There are many ways of being entertained without copious amounts of booze
It’s not Christmas without mulled wine, not summer without Pimms, not New Year’s without champagne and not a party without copious amounts of not-quite-remembering what happened. As I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed, sitting alone at 2.38am – I really do know how to party – I see “Jager O’clock” (I improved the grammar) and I remember seeing, “wow, the bar is PACKED! LET’S PARTY!”, on Christmas Day. The realisation dawns on me that we, the people of a highly privileged modern society who have it all, have made alcohol synonymous with “fun”. Ignoring the horribly untraditional activity of going to a club on Christmas Day or the lack of memory indicating that a night out must have been a good one, the most prominent issue here is that, as a nation, we need to loosen up. Alcohol being a prerequisite to de-stiffening that British upper lip only serves to make obvious the fact that, truly, we don’t know how to have fun – at least not without removing all capacity to care.
Or do we? As someone who has chosen not to periodically wake up with a headache, I’ve managed to live a very fulfilling and fun life without the aid of alcohol to get me laughing. I can write this all down too, because I have the added bonus of remembering what I did.
Here is my list of alcohol-free activities for when having a drink just doesn’t tickle your fancy.
A fairly obvious start, but let’s not lie, the cinema is a fool-proof fun time. You can laugh, cry, scream or rant for hours about how you could have done a better job. Even the smell of cinema popcorn makes me happy. And, if you’re lucky enough to belong to a well-known fruit-coloured network provider, or have friends that do, you can go every week for less than £5 unless your local cinema is the West End Vue in London’s Leicester Square, in which case don’t expect to pay less than £600 for a ticket.
As a child who almost worshipped my favourite pop group (it was always an S Club party), the possibility of getting tickets to see them perform seemed like a once in a life time event. Thankfully, having entered adulthood and learnt that these pop groups were compiled of mere humans, I’ve become aware of the accessibility of music gigs. With tickets for small acoustic sets by up-and-coming artists starting at as little as £10, it’s a perfect way to spend a night with friends listening to great live music. Venues such as Notting Hill’s Tabernacle, St Pancras Old Church and the 02 Academies are constantly featuring artists new and old for those who like a smaller, more intimate gig.
This may not seem an obvious source of a good time on paper and it does inherently involve a little bit of hard work, but a group of happy, like-minded people coming together to help those who need it can do nothing but good for the soul. Charity work, feeding the homeless, youth work – you’ll catch the bug and once you pop, you can’t stop! I’ve made some of my closest friends through volunteering and, as human beings; we all have an altruistic streak which means that doing something nice for someone else makes us feel really good.
If this is the season for anything in London, it is the season to ice skate. Almost every landmark has had an ice rink stuck in front of it. What better way of soaking up the wintry goodness? The Tower Bridge ice rink may have been on the verge of becoming a swimming pool this year, but the Christmas magic was still alive – and watching people fall into the puddles that were drowning the ice was much funnier to see than the skating itself!
Board games don’t only belong to Christmas: they belong everywhere, all the time. They are amazing and the man who devised the concept deserves a medal. These games bring together not only friends, but generations. Alliances formed, friendships challenged, marriages threatened – board games put us through our paces with absolutely no hope of reward at the end. The Monopoly money is fake and the poker chips aren’t worth a thing, but the hours of laughter and shouting most definitely leave you smiling, (unless you just saw a game of Monopoly through to the end, in which case you’re probably struggling to walk). Having discovered ‘Articulate’ this year, I asked my friend if she had heard of it, to which she replied: “Oh yes, that game that breaks up marriages?” Such fun!
Good food, good company. The golden ratio. Boy, girl, man, woman or child – the way to all of our hearts is through our stomachs. What could be better than eating food made by someone who can chop onions at the speed of light and then have someone else wash the plates? The drinks can stay at the bar because I’d rather eat 500 calories of chocolate cake than get fat drinking wine. There’s a reason why eating together has never gone out of fashion; it’s in our nature. Let’s raise our glasses (of coke) to good food, good friends and great memories.
This very short list is, of course, not exhaustive. Trips to the theatre, museums, sight-seeing, hiking, playing sports and, of course, shopping. All of these things can be enjoyed with or without alcohol but, I think, there remains an underlying fundamental notion that if you can’t loosen up without a drink around friends, then when can you? If you need a stiff drink to laugh with them, maybe you just need new friends. Or to chill out.
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