Life

Lynette Fay: Will lockdown and the new normal change our relationship with alcohol?

During lockdown, many rewarded themselves with a glass of wine with dinner, which turned into a bottle – or enjoyed a beer to wind down in the evening, which was rarely a case of just the one. Sound familiar?

The visit to the recycling bins is an embarrassing one for many at the moment
Lynette Fay

WEEK to week, it doesn't seem like much, but after a month or two the number of empty bottles which we have been recycling over during lockdown has increased significantly. It was all too easy to have a drink here and there during the week, and then a few more every night of the weekend.

The visit to the recycling bins is an embarrassing one for many at the moment. Head down, avoid eye contact with the person next to you. There's a good chance that they're feeling the same. I imagine most would be happy to wear a mask while doing the recycling – to avoid being recognised, or judged. The shame.

We can choose to childlishly giggle about the over-consumption of alcohol during lockdown, or, we can choose to face it head on and decide to review the situation.

During the months of lockdown, many rewarded themselves with a glass of wine with dinner, which turned into a bottle – or enjoyed a beer to wind down in the evening, which was rarely a case of just the one. Sound familiar?

Then there's the reopening of pubs. We were and continue to be obsessed with this. Social media time lines were flooded with obligatory photos of creamy pints and beer gardens – but we're not allowed to go to the pub yet to consume alcohol only, are we? Or is that the rule for the Republic and Scotland, but not here or England and Wales? I can't keep up.

Back to our relationship with alcohol. On my daily radio show, last week I had a really interesting conversation with John Higgins, a Belfast-based writer and podcaster who, at the beginning of this year announced on radio that 2020 would be the year he would give up the drink.

He lasted four months, fell off the wagon a few times, but he's back on it. Now he has a few drinks each Friday night – and that's it. By doing this, John has rediscovered the weekend, has much more energy, has lost weight and really savours and enjoys the little alcohol he consumes each week.

I liked his approach. He set himself an achievable goal and was realistic about making a change in his life. Most of all he was honest with himself.

Can the rest of us say that we are just as honest about heir alcohol consumption? What does excessive mean?

Much of our social lives revolve around alcohol. Meals, gigs, plays, parties. If we go to the pub and say we're not drinking, a tirade of questions follows. There must be something wrong if we don't want a drink. It can be difficult to say no.

When the sun shines, supermarkets shelves are emptied of beer and cider. We can't get enough of it.

I wonder if the the experience of lockdown, and the new normal that is emerging will change our relationship with alcohol in any way.

* * *

I HAVE been in Belfast city centre a couple of times since the shops reopened. I have also been at home in Dungannon. Some shops closed in March, never to reopen.

I was very sad to hear the news that Eason – or Eason's, as I called it – would not be reopening in the north. Growing up, I always had a thing for fancy stationery. Wellworths stocked a few nice bits, but a trip to Eason's in Craigavon Shopping centre was a huge treat. As well as stationery there was a world of books, magazines, games, cards and gifts.

The Belfast city centre store was a beautiful space. I loved the area downstairs, where I have been known to lose an hour or two. While I loved this shop, the Abbeycentre shop was more accessible to me, and I shopped there regularly. I will now have to seek the shop out when I travel south.

The closure of Eason's makes the shopping experience a poorer one. Shopping online just isn't the same. Yet we continue to do this, and then lament the loss of the physical shop. We, the consumers, have the power to help stop this trend. If we don't change our habits, we are in grave danger of losing a very important part of life.

We all have a responsibility to shop and buy local. It looks like we're in for a tough few years financially. Supporting each other might just be a way of getting through whatever it is that's coming for us.

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