Around this time of year, post boozy barbecues, afternoons spent in the beer garden, summer holidays and of course, wedding reception antics, we start to tell ourselves "that's it, I'm on the wagon" and "no, I mean it this time", and like January we last less than a month.
Being British, or in Britain, the majority of us still believe that we can't have a good night without booze, I mean, imagine turning up to a house party to find there was no booze? The silent stare on peoples faces when you turn up to a dinner party... with a bottle of squash. I remember that feeling of despair when the riots came to Hackney... the local pubs closed.
So, for the serious ones on the wagon, pregnant women, and people like me who shouldn't drink on medication, here are my top three non boozy alternatives to a good night out. Girly as these suggestions are, I have tried them to success out on men.
Rock n' Roll Bingo
Usually a night out in Camden town results in a heavy hangover, an empty wallet and no memory from entering the Woody Grill kebab house next to the underground onwards. But this particular night, three friends and I (three girls, one guy) went to Mecca Bingo Camden. Fab night. But, when the games finished and you thought it was over, oh no, lights started flashing, music started blasting, and bingo callers started dancing on the stage in sequins hats sucking on lollipops, imagine Auntie Marion after munching on a disco biscuit at the Phoenix Nights club.
You hear a piece of music and if the title's on your card you blot it, as normal, but if you get a line (I know we're in Camden but at bingo this means blots in a row) then you have to chase a bingo caller, and her big bouncing bosoms, round the hall and when you catch her (or him) you have to cuddle them. If there is a tie you will have to fight it out by way of a dance off, a song off - on the night we went, three women had to see who could get to the end of the song Dry Bones and the first woman sung "You're neck bone's connected to you... face bone" Another tie resulted in an old school bingo player (or Nazi Nana) yelling following an egg n' spoon race "Oi! Caller! My Gary won that!" to be shouted back "But his egg fell off Sandra" poor Gary.
They shower you with sweets (and come round with £1 shots) so we were in a sugar frenzy, on top of all the lemonade we were drinking, and what with bouncing around the hall on space hoppers and chasing callers, my friend Johnny (or his stomach) was so overwhelmed with excitement he threw up in his coin box.
We had to take a kalm with warm milk when we got home and we still didn't sleep!!
London Zoo is now open late, hurrah!
On a dating profile I was asked what the perfect date would be and I said the zoo. Yes, I'm a devoted (and a bit obsessed) animal lover, but the open space and fresh air has something about it too. It's been extended in the last few years creating more space for the animals. From zebras to bugs, giraffes to meerkats, which always make me laugh with their adorable silly faces, like monkeys, and I actually kissed a penguin (but missed the penguin show, and kicked off on the way home, sat on the pavement refusing to move etc..). It will also take a few hours to get around so that's a whole afternoon/evening sorted.
It's fun, romantic (people get married there) and relaxing, and you've got Regents Park to take advantage of too.
The other obvious pub dodgers are cinema, theatre, dinner (people who think they can't afford to go out to dinner then spend forty quid in a pub are deluded, as are those who won't pay a fiver to see a local band but will spend that a pint and a half. I am one of them) my all time favourite has to be...
Bear with me on this one..
It was cutting down on the booze and fags that made me start knitting. I had no idea what I was doing to start with (I self taught) but soon discovered it's a dodle. The detail gave me a focus to zone in and out of when I was thinking about that velvety tone of red wine or the smoky haze of tobacco. After a while you can do it whilst you're watching TV or having a chat, but it was still quite solitary.
Then I discovered that knitting is back in and that Hackney, as usual, is at the heart of it. Keen knitters were yarn bombing (knitted graffiti) on trees outside the town hall (prudish or protest?), knitting exhibitions filled galleries down brick lane and knitting groups, such as Stitch n' Bitch were meeting up in cafes, pubs and parks.
I even started my own little company Nan's Cabinet and remade the classics like toilet roll dolls, sausage dogs, bunting etc... knitted cupcakes to knitted wedding cakes, any myself had an exhibition in Core Arts East London. But, it was only supposed to be a healthier hobby, an alternative to drinking and smoking, just accidently became a career move (A bit like when Withnail says "We've come on holiday my mistake".
I often threaten my friends that I'll teach them to knit, to help me out, that one hasn't quite worked out yet, but they'll come running in winter when they need those matching woollen scarf and gloves.
There, these may or may not give you pub alternatives, either way, play safe.