Ben Lowry: The end of Lent is in sight and red wine awaits

Missing the joy of wine
Missing the joy of wine

After a long slog, the end is in sight.

I am off alcohol for lent.

It is in fact the first time I have ever observed lent.

How I have gone from being utterly irreligious for almost all of my adult life to observing lent is something I might explain in another column.

Suffice to say for now that increasingly I find myself interested in the Christian rituals, such as Midnight Mass at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I also have a heightened sense as I get older of how privileged we are to live in the Judeo-Christian world, the values of which have been the engine of modern civilisation.

The restraint of lent intrigues me, and I decided to apply it to alcohol. My intake is at the upper end of the (old) recommended guidelines but above the new lower limit.

I now enjoy drinks that I disliked when younger such as beer, gin n’ tonic, whiskey and cognac.

But wine is the form of alcohol that has embedded itself in my daily life, so that a meal seems incomplete without an accompanying glass.

And while I can easily do without many of life’s luxuries (I drive a battered 1997 Honda, for example) I find that I have an increasingly demanding palate in terms of wine quality.

After plenty of the stuff in December and on a January Alpine trip, I planned two weeks off but it was Pancake Tuesday before I did so. Reflecting on the tradition of using up rich ingredients ahead of Ash Wednesday caused me to try the whole six weeks.

The latter date became my start point, since when I have lapsed twice, once ironically in a Christian context, at a reception after a memorial service for Rev John Nelson, a much-loved and humane man who was chaplain at my school (and who played a key role in my lifelong love of hymns).

But other than those two breaches, when I succumbed to glasses of wine, I have stuck to the abstinence, despite being in numerous situations where the temptation of drink was on offer.

While I have not craved alcohol, I must say that I do miss it. A bottle of fine red will be opened the day that lent ends.

When does it end? There are different interpretations, depending on the church.

If it was strictly 40 days, it would end on Monday. But it ends at some point in Easter.

I am so glad I did it. Restraint in food and drink has been wholly absent in my life, as the scales remind me every time I step on them.

Next year I might try chocolate.

Now that really will be a struggle.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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