You may have noticed it’s been quiet around here. When I first started this blog, a decade or so back when I was living in Rome, I used to crank out a new post every week. Things were very different then. Notably: no children.
Parenting pre-schoolers can be hard work, and the received opinion is that things get easier when they start school. You can get more work, have some time for yourself or whatever. Which is just poppycock, in my experience. Aside from the fact that Covid has made life more complicated, particularly for younger children whose entry to education was so damaged, I’m just finding things busier than ever.
It’s been a full-on summer, work-wise, while parenting wise, with my children now aged seven and eight, there’s never been more rushing about. Swimming, football, ballet, karate, gymnastics… and now they want to try capoeira. Which is great, but it’s more rushing about for me. Never mind their social lives. You don’t realise how much of a social secretary or PA role you’ll be playing for your children at this age, older than playgroups and easy convening at the playground, younger than having their own freedom and phones.
The other big change to affecting this blog is my diet and lifestyle. I’m 52 now, and while many people were driven to drink more during the Covid years, I went the other way. I rarely drink these days. It’s not like my 18 to 25 teetotal years, but certainly I don’t reach for the booze at home, and as don’t have much of a social life beyond chatting to other parents at football training or the skatepark or whatever, I don’t sink pints down the pub either. Or indeed down our dynamic local brewery taprooms. Frankly, so much of their product is just too strong for me, so even when I’m working their on a pop-up food stall, I decline (and it’s free for the caterers!). Seven per cent beers were fine in Rome, but not now I’m a decade older and my kids challenge my stamina, it’s not something I can relax with. I’ve lost 5kg too, though that may be incidental, more stress-related than beer calories-related.
Although we put on a cake spread for me and Fran’s 100th birthday party back in July (see pic), I’m also not baking cakes as much either, as I’m trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar I eat. A middle-aged spare tyre is never a good look. Much as I adore baking and eating cake (etc), I often find in our household it’s just me and my son eating it, with my wife and daughter eschewing it. I won’t go into how the daughter often seems to prefer industrial junk, one of those phenomena that seems to occur with some children who are fed a lot of home-made, real food.
I do have various bakes I still plan to attempt, and write about, and interestingly, my drift away from strong ale has led me to start exploring the burgeoning world of low-alcohol or so-called “alcohol-free” beers. For decades in the UK, the only low alcohol beer available was dreadful industrial lager. That’s been changing fast the past few years, with the arrival of low alcohol IPAs. And now, breweries like Lowtide in Bath are producing a remarkable range, including a NEIPA and a pleasant take on a Belgian abbey beer. The big craft breweries are in on it too, like Brewdog, with its Nanny State (0.5% ABV), and Beavertown, with its Lazer Crush (0.3% ABV).
I plan to write about this properly at some point. One thing I’ve been wondering about is the legal definitions. A UK government document called Low Alcohol Descriptors Guidance published in December 2018 says, ‘alcohol free’ “should only be applied to a drink from which the alcohol has been extracted if it contains no more than 0.05% abv”, while it defines ‘low alcohol’ as “1.2% alcohol by volume (abv) or below”. Though I haven’t explored it properly yet, Tom the Steady Drinker’s blog both cut through some of the confusion and confused me more, as it seems to be the case that UK legal definitions and licensing laws are somewhat out of sync.
Anyway, that’s what’s been going on – or not going on – on this blog. The other thing to mention about me not updating it as regularly as I used to is that I knackered my phone camera (dropped it after a few strong ales, ironically), so snapping half-decent pics for inclusion has been tricky. Sorry about that.