When I was in London late last year I was stunned by the amount that people were drinking. I had honestly forgotten that it was perfectly ok to have two or three with lunch, a couple of cheeky cocktails pre-meal, wine with dinner and a snifter of something to put the evening to bed.
That much alcohol would leave me pole-axed.
We were at a celebration and no-one was driving anywhere – so no harm done. Except to livers and heads (and one or two relationships). I don’t even try and keep up; once upon a time I could drink a bottle of wine across the breadth of an evening and leap out of bed the next morning. Not any more. Nowadays my inability to drink is matched only by my disinterest in a hangover. I am a two drink date.
The defining realisation came with my fiftieth birthday – my friend Maurits and I had made sure we had plenty of champers at our shared party. Pink and dry – light and finely fizzy – and I must have drunk a half a bottle. With no other alcohol passing my lips. The next two days were a nightmare of cramps and headache. I had itchy bumps on my stomach and the back of my knees. I felt nauseous and disorientated. That experience heralded a change in my socialising – my favourite drink was off limits. Now even a half a glass of bubbly, drunk to toast Gavin’s new job: makes itself felt the next morning.
And it’s not just with alcohol – food is delivering some sucker punches too. Orange juice, strawberries, granola, bran cereal, yoghurt: eaten every day in the past – recently not even vaguely an option. Garlic and onions, once a complete no-go – are now perfectly acceptable raw or cooked. And chili and spices – past arbiters of heartburn and gas, are now welcomed at my table.
These days I eat swiss chard and cruciferous veggies with impunity. Greens I avoided in the past out of respect to my dining companions. But offer me hummus and lentils at your own risk. Dry or flinty white wines are history, yet I crave acid in tomato and use lemons liberally: with no push back. Cheese has never really interested me – now I am browsing the cool cabinets for an interesting blue or oozy brie. Yet if I smell milk, I gag.
What is up with me? I am absolutely sure my immune system has targeted some foods and disembargoed others. Getting older seems to be the only plausible explanation.
I bumped into a friend who is a holistic doctor and asked him the question. This is a guy who believes that people would benefit from learning the difference between unwell and sick and who has short shrift with hypochondriacs. He rolled his eyes: “Oh it has everything to do with aging. Your body is not as resilient as it once was. And it doesn’t want to have to work as hard – so it lets you know immediately. It’s simple, if it doesn’t work for you – don’t swallow it. If it does – enjoy.”
And menopause- how could that be impacting? “Well firstly you are not there yet – and secondly menopause can change how your tastebuds respond for a while but not how your body deals with food.”
What the alcohol situation? “Just stop drinking champagne. Drink something else.”
He prescribed a single gin and tonic to be taken as a meditation every evening. A perfect twenty minutes spent quietly sipping and contemplating the universe. Good for the body and the soul. But to stop there. Because, he says, no-one needs to ‘meditate’ for hours on end.
So – cheers from the sofa: I’m taking the good Doc’s advice and expect it to carry me thought my next half century. Ohmmmmm …