I heard my Beestonian colleagues organising an epic pub crawl. Start at 3pm, they said – drink a half in each of the massive number of pubs, they said – wear matching t-shirts, they said. I cowered further down in my seat at each suggestion.

It’s all familiar, of course – I drank pints at Newcastle University in the 80s, after all. I remember the bravura, the ability to chat to strangers, repeated conversations feeling really funny. This continued in my work: hard play, hard approach to life. I remember (sometimes rather scarily) piecing together the fragments of incidents over the next few days to make sense of them: ‘she said WHAT?’, ‘he did WHAT?’, ‘I went WHERE?’ All great fun. But I often found it pretty competitive in some sense.

Nowdays I don’t drink. I stopped a few years ago when I considered my responsibilities outweighed my need for dizzy times and woozy sleep. It was hard at first, going against the grain of ‘normal’ expectations, suddenly aware of how much we are bombarded with invitations and coercion to participate. However, giving up sits comfortably with me – I don’t like any section of society asking me to conform to fit in. You might think a sober existence is really boring – but I think it’s quite rebellious!

But it’s difficult to enjoy the loud tutting from the bar staff when ordering two hot chocolates during a quiz night in a local pub

Even though I don’t drink alcohol, I do enjoy going out. I really enjoy going out. Being a bit older, I’m not good at late nights – but I love having a laugh, a gritty conversation, a bit of art, a bit of politics and a bit of gossip. I also like being around other people while they chat and drink and enjoy themselves.

So…why must I drink diet coke, sugary cordials, one of the stupid sodding fluorescent flavours of J2O or bloody Eisberg (or equivalent), in order to participate? There are ‘no alcohol’ beers, but every one I have tried had a horrible aftertaste – I think this is because I never liked beer in the first place! The choice in pubs is better than ever, of course – tea and coffee is freely available, though caffeine is not ideal late on (and what is the point of decaffeinated for goodness sake??). But it’s difficult to enjoy the loud tutting from the bar staff when ordering two hot chocolates during a quiz night in a local pub recently.

A quick poll of Beeston town centre pubs shows that most offer at least one alcohol free beer. I could not find one that offered alcohol free wine; in fact I was treated with derision in some pubs when I asked. I buy my wine to drink at home from a very successful Manchester company called The Alcohol Free Shop, which has been quietly winning all sorts of awards simply by looking for adult alternatives to alcoholic drinks – usually great tasting ‘proper’ wine which has the alcohol carefully removed, leaving a delicious ‘grown up’ product. They continue to expand their great range of products – with some excellent ‘no alcohol’ ciders and spirit substitutes.

It would be fantastic to find this sort of product available in Beeston’s great pubs – not just for Dry Januarys, but also for drivers who want to drink something interesting and people who want to cut back a bit without compromising on taste.

Meanwhile…when I met up with the other Beestonians during the crawl I spent a very amiable hour over a diet coke. There was no evidence of matching T shirts or pint drinking, merely a good natured celebration of our hospitable community. Excellent!

KA