The fascinating tale of the apprentice teetotaller.

Teetotallers on the rise: Why are young people drinking less than ...

The uncorking of the Shiraz usually heralded the end of long noontides for me and perhaps many of us. The beginning of the late afternoon arrived with a predictable ritual that stood the test of time over many decades. The comfortable chair beckons in perfect sync with the sun lowering its burnished lashes in a final blaze of golden amber. Wine- time had made its much cherished entree in my household over many decades. I can’t think of a time when an afternoon and evening would pass without this delightful airing of the bottled nectar for saints and sinners alike.

It doesn’t discriminate or pretend, and is totally moral to its faithful imbibers in its almost childlike innocence. My own choice was for a drink made from grapes. Others, I believe, get this same pleasure from the fermentations of wheat and flowing waters of the Scottish Highlands or anything that through the art of experts who studied alchemy, and conjured up fermented liquids that seemed to temporarily heighten the pleasures of  dull moments that fill most of our lives. I have yet to enjoy vacuuming, eat vegemite or pay gas bills.

If the reader noticed the past tense of the above yet to be written opus on my decision to an apprenticeship in teetotalling together, and at the same time, admit my admiration for alcohol and its glorious history of joy and its polished and burnished pleasures derived from the fruit of the land, it is due to my decision to break this ritual and start another one.

There is no reasonable logical explanation how this decision was reached. Perhaps the closest I can justify it might be that the ritual was becoming somewhat sated and as predictable as  paying gas bills or vacuuming. There was no flash of insight or a harping angel beckoning me to stop. There was this ritual of getting up to get the bottle, uncap it and then pour the drink in a glass. As I said, mine was a Shiraz and my late wife Helvi, a dry white. We both loved it and had decades together of happy sipping and quaffing.  Those sweet memories are so sustaining now.

After I became a single and widowed man I continued this habit and made sure I never was without. Day in day out, the afternoon would arrive and I would sit and sip, sit and sip, till four nights ago I had the epiphany. It struck me as odd for someone who prided himself on making life as interesting as possible accepting this ritual of drinking red liquid every day. Of course, I also take my pyjamas off every day, not a pretty sight, shower solemnly, and make my breakfast on whole seeded bread (every day). One slice with cheese and one slice with berry jam from Aldi.

I broke the habit this morning with keeping my pyjamas on while having breakfast. I also defied the bread with cheese and jam. Out of the blue I had two boiled eggs, just like that! I wanted to make the start of the day a bit more interesting.  A bit more verve really. Of course, I took my pyjamas off after the egg episode and the day progressed normally. I had my coffee at the local cricket café with friends and without cricket talk. A habit that I will continue hopefully for years to come.

And that breaking of habits is the closest reason I can come to. No other that I can think off. I am baffled myself, but there you are. One has to make a life as good as possible. I am now facing the fifth afternoon without the lure of the crimson nectar. I sleep soundly, and if anything with less toilet breaks during the night, which is a blessing. The garden is starting to respond to longer days and I will soon be able to show you the flowering grape hyacinths and irises.

I gave up smoking too, when in 1994 the time had come to chuck the habit. I only managed to do this by making the promise to smoke again when turning 65. Of course, after turning 65 I had lost the urge to smoke. I sometimes think how it would be to light up again. Would I like it or get addicted again? I sure was hooked to that one. I remember well that first puff of a new cigarette. It too was ritualistic, fingering the ciggy, holding it, delaying the lighting and then finally, that first glorious puff and holding it for a few seconds. And then the delight of blowing the smoke skywards. It was so lovely.

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29 Responses to “The fascinating tale of the apprentice teetotaller.”

  1. freefall852 Says:

    The thin edge of the wedge, Gerard…..the thin edge…..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia Lund Says:

    I became teetotal at the end of last August. It was my breast cancer diagnosis that prompted me – not that anyone advised me to give up on alcohol. I think for me it felt like something I could have control of in the midst of the tornado of treatment. It was surprisingly easy, and there have only been the occasional, fleeting moments of hankering. It was the same with me when it came to quitting smoking, though I had hypnotism for that. Two sessions and that was it. I have been known to claim that if I ever reach eighty, I may start again. But I think that unlikely (both becoming an octogenarian and the cigarettes – I always smoked menthol and they are banned now).

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Helvi did suffer breast cancer and she stopped drinking as soon as it was diagnosed. Alcohol is 10% guilty of all breast cancers, they say. However, she also had a sister who succumbed to the cancer!

      So far my lack of alcohol hasn’t stressed me too much. I think the ritual of it all is probably what I missed most. The afternoons and evenings are so solitary and I am not used to it yet
      Smoking for me was a devil to give up and I used to cheat. I even sank so low as to pick up cigarette buts in front of Woollies. I was even so foolish as to prefer butts that had lipstick on them figuring that women were probably more hygienic in their habits. I fooled myself in thinking that if I did not buy them I had given up smoking!

      A fool of a man, but that’s how true addictions work.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. leggypeggy Says:

    I used to fear never having another cigarette, but 14 years ago I stopped smoking and have no regrets.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dad, it's Liam Says:

    Vino yeah!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. berlioz1935 Says:

    I have cancer and still drink a glass or two a day. Mostly it is red wine and a whisky or a vodka. Nobody told me to stop, perhaps being on my last lap, it doesn’t matter anymore.The damage has been done a long time ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      So sorry that you are suffering from cancer, Berlioz. I decided to just stop alcohol as an exercise in stopping a ritual. It probably will affect my heath negatively, as a couple of reds don’t do harm. Au contraire; it is supposed to be good.
      I now drink A2 milk each morning with a spoonful of honey. I have to watch out for becoming dreadfully boring. I mean ‘milk and honey’. Who thought I would ever reach that stage?


