A Study of my Drink (A Blog about Photography)

I have a confession to make: I`m a serial offender for ordering my food and drinks for their looks, so I can photograph and, if I find them particularly appealing, post them on social media.

The prices in certain places used to annoy me, but ever since I started photographing, I have become more lenient, considering all the added value I`m getting.

Worst thing (apart from dealing with the impatience of fellow diners) is usually to determine which ones of all those many shots of the same thing are actually any good. The following are 10 out of 29 shots of the same white sangria I enjoyed in our favourite wine bar in Lisbon at the weekend – Bar Bica half way through, and with a stunning view onto, the very famous and much photographed Ascensor da Bica (and with free WiFi seducing you to post the first picture right away, which, of course, I did :-))

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All photos were made on an Iphone 7 Plus (with the background blurring portrait mode, which was a major selling point) and, apart from Chrome and said Portrait Mode, not edited.

Feedback would be much appreciated – while I do think I progressed in both technicque and composition, I often seem to have no idea of what a good photo is. (It always amazes me on Instagram how people like the pics I was not sure about and almost ignore thoe ones I`m particularly pleased with).

Lifestyle Month: Book Recommendation: Heavy Drinking – The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (Herbert Fingarette)

Published 1989, I`m still finding this book highly relevant – it`s available on Amazon from 1p + £ 2.80p&p.

It explores whether excess consumption of alcohol should be termed a disease or not, and whether total abstinence would be the way forward or too ambitious a goal. It asks a lot of difficult questions, which I`m finding highly inspiring.

Calling alcoholism a disease, rather than a behavior disorder, is a useful device both to persuade the alcoholic to admit his alcoholism and to provide a ticket for admission into the health care system.

The classic disease concept admirably suits the interests of the liqueur industry: by acknowledging that a small minority of the drinking population is susceptible to the disease of alcoholism, the industry can implicitly assure consumers that the vast majority of people who drink are not at risk.

If loss of control is triggered only after the first drink, why should the alcoholic have any special difficulty mustering the self-control to avoid the first drink? Why should abstinence pose a problem?

Or if we do recognize evidence of control, we decide the drinker in question cannot be a “true” alcoholic. We then minimize or discount that person`s drinking problems because the labels “alcoholic” and “disease” do not seem to apply.

Finally, the disease concept poses a frustrating paradox for drinkers who do seek treatment: They are told that they are unwilling victims of a disease that destroys their ability to manage their drinking and yet that they must strive to exert absolute self control and that only total abstinence can save them.

Instead of viewing heavy drinkers as the helpless victims of a disease, we come to see their drinking as a meaningful, however destructive, part of their struggle to live their lives.

Thus, he comes to see himself as the victim, even though it is his wive who has to endure his drunken outbursts.

Conversely, once a drinker`s overall quality of life is used as one of several measures of success, total abstinence is not necessarily a sign of success. Over time, the controlled drinking group on average reduced their drinking far more than the abstinence group. For heavy drinkers who are trying to address their problems the concept of controlled drinking can have the salutary effect of acknowledging human fallability.

Alcohol Free – into Week 6

It is possible to party without drinking, even if it`s your birthday or your leaving party, even if you`re hurting in many, many ways, and even if others drink around you. The thing however was that noone mentioned it. Noone asked, noone offered, noone pestered – nobody really cared about what I was drinking and this was what helped me, and I think it would help other people if others would just let them be.

And once again, I laughed and chatted all the same. I definitely get less emotional (which was a desired outcome!!) but just as happy and animated (which may have been a deal breaker in that I would need to make choices between parties and sobriety). Not missing a thing, and could eat seafood, because I spent just £1.00 on each drink.

Finances are a biggie, if you think about it. I remember one occasion last year when I was deeply shocked on checking my purse the next morning. I bought loads of drinks for others, who would usually buy me one back, but the group rearranged itself, and that never happened, so I bought a bottle of which I had half a glass and then had to stop. I could have a cheeky weekend away every year if it wasn`t for those nights. Abroad.

Although I seem to have gotten over the “habit” bit, I still crave a drink at times – usually when I want to relax, which is good to recognize, but also when I was angry, and another once for no emotional reason at all. My husband had a glass of red wine, and I could smell it, and all over sudden, I so badly wanted one as well and experience that hazy, comfortable feeling that comes when the glass is just over half finished.

So why, if I don`t feel it`s a habit any more, do I not just have the drink if I want it? Probably, for the same reason I never had another cigarette again. I am doing so well without and am scared that that one glass would lead down a slippery slope… Like when I lost weight, I suppose. I`m an all or nothing girl.

B mentioned Port, and I felt a slight pinch. I remember us sitting round her kitchen table, us and two more, drinking. Two had beer, but we don`t like beer, so we had Port. The whole bottle. We were all drunk in the end, but the evening was perfect, and we could all stay over and lie in. I was grieving when she said it, but only briefly, for I hadn`t banned alcohol forever but am merely taking a break.

BTW, I have no idea how long would be best, that`s why I haven`t set a time. Until I have another drink, I suppose.

