THE DAILY MAIL
8 APRIL 2019
No hangovers, no carb-laden canapes, and home by 10: Christa D'Souza follows example of Kate Moss, Meg Matthews and Sadie Frost and discovers the transformative effect of clean partying.
Well then. It’s official. Sober is the new black, and hard-core partying is dead. No longer is it the height of hip to be seen stumbling out of a club in the early hours with a cigarette in one hand and a glass in the other.
We know this to be true because that last bastion of getting wrecked, the so-called Primrose Hill set, famed for their wild reputation in the late Nineties, has finally pronounced it so.
Evidence of this was the dinner held in honour of Meg Mathews’ 53rd birthday at China Tang last month. Wearing a demure polka-dot frock, Mathews, key member of the hard-partying set and former wife of Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher, looked the picture of clean living, middle-aged mumdom as she left the swanky restaurant at a perfectly respectable hour.
Ditto fellow members Sadie Frost, ex-wife of Jude Law, heiress Davinia Taylor and, of course, Kate Moss, the gang’s unofficial ringleader.
‘Getting Mossed’ — a term Moss came up with herself to describe her excessive, somewhat chaotic lifestyle — used to be the modus operandi for the Primrose Hill set. But in place of the record alcohol binges and always being the last to go home, 45-year-old Moss (or ‘The Tank’ as she used to be nicknamed) is now eating healthily, exercising and happily going out on the town with her teetotal younger boyfriend Count Nikolai von Bismarck stone-cold sober.
Staid partying, abstinent socialising, it all neatly taps into the wider trend of clean living and the burgeoning wellness industry. Remember the days when coconut water didn’t exist and the only milk they put in your coffee at Starbucks was from a cow? Remember when the only vegan you’d ever heard of was the musician Moby? Those days feel quite long ago, don’t they?
Taking care of our bodies, being aware of what we put into them, eating ‘clean’, it’s become such a part of the vernacular, so embedded in the national psyche, we don’t even think about it that much any more. In the wake of all that avocado toast and diligent ‘self-care’ — the buzzword for 2019 — no wonder partying is due for a radical makeover.
Not that people don’t still get wrecked. Of course they do. And we all know that person with the iron constitution who can paint the town red of a night and go to work the next morning claiming not to feel a thing.
But is that anything to brag about now? In this increasingly competitive climate of wellness, I think not. Certainly, among my middle-aged friends, the aim of a good evening, the goal to which we all aspire, is who can be in bed first.
Age is definitely a contributing factor. The older you get, particularly if you are concerned about your looks, the harder it is to sustain your hard- partying lifestyle.
That said, clean socialising may, in part, be fuelled by the younger generation. Research shows only one millennial in ten perceives getting drunk as being cool, and 42 per cent of them say they are drinking less alcohol than they were three years ago.
Meanwhile, zero-proof spirits and other non-alcoholic drinks have become one of the biggest-growing markets in the UK — the value of non-alcoholic wine rose by 66 per cent in 2017, while no-alcohol beer grew by 37 per cent. UK alcohol consumption fell from 3.07 units a day in 2003 to 2.57 units a day in 2017, while the number of Brits who don’t drink at all has reached 5.4 million, up 35 per cent on 2013.
It takes a bit of practice, going out when you are stone-cold sober. I speak as one with some experience. Three-and-a-half years ago, aged 54, I gave up drinking for good.
That first six months, as my partner would surely verify, it was like moving the Titanic trying to get me out of the house after dark. During the day was no problem — who does lunchtime drinking any more, besides Jeremy Clarkson? — but come the witching hour, it was a different story entirely. Night-time meant drink time. It was almost Pavlovian, the psychological link.
The first big uphill struggle, in my opinion, is talking to people. No, seriously. Standing around chatting to others about nothing before dinner is easy peasy under the influence of alcohol. On fizzy water, not so much.
In the old days I used drinking as a kind of diet — who needs canapes, or dinner for that matter, if there is decent wine? But when the wine was taken away, I had to replace it with something.
For a good few months when I started going out sober, I would ‘pick up’ instead on the gluten-heavy canapes, which meant feeling thoroughly full by the time dinner eventually rolled around. Unless you don’t mind packing on an extra half stone, I don’t recommend it.
Mocktails do it for some — I know people who swear by Seedlip Grove 42, a citrus non-alcoholic spirit, and everyone raves about The Savoy’s Nearly Negroni, made up of Seedlip 94, a non-alcoholic aromatised wine, and bittersweet cordial, but unfortunately not for me. Too sugary, and rather pointless given that I drank alcohol for the effect, not the taste.
