She thinks it will be good for me, cutting my alleged snoring and my need for an elasticated waistband in my trousers in one fell swoop – or one foul month, depending on your angle. And she says I can do it all for charity.

It’s true that the waistline has expanded in recent weeks. I blame the 2 Ws – work and winter ie not enough time to pound the streets and the fact that rain, icy easterly winds and cobalt skies just don’t make an appealing backdrop to a trot through the woods.

Christmas doesn’t help with its instant appeal and gratification of chocolate, fine stilton and, yes, dionysian lashings of booze.

January may only be 30 days but it is going to be hard work. Like many of my contemporaries especially those that loitered around theatre bars and, later, press boxes, I have allowed booze to become a part of my life.

I am not an alcoholic in that I reach for a plug as soon as I awake of a morning and cannot function without the creeping hand of alcohol reaching through my veins. Quite the reverse in fact. As a broadcaster, I have always had a strict policy of never boozing before going on air. It is too easy to slur when sober. Do it when you have had a drink and that can be the end of you.

However, I am what I suppose you might call a habitual drinker. Or a social drinker.

Home from work, it is perfectly normal to crack open a cold beer or pour a glass of wine. A second or third might easily follow. Perhaps more depending on the evening.

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It was 1995 and England had just beaten Australia at the Rugby World Cup. Watching the game in the Keg and Thistle on Florida Road, Durban, with two old friends from school – Rupert Bates and Nick Murison – it was inevitable that beer would be consumed. Rugby and boozing are inextricably linked.

I am not as bad as I was; to be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the 1980s. The 1990s also had lengthy chapters of vagueness. But the financial demands of a family and the realisation that I was slowly but surely pickling my liver slowed me down.

Doctors will still say I drink too much but normal human beings who have to deal with the everyday vicissitudes of daily family living won’t bat an eyelid. And that is fine by me. Doctors smoke more than most it seems; what do they know about what is bad for you?

So Jonesy has coerced me into signing up to a dry January. To be fair, she has done it as well which should make things easier. We are both rather grandly parading under the title of Dryathlete for a month. You can sponsor Jonesy here.

The purpose is not simply our own health but the health of others. By signing up, we are also inviting sponsorship in a bid to raise money for Cancer Research.

All of us have been touched in one form or other by cancer. It is, to quote my dear friend Peter Robinson, “a nasty bastard”. Robbo put up quite a battle but it got him in the end. Mud in your eye, Robbo.

Another cricket legend Tony Greig died last weekend, just two months after being diagnosed and the cricket broadcaster and journalist Christopher Martin-Jenkins passed away earlier today, also from cancer.

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An over-indulgence of booze can also make you think you are wittier and more charming than you really are. Thankfully on this occasion, my old Athens International Radio colleague Nicki Achimastos was most polite

Research has made such progress that many cases are now caught early enough to be dealt with swiftly and successfully. But there is still much that we don’t know and, even knowing what we do know, the toll is still terribly high.

I know this will be tougher than training for a marathon or half-marathon but it ain’t nothing compared to the fight against cancer. So, in spite of the fact that I shall miss my glass of beer or wine, I am embracing the month ahead.

Of course, I am hoping my friends don’t abandon me. They have often reached into their inky pockets and plucked out some small change to buy me a drink.
If they still want to do that, if they want to celebrate the start of a new year with me, then I am more than happy to oblige.

All I would ask is that, if you are feeling flush and fancy buying me a pint or a glass of vino, then please divert funds instead to the Just Giving bar by clicking here and buy me a virtual drink.

The price of a pint is ample although on these occasions, I will certainly go against the habit of a lifetime and accept halves. Cheers all. And best wishes for 2013.

©Barney Spender 2013