Alcohol free – over a month

I finished work at 8pm last night, and that`s me off until Tuesday morning. Those delicious prospects were enough to relax me, drink not required.

Earlier this week, we had a couple of days in London, and I must admit that those were testing. Imagine hubby and I, tired but in an extremely cheerful mood, in a rather nice Italian restaurant, eating a wonderful fish stew and… Yes, I would have loved a glass of white with that, but what exactly would it have added? The moment was perfect as it was; the wine is just a habit, but a thing that can be done without.

The next day we met a friend we haven`t seen for years. She caringly suggested a mocktail bar, which turned out to be too far away, and then a juice bar, which closed at 5pm. The vegetarian eatery where we dined instead had a highly appetizing cocktail menu rather prominently on display. I must admit, I really fancied one, and I also would have liked to participate when my husband and my friend decided to share a bottle of wine. But once again, why? The evening was lovely and couldn`t possibly be enhanced by alcohol. Later, we did a little pub crawl, and as I was sipping my lime and soda I was grateful to be sober. Because for me, it`s all or nothing. If I had had that Bellini, I`d have had the wine, and had I had the Bellini and the wine, I`d now have moved on to pernot diet coke, and then my husband would have had to drag me home. When we came back to the hotel just after midnight, I was tired but fresh and envirogated at the same time, and that`s how I still felt in the morning where easily a hangover could have spoilt our last day.

Another friend was messaging me about my birthday party: “PS: bubbly is cooling!” I replied that I`m not drinking at the moment, and she asks: “Not even a cheeky Kir Royale on your birthday?”

Memories are conjured up of only a bit over two months back, of her and I in her beautiful kitchen baking for Christmas and sharing a whole bottle of champagne and cassis while doing so. My inhibitions to help myself decreased by the glass, my drink became darker every time, I was giggling about nothing and was so happy I wanted to grab her and dance. Later, we had dinner with wine and our other halves, and when this was gone and a glass of whisky had with dessert, I just couldn`t say my goodbyes quickly enough and go home to bed. I was working the next day and remember lying sleepless thinking why, oh why, did I do that again?

“I`ll do my very best to try to tempt you,” she was teasing now, and after having second thoughts I texted back please don`t, I`m really needing this break.

I can`t give in to the first person who pesters. I haven`t really missed drink other than feeling an occasional slight pinch of missing out, so there is no need to re-invite this into my life other than social pressure, which I never considered an excuse for anything. I`ll have a good time without the bubbly. I like the idea, but I`d either get tired of it all before the night is over or suffer repecussions the next morning.

As I really cannot take much drink, and neither can I have just one. And as a grown up, I need to accept this.

Alcohol Free: Into Week 4

14.2.2016

Tonight, I really fancy a drink. As I left work, two of our residents were dying. Both are in their 90ties, and one of them, I never met, but I`m feeling for the families and for my colleagues who have to deal with it tonight, and I really would have liked a glass of wine, so I can de-stress. But of course, it wouldn`t have prevented matters, and most importantly, my husband poured himself water, too. I never asked him not to drink (and neither do I feel I should), but I made a remark, and he said he realised he was drinking too much – no, not necessarily more per sessions, but more often – since he retired. Although my initial resolution was stay off drink only until I really, really fancy it (which I do) I am much too impressed with and supportive of him.

16.2.2016

I had a rum baba though, yesterday. Hubby offered me a taste of his own, and I forgot. But my resolution isn`t about the substance perse but about drinking and how it was forming a habit.

18.2.2016

Today, a man complained to me about his own drinking, totally randomly. You could almost think he discovered my blog. He`s retired, and he said both him and his wife drank way too much ever since – at least a bottle and a half of wine a night between them, and sometimes two. He, too, sees it as a bad habit rather than a substance problem, but he, too, is starting to feel concerned.

21.2.2016

Ever since I stopped drinking I eat more sweets, but I don`t know whether this is because I have a real need for something, or just because I bought them. I was scared I`d miss wine too much without them, but I will now stop buying them – consider it the next step… BTW, my weight is still the same. Although this wasn`t a concern or goal, I had been wondering whether anything would happen in that department.

I read this book here. When I` doing those projects, I don`t want to just experience them, I also want to get some input from others. I`m finding the author a bit full of himself, but I like his approach. It`s the same as Alan Carr`s “Stop Smoking”, which instantly helped me do the very thing almost 20 years ago. He basically tells us how alcohol is just a big marketing ploy that our whole society has bought into. Alcohol doesn`t make a good night, vacation or celebration, but it`s associated with it because it`s always there. We drink it automatically, just as we eat cake at a birthday party, even though we`re watching our weight, because everybody else does, and it would be rude not to.

I`ve got night out coming up. I had already decided on the venue when my husband showed me a Groupon deal for 57% off cocktails and tapas. My first impulse was BUY!, thinking even if others don`t want a cocktail, I`ll manage four over the course of the night, since it`s my own party. I had genuinely considered giving the drinking ban a break for that night (anyway), but I really don`t miss drinking a single bit, so it would have been drinking for drinking`s sake, because I have an excuse. My favourite dish there is not a tapa, and I expect to have the same level of fun and much more stamina with lime and soda, as I would have drinking 4 Capirinha cocktails. And BTW, I`m working the next day, so I have a good excuse for not drinking, too.