In time, I learnt that being properly hydrated (two litres of water a day) made the teetotal version of me less feral around snacks, as did occasionally eating my supper beforehand.
If you are brave you can ask for a coffee, that being the saviour of many a former drinker. One late dear friend, a fellow journalist, when he first got sober would always order a large pot of it when everyone around the table was putting in their drinks orders.
Worry beads, that’s another little prop, used for centuries to ward off feelings of stress and anxiety. The other trick is to arrive late, timing it so you arrive just as everyone is sitting down for dinner.
This is the exact opposite of my former method, which was to arrive as early as possible in order to get a few drinks in before everyone else arrived. Better still, call your order in so that when you arrive, your food is sitting there waiting for you. Once you start eating, it’s easier to pass on the alcohol, I find.
Friend adjustments might need to be made, too. In my drinking days I’d always somehow manage to align myself to serious partiers in order to make myself seem a lightweight.
When I was getting used to the teetotal life, I did the exact opposite. Not necessarily having friends who were thinking along the same lines as me (unlike the Primrose Hill set, who appear to have done it en masse), that meant changing my friends. When you get more into the swing of things, you won’t mind your friends getting off their faces — in fact, it may make you feel rather smug. But to begin with, you want to surround yourself with like-minded folk.
Change the placement at dinner if you need to and think of sobriety as a benign virus. The more you hang out with it, the more likely you are to catch it and the more you practise it, the easier it is to continue.
It’s a case of slowly, but steadily, disassociating booze with the good times. Try getting in touch with your inner seven-year-old. Remember those innocent far-off days when all you wanted to do was play?
And while you are getting in touch with that inner child, think about how nice it is going to be not having to be careful what you say in case you slur your words; how clear-headed you are going to feel when the conversation gets heated; how soon your skin will begin to glow, your eyes to de-puff, your wine-waist to deflate.
To say nothing of how fabulous you’ll feel when you wake up in the mornings. Take it from me, you need all the carrots you can get in those first bleak weeks.
Then, at a certain point — for me it was probably a year — you suddenly find yourself forgetting about the drink issue, not even noticing as everyone else is topping up their glass.
In fact, the idea of having an alcoholic drink just feels weird. A little bit the way you felt when you were young and watched the grown-ups drink.
Does that mean I never feel wistful about that chilled glass of Whispering Angel rosé on the first properly balmy day of spring? Or that I don’t sometimes wonder if I’m being just a little draconian on myself? Aren’t human beings programmed to get out of their heads once in a while? But the pros always outweigh the cons.
I have just this morning made plans with a couple of friends for a girly, somewhat raucous night out.
We are going to a restaurant notorious for its party atmosphere — the garden perfect for smoking and drinking well into the early hours of the morning.
One of those girlfriends I know will have a margarita or two (like Kate Moss, she is on the 80/20 regimen — she lives the teetotal life for 80 per cent of the time and the other 20 per cent, it’s all about damage limitation).
But the other friend, because of recent health concerns, will be dry like me. I know we are going to have a rollicking good time, laughing at each other’s filthy jokes uproariously as we always do. The atmosphere will only encourage us further.
Now, in the old days, I’d have looked forward to getting totally tanked with the girls, maybe cancelling any early appointments the next day so I could have a lie-in. In the old days there was always a distinct point, usually before the main course was served, when I knew I’d gone too far.
I’d start repeating myself, swaying when getting up to go to the loo and speaking very, very slowly in the mistaken hope it would hide my slurring words. Thank heavens those days are over. After three-and-a- half years, I have come to realise that not only is it fine to go out of an evening and not drink, it is immeasurably better.
How to party like it’s 2019
MAKING AN ENTRANCE
THEN: Arrive early so you have first dibs at the cocktail bar and can get drunk before dinner.
NOW: Arrive seconds before everyone sits down for dinner.
THEN: Make sure they party harder than you, so you look like a lightweight.
NOW: Check the guest list in advance and only go if at least 80 per cent of guests are likely to be sober.
THEN: Take more interest in the wine list than the menu.
NOW: Check the menu online beforehand to make sure the desserts don’t contain liqueur.
TAKING YOUR LEAVE
THEN: Be the last to leave.
NOW: Be the first to leave.
THEN: Fall into bed in a drunken stupor with your make-up still on.
NOW: Rediscover reading in bed.
THE MORNING AFTER
THEN: Do nothing until after lunch.
NOW: Plan a yoga class for 7.30 the following morning.
THEN: Curling into a ball at the thought of what you said the night before.
NOW: Hoping others weren’t too drunk to hear all the brilliant things you said.