Normally, I ignore Lent. This year is different.
It is very easy to be a drunkard here in Spain. No one needs to try very hard but we don’t usually see many drunks. All sorts of alcoholic drinks are readily and cheaply available. Being an alcoholic doesn’t cost much. There is more alcohol in my house than I have ever had before. Wine in abundance. Beer in the fridge - mostly for visitors. It is rare that I drink beer. Not an acquired taste. However, I do enjoy cider, especially on a hot day. That doesn’t last long in the fridge.
When I first came to Spain, my habitual nightcap was a small glass of Famous Grouse Whiskey. It was possible to buy three one litre bottles at Carrefour for about £30, a fraction of the cost in the UK. Some of those three one litre bottles remain in the drinks cupboard. I have discovered Soberano, a local brandy, sweeter and below the usual proof standard of proper French cognacs. Soberano is now my usual nightcap.
One of the problems here in Spain is that restaurants often provide a free half bottle of wine or a small carafe with a meal. It is very easy to get carried overboard with this. Our nearest cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurants does just that: half a bottle of wine or a beer with any meal, a small glass of (rather weak) Sangria to start with and once the bill is paid, the offer of a shot glass of schnapps. And then, it is difficult to resist a cana, a small glass of beer, to quench the thirst. Out here, thirst needs to be quenched.Accordingly, on the first of January, once the New Year festivities were over, I vowed to have a month without any alcohol at all, just to prove to myself that I am not an alcoholic.
‘Hang about,’ my wife urged. ‘I want to do that with you but my birthday is in January. Wait until Lent and we can go dry together.’
Foolishly, I agreed. The consequence is that I sacrificed thirty one days of going without alcohol in January, for the forty days and nights of Lent. Two days in, we are dry. No alcohol. Only 38 days to go.