Alcohol Free – into week 3

Not drinking takes away a lot of decisions. Will I have a drink after dinner? What will I have? Will I take a night cap when I come home from my (alcohol-free) night out? Do I really want wine, given that it`s so expensive in here? Can I go out till late, given that I`m working tomorrow morning? All those questions are no longer relevant. Perhaps, I`ll even find myself going out *more*.

Sometimes, I find myself looking forward to my glass of wine during the day, but then I remember, and that`s fine. The evening comes, and I don`t miss it at all, and my husband knows to skip the question.

The tricky thing however is: he still drinks. I don`t grudge it in the slightest, but I fiercely dislike the smell. As men do, my husband has always been drinking more than I, but just one glass on my behalf would erase my awareness of it. In fact, the very reason why I started drinking socially in the first place was so I wouldn`t be repulsed by my own friends. Deep down, I dislike drinking to cope with other people`s drinking, but I live in Scotland, and Scotland is… exactly like its reputation.

I`ve just finished reading this book here. The author lives in Australia, but she was born in Edinburgh, and I have to confirm all she says about its drinking culture. Getting drunk is normal, like a hobby for its own sake; everybody does it. If you want to remain on the same wavelength, you have to join in. And I for my part really can`t stand it when a human being smells like disinfectant. Yes, we do. All of us.

Fortunately, I have many interests and don`t have a social life that revolves strongly around alcohol. Many people however do and would need to change their lifestyle beyond not drinking, if they find temptation difficult. When I`m thinking about holidays, though, balmy summer nights in Greek tavernas, I`m missing the wine already. But hang on: I don`t even like Greek wine. I established that when I first went to Crete. It`s too sweet, yet, I kept drinking it, because it`s all they have, and it`s what you do. And I can think of many a drink which I didn`t like when I first tried it. Cigarettes, too.

 

 

Another one of those Projects: Alcohol Free

You`ll probably have picked up by now that I love a little project to myself, and although this one has been at the back of my mind for a while, I always realised that it could be…  contentious.

Is she an alcoholic, as she has to do that? 

No, I`m not an alcoholic. I don`t even drink that much. But I don`t tolerate alcohol very well. At home, I quickly and very suddenly want to go to sleep, but then wake up in the middle of the night, as my liver its working its hardest around 3am (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) to get rid of it. Outside my own house, I have been known to embarrass myself. No, not often, but quite often a big deal. To myself, at least. And on one occasion, someone approached a subject that would never have been discussed without drink, but sadly, I had at least one glass too many and was unable to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. This, I will regret until the day I die, and it was then when, although very tentatively, I first imagined what it would be like to stop drinking altogether.

Towards the end of last year, I went through a time of intense stress. Every night, I came home late and tired, and all I wanted to do was make myself a sandwich (quick) and then collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine, or sometimes two, to help me sleep. It was at that time when I started to feel uncomfortable about my drinking, for it was almost daily and could have been considered problem drinking. I installed a tracking app (DrinkAware), but reassuringly remained in its green “low risk” category (<14 units a week).

While I was still tracking, we took two breaks in the Mediterranean. There was wine with every meal (and sometimes in between, and/or a cocktail in some nice bar at night), and suddenly, the app was saying that I had binge drank on a particular day and that my overall weekly consumption was now putting me into the “medium risk” category (14-21 units a week). When we came home I decided to cut back, but I really missed that glass at night, which made me feel even more self conscious. Drinking at home should not become a habit, and you shouldn`t have to actively “resist” it.

At one point, I considered to stop drinking at home but not out, but I don`t think this would work for me. True, many social gatherings involve alcohol, but I know a few people who don`t drink, and they still participate, have fun and are considered fun by other people. If anything, they spend less money, get home safely in their own car, and will wake up bright and alert the next morning, with no regrets. In Britain, it`s very socially acceptable to drink too much and then boast about it, but I never felt this was compulsory. I also just moved from a job where social things involved getting hammered to one where we do sponsored walks for charity.

Last week, I discovered that I had completed a full week without a drink and hadn`t missed it at all. Time is now, I decided spontaneously, let`s see how far I can go without actually finding it difficult.

I`ve got social things coming up, but I can`t let those hold me back. I cancelled one on Friday, which I wasn`t so much looking forward to anyway. I went to one last night, which I was also apprehensive about (I worked today), but deciding not to drink has reassured me that I`d come home at a decent time and be fresh for work again this morning. Everyone accepted this for a reason (and some didn`t even seem to notice my not drinking), but I must admit that things became a bit annoying in my eyes as others (strangers!) became increasingly drunk and I was still sober. So I left first, got the second last bus, and I was home 5 minutes after midnight.

As usual, I`ll keep blogging about the project in inconsistent intervals…