For one thing, the concert starts in the mid-afternoon and goes on until about 11.00 p.m. As I had promised to drive there on the basis my wife would drive home, I was keen to get there as early as possible so I could have a drink. I remember however, that my wife only wanted to arrive for the main event which started at 7.30 p.m. so that meant a whole afternoon with no booze! It being a Saturday I would normally start drinking at lunchtime so I was already quite frustrated by the time we arrived and finally sat down for our picnic. You probably recognise that ‘want one – can’t have one’ stressful feeling you get in situations like this, especially when you know you will be drinking later that day. Being surrounded by 12,000 other picnickers you are also quite on show at these events, so sitting with someone who is not drinking and getting smashed and making an exhibition of yourself is not done, so I had to temper what I was drinking. It was also blatantly obvious to my wife how much I was consuming as at home I would normally be able to secrete some wine away somewhere and top up my glass without her knowing. I think I had one bottle of wine and some cider throughout the whole evening which was quite tame for me. I do remember spilling lots of drink. For some reason, I always had to have a glass of something alcoholic in my hand, I simply couldn’t put the glass down and ignore it. Waving flags and trying to applaud the performers tends to lead to spilled wine!
Trying to think back now, I can’t remember what we actually saw on stage that night or how ‘spectacular’ the event was, but I do remember it taking about an hour to get out of the car park, there being so many people, and about another hour to drive home. As those of you who drink will know, all that time I was dying for yet another drink as what I had already consumed was never quite enough, and the evening not being quite over, that nagging ‘just one more’ voice was in my head. I can even remember the impatience and angst I felt sitting in the car and knowing my drinking time was being eaten up by the queues of other cars. So of course, by the time we got home it was already gone 1.00 a.m. and although time for bed, I am sure I managed to swallow at least one more glass of wine just for the hell of it, and to satisfy that agonising craving.
This time we did arrive early it being a wonderful hot day, and as I was driving both to and from the concert I was totally in charge. As well as some nice quiche and salad by way of food, to drink we had bought some ‘summer sunshine’ non-alcoholic soda from Waitrose which was delicious, and some cans of Limonada. Drinking this out of champagne glasses felt very posh and we sat in our seats near to the stage ready to enjoy the evening show and the prelude given by the RAF brass band. I had decided this time to pay the extra ten pounds each for seats as opposed to fighting for space with the rest of the 12,000 people, and I justified the additional expense on the basis that we would be saving all of that and much more by my not drinking.
And I have to honestly say, this was the most enjoyable musical event I have ever been to. The London Philharmonic Orchestra played there heart out, there were two incredible opera singers, fireworks, the RAF brass band, the Royal Artillery firing their guns during the 1812 overture, yet more fireworks, and even a Spitfire flypast whilst the orchestra played the music from the Battle of Britain!
I was acutely aware just how focused on the event I was able to be this time, without the concern of what and how much I was drinking, without the constant looking at my watch and thinking will the wine I have left be enough to last the evening, without looking enviously at others near me with champagne and brandy, worrying that I might be getting too pissed which would annoy my wife, and in fact not caring about or being dictated to by booze at all. Simply enjoying the experience for what it was – not what my addiction to alcohol was trying to make it.
Once again it looked like it would take forever to get out of the car park so instead we stayed by the stage and had a relaxed coffee, listened to some taped music the organisers had put on, and watched the crowds fight their way out. We saw lots of drunks falling around which was amusing, we watched and admired the moon which was full that evening and quite majestic as it shone its light over the magnificent castle, and we finally got home at 1.00 a.m. as before, but this time relaxed and content. We went to bed having had a wonderful and most memorable evening, and I have already booked our seats for next year.
Alcohol was always in the way in my life, and it stopped me truly appreciating what was there in front of me. I am so deep down glad I have escaped from that trap into which it is so easy to fall.
Think about a recent event you have been to, and try and imagine how that would have differed if alcohol wasn’t part of your life and if the pressure of your next drink wasn’t driving your actions, feelings, and thought processes. I know that can be hard to do and that is why I wrote ‘One Less for the Road’, to help you understand what life really is like without booze, from someone who has been there and who won’t ever be going there again thankyou.