A distinctive chinking rhythm . . . a loping bass sidles in . . . another bass harmonises. Into this enticing mix, Laura Marling’s sweet but tough voice commences: “Oh, my hopeless wanderer . . .” A yearning first verse . . . Then, underpinned by emerging soft keys and acoustic and strings, swelling to announce . . . completely unexpectedly, fully unbidden, her voice reaches up to seek the truth:
I need soothing
My lips aren’t moving
My god is brooding
What a revelation! The song unfolds in full splendour but it’s that incandescent opener, the first offering from Marling’s new album, Semper Femina, that latches on, that could well stay with me forever.
Teeth gritted, this week I’m pursuing the history of aspects of reactors, their economics and climate change amelioration. I’m deep into mtco2e, ¢/kWhr & $/kW. Phew!
X was 13 days. After 13 days of sobriety, yesterday evening I had a few glasses, cursed myself, woke early and jogged. Bridge Road was a deserted, floodlit boulevard, my hamstring felt clear, any winter chill was a mere inconvenience, and I’m launched into another fine day.
I’m working quite hard but not, perhaps, on the main thing. It’s always a puzzle: what to do right now, what to do tomorrow . . . what plans to put in place, how to get them launched.
The Big Decade ends December 31, 2025. Five hundred days swept past me a month ago. Quick, Andres, off the top of your head, name three emotions from those 532 days . . .
I wrote a while back about Bronson Botha and his “500 days of sobriety.” I’d interviewed him. His resoluteness has lingered with me, and after posting recently about my love of wine “in moderation” and my qualms, I decided to banish wine for a while. This would be my own, more modest, stretch of abstinence. I called it my “X days of sobriety.”
Why not put a number to X, say 5 or 50 or 500? Why not just do Dry July and its 31 alcohol-free days? The answer is simple: I’m conflicted, don’t know what I should do, and have little faith in my willpower on this issue.
I haven’t even been prepared to put a name to this period until now. I haven’t drunk wine since Saturday the 3rd, so X is already 10. 10 days: what will it grow to?
Intrusive trill of bedside iPhone alarm . . . how sweet a sleep-in would be! But routine has worn a groove into your psyche, and you know a late start will annoy the heck out of you. Remember, Andres, how you glowed last night after a dragon-slaying day? Rise.
The usual spiel about wine is that drunk in moderation, it’s actually good for you. What does that mean? I checked out Amitava Dasgupta’s The Science of Drinking: How Alcohol Affects Your Body and Mind. Not a sparkling read by any means, it has the virtue of a full survey of the scientific literature (a few years outdated). Listen:
Alcohol has beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. The lowest all-cause mortality occurs at an intake of one to two drinks per day. The lowest coronary heart disease mortality also occurs at an intake of one to two drinks per day. . . . Drinking more than recommended can invite problems, because the health benefits of drinking in moderation quickly disappear. Theoretically, drinking more than three drinks a day by men and more than two drinks a day by women can be considered heavy drinking. . . . The definition of moderation is not based on an average of alcohol consumption over several days but rather as the amount consumed every day.
Let me put it more simply. A standard drink of wine is a small glass. If I drink one or two glasses every day, I’ll live longer and be healthier. But exceeding two glasses flips everything arse about: I’ll die sooner and am more likely to become ill. Some averaging seems to be permissible, but abstaining Monday to Friday, and then consuming a week’s ration of 14 glasses over the weekend, repeats the bad message of earlier death, etc.
I know someone who has one glass of white wine, exactly one, no greater and no fewer, every damned day. I know people who readily have a glass or two and then stop. But I also know someone, namely me, who never gets drunk or impaired, but who regularly has three or four or even five glasses. Dasgupta’s book tells me: stop!
Peter Craven’s reviews in The Australian Review remain a highlight of that wonderful weekly. Last weekend he crowned Richard Ford’s memoir, Between Them: Remembering My Parents, with this final phrase: “But this is, in the end, a memoir beyond praise.”
Haven’t we all in us a memoir yet unwritten? We might label it a “life history” or a biography, but I’m forever meeting people who tell me they have a book in them, as the phrase goes. Memoir encapsulates our need to explain ourselves to ourselves. I’m no different. My gestational, ill-defined memoir pops into my mind every week or so, and I keep buying landmark memoirs to peruse (how do they do it?) but rarely find the needed time. After reading Craven’s glorifying review, I snap up the Kindle version of Between Them and chuck it on my (imaginary Kindle) bedside table.
(Image from The Australian)