  6. Robert Parker Says:

    Glad I never took up smoking, I can’t stand smoke. And never made a daily ritual of wine or anything really. But in August, on a muggy afternoon, after a long sweaty walk, a single glass of cold beer is a pretty nice thing. This is Milwaukee, after all, one of the largest covens of those alchemist-brewers. Your post had quite a bit of “burnished pleasures,” very fine writing!

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I still don’t mind fresh cigarette smoke but not stale. I dislike intensely people smelling of stale tobacco on their clothes. I should be more accepting. It is a devil of an addiction.
      Come the heat of summer and I will drink a cold beer, Robert. I can taste it almost already now!
      Thank you so much for your compliment. Much appreciated.


  7. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    “the egg episode”… 😀 I might arrange an egg episode for myself soon! 😀

    I think we all have to find the balance of doing what is GOOD for us, but, also, doing some things we enjoy that might NOT BE SO GOOD for us. We have to have some fun in life! 😉 I figure at some point we are so well-seasoned we should just go for it! Ha! Eat and drink whatever we want to! 😉

    I’ve never smoked (I was born with asthma). I have friends who gave up smoking decades ago and they say once in awhile they still dream about smoking.

    Just over 2 years ago, now, just on a whim I gave up ALL drinks except water, and some milk with my oatmeal. I miss some of the drinks I used to drink, but not really. Not enough to start drinking them again. The two I miss the most are tea and the occasional root beer. Ha. 🙂

    Be safe! Be well! And have fun, too! 🙂
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Carolyn. I hope I don’t sound like a zealot, I mean, drinking hot milk and honey now! Who would have thought I sink that low?
      Mind you, I had a large slice of cheese cake yesterday at the cricket oval café and did not feel guilty at all.

      Next I might consider taking up gambling or cavorting with wild women at the back of the railway-line here in Mittagong. Who knows?

      I watched a program whereby the main feature was Australia’s love of alcohol. We invented the plastic 4 litre bladder wine container and also the plastic cap instead of using corks. The program was called ‘On the Sauce’. It showed a group of women during a book discussion group meeting. They all brought a bottle of wine (sauce) each. You can imagine the merry meeting it turned out to be?
      Good for you to stop the drinking, Carolyn.

      Hugs for you too ,

      Liked by 1 person

      • doesitevenmatter3 Says:

        I actually feel much better with my main drink being water. 🙂
        But, again, I think everyone should keep some enjoyment stuff as a part of their lives! We only live once…well that’s what they say! 🙂
        Cheesecake, gambling, cavorting, book clubs with wine…now this HAS to be my new To Do List! HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀
        (((HUGS))) 🙂


  8. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    PS…I meant to add…great write, Gerard! And love your title!
    I decided anything I’m doing that I’m not doing very well…I’ll think of this post and just tell people “Well, I’m only an apprentice, you know. So give me a break!” 😉 😀 😛 HA! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. rangewriter Says:

    You’re an inspiration, Gerard. I should follow your path. But as yet, have not. I’m struggling with just keeping my imbibement collared at 2 per day. Somehow, this new afternoon teetotaling ritual sounds doubly difficult. You are not only missing out on your Shiraz, but also moving away from a time honored ritual with Helvi. I would think the last half of that equation might be the most difficult. (Also, probably the most healthy.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, sipping the wine solo doesn’t really feel celebratory or intimate as yet. Do I raise my glass to Milo?
      Actually, that’s what I sometimes ended up doing, “cheers Milo”, I used to say.
      I am sure I would not hesitate sharing a drink with a good friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sandie Says:

    Good on you Gerard for taking up new ideas but milk and honey sounds dreadful. Glad you like it but think I shall stick to my wine. Only drink with friends as I find for me that drinking is a very social event and it never tastes the same when I am on my own. Meanwhile, although times have changed greatly this year, I find I am happy just being alive and doing things I love doing even when travel is now not an option.
    You write great interesting blogs and very happy to read them. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I heat up the milk, Sandie! And it is quite nice to sip it slowly first thing in the morning while looking outside to see the sun hitting the wooden fence and playing around on the yellow pansies just below it.

      It’s the thought that goes along with the sipping.
      I found with the red wine sipping in the evenings, thoughts would sometimes go into a melancholy dance and become triste.
      Milk and honey seem to lubricate my more positive braincells.
      Thank you too, dear Sandie for your kind words.


  11. Forestwood Says:

    You renegade! Eggs for breakfast. I love your rebellion agains banal repetition.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. shoreacres Says:

    I did some smoking during college, but that, too, was social, and a bit of an affectation. It was the late 60s, after all, and we’d all caught existentialism like a bad case of the flu. Smoking went with Camus, and black turtlenecks, and dim cafés with drinks like Black Russians and Campari. Good grief. We were so young.

    I’ve never been one to drink alone, save for the occasional beer on a hot day, or a nice glass of wine with dinner. When Curt and Peggy came for dinner, I had some Texas beer and wine for them, and what we didn’t drink is still in the fridge, after three weeks or more. Part of it’s the weather. When I come home from work in the summer, I’m so hot and tired I don’t dare have a drink, lest I just fall asleep!

    Milk and honey sounds just fine to me. After all, it’s the primary metaphor in the Old Testament for a place filled with comfort and plenty. Besides, it tastes pretty darned good. One of my favorite Greek yogurts is honey, rather than strawberry or peach. It’s wonderful drizzled over fresh fruit. You could try that for breakfast!


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