I'd do Sober October, but nobody would sponsor me- Gaby Soutar

TikTok has my algorithms right.

In between all the silly dancing and parrot – don’t ask – shenanigans, it recently showed me a video of the most polite way to refuse a drink.

Demonstrated by an etiquette expert, this involved thanking your host, then apologising profusely before saying no. If they don’t listen, you put your hand over your glass, in the universal ‘zero booze please’ gesture.

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It’s a bit cringey. You’re practically begging to be allowed to stop. As a lightweight, I need all the advice I can get, as I’m always having to rebuff the grog.

Pic: Andrey N CherkasovPic: Andrey N Cherkasov
Pic: Andrey N Cherkasov

Taking part in Sober October would be a cinch for me.

This annual, month-long teetotal event involves sponsorship in aid of the very worthy Macmillan Cancer Support. They say there are lots of health benefits to kicking the habit, even for a short period, including a clearer head, weight loss and better sleep. I believe it.

However, this occasion is not to be confused with Dry January, or my made-up versions of Parched March, Not Too Drunk to Remember November or Take That Drink Away May. Presumably December is known as Never In a Fog Thanks to Egg Nog, not that anybody has drunk that stuff since 1979. For those with more ambition, there’s the real life organisation that is One Year No Beer, which involves a subscription fee rather than charity sponsorship.

No need, though I am keen to sign up for the 31 days of abstinence that is Sober October, and I think you should definitely give it a whirl.

I just feel that I wouldn’t do well on the cash raising front.

Those who know me understand that I’m a two drink and I’m done kind of girl.

They realise this wouldn’t be any sort of triathlon Tough Mudder-style challenge, though I would find it impossible to go that long without sugar, coffee or crisps.

If I had been born in the Victorian era, they might have named me Prudence or Temperance. I would have swooned after a snifter of sherry in the withdrawing room. My embroidery would be ruined.

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Anyway, I feel that I have to justify my meagre limits, which can maybe be explained by control freak tendencies and the fact that my faculties are already on the brink and I don’t want to lose them.

I did have some wild times on the lash in my teens and early 20s, but I was slowly weaned off the swill partially because of developing a stomach ulcer. It said no to drink, a bit like Richard E Grant’s talking boil in How to Get Ahead in Advertising, though my internal voice was a bit more muffled.

There’s also the fact it’s so very expensive in the pub. Maybe not if you’re having a cheeky pint, but I am a big fan of cocktails, especially an old fashioned, margarita, gimlet or anything that’s mouth-puckeringly sour. They’re always on the pricier side, but I recently discovered a new bar in Edinburgh where these mixed drinks come in at an average of £18. That’s the equivalent of having the heating on for an hour.

Also, after a couple, I’m jolly, then I get maudlin, so tap out early.

Over the decades, that hasn’t prevented my Oliver Reed pals from trying to force me like a foie gras duck. Imagine saying no to Mrs Doyle from Father Ted, except she's offering something stronger than tea. You will, you will, then they hook you up to a drip filled with Vladivar and you’re lurching home with one shoe missing.

A misguided and much younger fool tried to get me involved in downing shots the other day. “I’m too old for that,” I said, as they lined up the cough syrups on the bar. “You’re NEVER too old for shots,” was their reply. I ran off and hid in a toilet cubicle. Hopefully they poured it down the sink.

One beer-garden-obsessed friend used to get very angry about my moderation, and would call me The Teetotaller, though I’m not.

I have discovered that drunkards don’t enjoy having a lightweight in their midst.

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You become the observer, as their mascara smudges and their hair suddenly resembles Russell Brand’s circa 2005. It’s like having a grown-up at a kids’ party. You’re the spoil sport, when they want to plunder the biscuit barrel, dye their hair, make ‘cake’ out of Nutella and blue food colouring, watch Alien, then vomit on the carpet.

While I fulfill my crucial role as a fun sponge and social anthropologist, I’ve often wondered if getting plastered lowers your inhibitions and reveals your true character, or if most people have a drunken alter ego. I think it’s probably the former.

When I was a child and we went on family holidays, on night two my dad would invariably crack open the Famous Grouse. He’d have a few drams, then get belligerent and best avoided. The booze was like dropping Mentos into a bottle of lemonade. He’d be fizzing.

It happened every time, without fail, and I came to the conclusion the emotional release must have been cathartic. Why else would this be his holiday treat when there was cheese in the fridge? This was him, but with the cap unscrewed.

Maybe that’s why I’m such a failed bevvier. I’m also heavily carbonated and I’d like to keep my lid on.

And for those taking part in Sober October, don’t worry, it’s only 29 sleeps until Too Drunk to Remember November.



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