Friday, 23 February 2007

Lenten ponderings


Well we are having a fine Welsh day of clouds and rain today, so I figured I'd blog rather than doing what I should be i.e. walking to Tesco to get important goods such as bread and crackers. Oh, and marmite. I am most definitely a lover, not a hater, on that point.

I've been having a think about Lent in the last few days. I confess that I had actually forgotten until Wednesday, when a friend asked if I was giving anything up. His helpfull suggestion was 'sarcasm' but he tried that one last year and I'm still not buying the idea! The thing is that I don't belong to a christian denomination that enforces the idea of Lent, and nor do I feel that it is something that christians are *required* to do. Indeed, these days it is generally a time when women try to give up chocolate, and that's about it.

Last year was the first year of the thirst for life campaign, which you can find a link to in the top corner of this page. Another insightful look at Lent from a religious perspective can be found here. Last year was also the first year that I gave up something for Lent - alcohol. The idea behind the campaign is that it's a positive thing whereby people give up alcohol for 40 days to promote thought about the use of alcohol. And I think they've got a point. Granted, many people have a sociable drink or two a week, and that seems pretty harmless. But as I'm sure you'd agree, there's always plenty of stuff in the news about alcohol-induced abuse and drink-driving deaths etc. Which really isn't very nice. And as a student, I can certainly relate to the campaign's suggestion that alcohol is pretty much associated with everything we do these days. You have a glass of wine with your roast dinner, a bottle of wine as an accompaniment to a movie, alcohol before you go out at night, alcohol when you're out...the list goes on. Now I consider myself a responsible drinker, but a problem here is that the government define a binge drinking session as 6 units of alcohol and above for women. And you have to bear in mind that that assumes that a measure of spirits is 25ml, whereas the standard in clubs is often 35ml these days. So as someone who can hold alcohol fairly well - and I'm not labelling myself as such in a particularly proud way! - I sometimes 'binge drink' without even realising. Yes, Mr Blair, I am officially *irresponsible*.

The point I'm getting at is even though I drink responsibly, I am perfectly capable of supposedly 'binge drinking' without even feeling it. I'd get up the next morning, albeit a little tired if it was a 4am bedtime, and think 'well that was a good night and I enjoyed myself in a sensible way'. But the fact is that us students do have a tendency to fit the image that the media gives us. Many students drink responsibly but there are also plenty that go out to get drunk, for whatever reason. So I guess I can agree with the campaign that maybe we need to reconsider just how much we assume alcohol to be a natural and (for some) everyday part of our lives.

From this train of thought, I'm going to give up drinking alcohol when I go out, for the duration of Lent. I'm being upfront about the fact that I'm not abstaining from all alcohol at home. I drink half a bottle of wine a week in my flat, at the very most. And that's usually over 2 evenings. It means a lot to me, sharing a bottle of wine with a friend, and I personally do not feel that I need to challenge this for Lent. Having thought about it a lot, my challenge this Lent is to go without alcohol when I go out - to challenge the presupposition that you have to drink to have fun, to find people interesting, to dance, and to loosen up. I hate going out with a large group and, if I feel slightly socially uncomfortable, thinking 'it's ok, we'll all loosen up after a few drinks'.

And, of course, I do benefit from this. For one, alcohol costs more than normal soft drinks, which saves me money. And also, I'm pretty sure that my body will enjoy being alcohol-free. Apart from the obvious burden on my liver and skin, you'd be amazed at the calories you consume while out drinking. The other day I looked up how many calories there are in basics such as a glass of lemonade and a shot of vodka. And I might not be totally accurate but the maths showed that the night before I had consumed in the region of 700 calories, just from drinking. And that was only about 4 drinks. To be honest, my waistline would appreciate not having to deal with that, even if it only happens once a week.

I see Lent as a chance to challenge something in my life - I've explained that already - and also a chance to try to be good to myself and have a look at what I'm doing both to my mind (buying into the idea that I'll have a better time with alcohol) and to my body (liver, skin, weight).

So there you go - my thoughts on Lent. It may have been a bit rambling...I've had a bit of a cold and stuff for a few days, and my brain isn't in top working order. But as it's a topical thing, I wanted to post it soon. Maybe I'll try and edit later.

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On a different note, I wanted to mention the quote that made me laugh today. It's from this BBC article about a study that showed how much bacteria can be found in people's desks, and how women's desks are much worse than men's. The lead researcher, a Professor Charles Gerba, discovered that 75% of female staff kept food in their work area. He helpfully adds "I was really surprised how much food there was in a woman's desk. If there's ever a famine, that's the first place I'll look for food."

Now don't you all follow his lead or there'll be no food left...

This made me laugh all the more because one of my little brother's gerbils is called Gerba, too.

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(a meme from Friday 5)

1. What do you try to stay away from? Steep drops

2. Are you clumsy or graceful? I attempt gracefulness but if I'm hormonal it's 100% clumsy for me!

3. What is it too late for? Me getting much work done today - I'm going out later :)

4. What/who was your first love? Phoebe the Russian dwarf hamster <3

5. Friday fill in: I believe that ____ will _____ I believe that I will not drink alcohol at the jazz club tonight

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Listening to: How to Save a Life - The Fray
Eating: A banana
Feeling: Slightly cold

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