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Take me to my Time Out city

Giles Coren’s rules for urban living

#4: The holidays are best enjoyed stone-cold sober

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Giles Coren, Time Out columnist

© Paul Musso

Deck the halls with boughs of… hang on, ooh, give us a minute, is it just me or is it quite hot in here? I think I… oh, oh, oh… raaaaaaaaaaasssss!

And so begins another holiday season. I’m doing the American thing of calling it ‘holiday season’ instead of ‘Christmas’, by the way, because I want to be clear that plenty of Jews, Muslims, Atheists and Hindus will be spending the next month poisoning themselves beyond their normal alcohol tolerance in the name of winter jollity, then hooning their dinner up all over the pavement. Either by a lamppost or a bus stop. It’s always bus stops and the area around lampposts that get recarpeted every morning in Advent, delivering delicious images to the early morning commuter of sickly drunks staggering around the night before in search of something to lean on, before bending over and shouting up a gutful of greasy turkey and sprouts (please note, other festive menus are available, apply to your server for our delicious Chanukah, Eid and Diwali options).

And then after a month of obliterating ourselves for the sake of festive observance, putting on several stone in weight, achieving nothing in our work or lives at all, feeling seriously depressed every morning, and probably being involved in more than one dimly remembered but mutually regretted incident of a sexual nature, we straighten ourselves up on New Year’s Day and say, ‘Right, I’m giving up booze for January!’

And so follows a miserable snowbound month of sobriety. A lot of sad fruit and vegetables are juiced. Running shoes are purchased. Gyms are joined. Box sets of ‘Sex and the City’ are watched and rewatched. A lot of crying is done.

And it’s just nuts. We’re doing it all the wrong way round. What booze is for is for cheering you up when life is shit. It’s for getting you through the day when there is nothing to do and you feel like you don’t have any friends. Like in, for example, January. And the one time you do not need it, is in the month running up to Christmas.

In December, everyone is around. There are parties, dinners, pantomimes, carol services, office lunches, movie blockbusters… but you probably do not know this because you have been so cataleptically rat-arsed every Christmas since you were 15 that you don’t remember.

Christmas is brilliant, I can exclusively reveal, and you want to be sober so you can enjoy it. 
I know this because I did it a couple of years ago when I was off the booze on doctor’s 
orders (head doctor, not body doctor).

Sober, I discovered, you will not make a dick of yourself in front of the boss at the office party and thus not feel suicidal the next morning.

Sober, you will not stay so late that you miss the last train and get murdered in a dimly lit railway siding, bleeding out from a stab wound, cold and alone, still wearing your reindeer antlers, because the ambulances and hospital wards are full of other half-dead, drunken fun-seekers.

Sober, you will kiss whomever you want to kiss, and fend off whomever you don’t. You can still fuck someone standing up in a pub toilet to the sound of ‘Fairytale of New York’ coming from the saloon bar above your heads, but you’ll only do it if you want to, with someone you like. And if you’re sober, hell, you might even have an orgasm.

And then you can get utterly Schindlered in January. Because in January, with nobody around to see you, you cannot embarrass yourself. You cannot accidentally shag the wrong person, because there is nobody to accidentally shag. And if you do get into a drunken fight with a moving vehicle, well, on a Wednesday night in January you can walk straight into any A&E in the country.

So lay off the grog and make this a Christmas to remember – then use the strong liquor you have saved to erase your memory of the 11 godawful months that follow.


Read Giles Coren’s rules for urban living every week.



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