It's exactly 5 months since I last drank alcohol.
By way of celebration, and inspired by my post on ancestry and the Celts the other day (see Alcoholism and Ancestry) I thought I'd take a little trip down memory lane.
More than twenty years ago, when I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed graduate just starting out in advertising, I was working on the Irish Tourist Board account.
I was in heaven. I loved Ireland. My clients were crazy, but great fun. If I asked them to meet me at any time after 5pm to look at some creative work they would insist on going to 'Meeting Room P' or, in other words, the Coach and Horses Pub. Once there they would merrily dissect and destroy whatever lovingly crafted work I presented over several pints of Guinness.
Once a year the Irish Tourist Board did the Grand Tour. They'd pick a region of Ireland and we'd spend a week visiting all the attractions and staying in the best hotels on offer. We'd 'work' all day, and all evening we were wined and dined like kings.
The evening would invariably end with a lock in, a sing song and lots of impromptu dancing. No-one went to bed before about 4am. Ever. Their stamina was extraordinary. I'd just spent three years as hard living student, yet there was no way I could keep up with this crew.
And their Christmas party.... I don't know where to begin. The truth is that I can remember very little detail, and neither - I suspect - can any of them.
The first big campaign I worked on with the Irish Tourist Board starred the famous, drunken, TV chef Keith Floyd eating (and boozing) his way around Ireland.
The first time I met Keith was when he came to London (from Devon) to shoot a press advertisement. My job (as the lowly junior) was to meet him at the station at around 10am and escort him to the studio.
I turned up early. I'd checked and double checked everything. I saw the train come in and waited by the gate for Keith to come through. I waited and waited. No Keith. I called his agent (from a payphone. We didn't carry mobiles in those days - imagine!) who told me that he'd put Keith on the train himself. I got the station to put an announcement over the tannoy. Still no Keith.
Eventually, palms sweating and heart racing, I called the hotel Keith was booked into that evening. "Mr Floyd has been in the bar for the last hour," they told me.
I collected him. He was contrite. He confessed to giving me the slip because they'd refused to open the bar on the train on account of it being breakfast time.
Despite (or perhaps because of) being drunk, Keith performed brilliantly. The photographer and crew forgave him for keeping them waiting for nearly two hours.
After the shoot he took me to a famous oyster bar on Piccadilly where, predictably, we got seriously merry, and he bought me my first oysters. "Isn't it like when the moonlight kisses the ocean?" he asked me. I thought it was like swallowing snot, but nodded (ever the people pleaser).
Keith died a few years ago at the relatively young age of 65. He had a heart attack. The last decade of his life was plagued by illness - including a stroke and bowel cancer. I'm sure that if he'd quit drinking he would have lived longer.
I wonder if Keith Floyd regretted any of it. Because, you know, I now accept - with a degree of serenity - that my drinking career is over. I'm happy to move into Phase Two. But I'm not sure that I regret much of it. For a while back there it was a bloody good laugh.....
....until it stopped being so.
Love SM x