Christmas Without Alcohol. . .

On Friday 4th February 2022 I had my last glass of wine. I had answered a sort of quiz on an internet website Drinkaware — you can see it HERE if you fancy assessing your own consumption — and for the first time, I didn’t cheat with my answers. Sadly, I wasn’t at all happy with the result. You know the sort of thing they ask like, how many units of alcohol do you drink a night, or how many glasses in a week, and a few other questions too. My answers revealed the truth to me, it was a bit of a shock but, I thought that I might be a little alcohol dependent as I reached for the bottle every evening or I was having that extra glass of wine at the end of the night — that I didn’t need etc., — and this was happening all too often.

So I just decided to stop.

It’s been fine, I honestly haven’t missed the alcohol at all. I haven’t missed having a fuzzy head some mornings and I can definitely feel the benefits of living a sober life. It might be sober but it’s definitely not dull. So many people think that if you don’t drink at all then you’re boring. I’d like to think that I would never be considered boring.

We travelled to France for April, May and June, staying in the wine region of Provence for several weeks where in the past I enjoyed many glasses of their wonderful Rosé. But I didn’t even think about it this year.

What I did miss was having a grown-up drink before dinner, or sometimes when I sat down in the evening. However, during the last year, more and more alcohol free drinks have come onto the market. I find I can enjoy a ‘gin’ and tonic or a ‘martini’ and tonic. Gordons, Tanqueray and others are now producing alcohol free gin. Another of my favourite drinks is Atopia spiced citrus. All these I drink with tonic, ice and lemon or cucumber, of course.

This will be my first Christmas without alcohol. I’m not bothered. The Man hasn’t had a drink for over thirty years and it never bothers him. Also one of my sons gave up several years ago, they both drink alcohol free beer – Lucky Saint they say is a good one, but I’m not keen on beer so I’ve been testing out the wines. Nozeco is popular, cheap, about £3.50 a bottle and it’s okay. Noughty sparkling Chardonnay is good, but not cheap, averaging around £9. I’ve not seen any sherry yet…but I keep looking.

I like a drop of mulled wine at this time of year so I bought myself a bottle of low alcohol red wine (0.05%) opened a jar with bags of mulled wine spices in it. I heated the wine with water, an orange, a small spoonful of sugar, and the spice bag, let the whole thing sit on a very low heat for an hour or so and bingo — it was bloody good! When I looked at the spice jar afterwards it said on it, best before October 2011 Horrors! It was sealed, it’s spices, I’ve lived to tell the tale. We went visiting this weekend and I told them about my mulled wine experience, whereupon they produced a bottle of Vintersaga mulled fruit drink from Ikea at £2.95 a bottle, and I have to say that was pretty good too. Only thing is it cannot be bought online so a trip to Ikea looks likely. (See centre photo above).

Have a wonderful Christmas and if you, like me, have given up the alcohol, there is a lot out there to choose from . . .

Image taken from Town and Country Magazine

Three Days in Trieste…inspirational for writers, or for anyone really…

If you receive my newsletter (you can sign up for it HERE on this website) you will have seen that The Man and I did rather a lot of travelling in November. November is a difficult month for me, it’s the beginning of a series of family anniversaries (births, deaths etc.,) Going away was a great thing to do. We travelled down to Le Marche in Italy where we used to live but took several days to get there stopping in Belgium, France and Switzerland on the way. All the stops were really my choice so I had to allow The Man to fulfil his dream of staying in Trieste. Which we did, for three nights at the end of November. I chose the hotel, right on the front with a sea view and The Man got us a free upgrade to include a balcony.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather. Although it turned a little cold, the sun shone for most of the time we were there and we had a magnificent view of the Mediterranean sea — until it was interrupted by the arrival of an enormous cruise ship less than 100 metres from our hotel window.

Just a few photographs of the hotel in Trieste and our view with and without the cruise ship! It was a special treat for us and we very much enjoyed it.

There was so much to see that we had difficulty in choosing but as James Joyce lived here for some time during his life, it was a must to find some of his haunts. We didn’t make it to the museum but we will next time. You can read about James Joyce in Trieste here on the museum website. We walked up the Via Roma to find his statue. I of course hoped for some inspiration. The Man was walking in the steps of a writer he much admires. We visited the James Joyce Café on our first evening in Trieste but it was closing and a bit of a disappointment. We saw one of the blocks of apartments that Joyce lived in, a pretty pink one beside the water inlet in the Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuova.

We chose to visit the Banksy exhibition which was staged in the old fish market. An enormous building with high ceilings and big windows. That was impressive to begin with, never mind the art works on display. The Man said, ‘I have never given Banksy anywhere near enough credit for his satirical observation, probably because I just hadn’t seen enough of his work. It is eye opening to see so much here.’

It was a big exhibition with many familiar pieces and many I had not seen before. There was an area containing pull-down rolls of blank paper and pens for the public to do their own piece. I couldn’t resist of course. Afterwards, I wanted to tell Tosh all about it. . . So I did.

We also chose to visit the Revoltella Museum. Founded in 1872 by Baron Pasquale Revoltella (1795-1869), one of the most representative figures of Trieste society in the 19th century. who left to the city, in addition to many other bequests, his house and all the works of art, furnishings and books it contained. Apart from wandering around the beautiful house and viewing all the wonderful works of art and furniture, we attended I Macchiaioli exhibition housed in a gallery within the building. In the words of the museum website:

The term “Macchiaioli” defines the most important group of Italian artists of the 19th century.
Independent and rebellious spirits who abandon the historical and mythological scenes of neoclassicism and romanticism to open themselves to a realistic and immediate painting, without preparatory drawings, painting precisely “in stains” dense and colourful everyday life, with short brushstrokes that make the subjects much more truthful. The outlines in their paintings are blurred in an attempt to reproduce reality as it appears at a glance.

This was a movement I had never heard of. I’m not an art critic and I know very little about the history of art, unlike The Man, but even he didn’t know of it. So, a great deal to be discovered by both of us. We agreed that paintings we saw, mostly of ‘ordinary’ working people in different environments were pleasing to look at. The light and shade and the subject matter all making an impression on us. Here are just three examples:

I particularly like the young boy, painted in the 19th century but looking very much like a boy of today. The young girl reminded me of the In Summer painting I had seen in Berlin, remember? The street scene is just fabulous, the sunlight and shadow, the children playing in the street and neighbours chatting.

Here now are a three photographs of the house:

A carriage, the library and dinner for four.

As I said, we did a lot of walking. We do a lot of walking wherever we go and Trieste was no exception. One rather long and uphill stroll, took us from behind the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre to the top of the city where we found the war memorial on the hill of San Giusto. A cathedral, an old monastery and on the plateau of the hill were the remains of an old Roman forum and beside it, after climbing several steps. the memorial for those lost during the first and second world wars. There were benches dotted around and a few people sitting on the old broken down stone walls. A kind of meeting place, I thought, and it inspired me to write a short story — not finished yet —Typical I hear you say. But it will be.

A few photographs of the Roman amphitheatre ruins, our walk to the top of the city, the war memorial and surrounding area.

Finally, some photographs of the food from Trieste. We do love a good breakfast, lunch or dinner!

I enjoyed my visit to Trieste. The architecture is Mittel-Europa (so The Man says) heavily influenced by centuries of the Hapsburgs. Trieste lies in the very north east of Italy with Slovenia and Croatia on its borders. It was Austrian for many years and was the principal port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The food has Teutonic influences (the pastries magnificent). It’s a city of great interest to literary and historical buffs and a must visit if you are either of these. We’re planning a prolonged visit next year so watch this space.