Beverages I don't drink.
Well, I mean obviously I drink, just don't drink alcohol.
Regularly, if ever.
Tonight, supping through a bottles of red grape flavoured Shloer, I've been trying to remember the last time my stomach welcomed in a tipple. There was a mouthful of whiskey (or was it whisky?) a month ago because which my Dad wanted me to try, but before that? Don't know. Was it the quarter glass of champagne on Christmas morning two years ago? Did I have a beer in between?
On all occasions it went straight to my head. Which is why I don't drink. I can't drink.
There are all kinds of reasons for this, just as there always are.
Even though my parents had the French approach of giving me some wine with lemonade in my mid-teens, this wasn't the entrance that it is for many people. Even during school when all of my friends were already becoming heavy drinkers to some degree, a lot of coca-cola was consumed.
This led on to my first year of university when I can remember with clarity the lengthy conversations had with "friends" about why I didn't drink. I didn't like the taste, I'd say. They didn't understand. I can't really afford it, I'd continue. Generally coming from financially comfortable family background they didn't understand that either.
My first actual beer, a Budweiser, was eventually bought at a Jazz Festival. I didn't enjoy it, but I was with a friend I trusted and was paying and it seemed ok. I kept that bottle for years.
From there I did drink. Within limits. Three somethings. Always three somethings. But after three somethings, I was drunk as a skunk.
Three wines. Three Buds. Three lagers. Three ciders. Never shorts, because of the burning sensation that led to in the throat even in mixers. But if it was watery and had volume ...
I drank with friends. I drank with work colleagues. I drank with work colleagues who were friends. It didn't interfere with my studies, studious, me, and even at university itself I don't remember waking up with a hangover.
I do vividly remember when going for a meal with my third year housemates to celebrate my twenty-first birthday and after having consumed large amounts of white cider beforehand ordering a fish based pizza even though I don't eat fish either (taste, texture) and asking one of them why the room was spinning.
You won't hear any exciting drinking stories about that time. Not about me anyway.
University ended, and back in Liverpool I continued trying different things. Three Guinesses. Three Newkie Browns. Three Budvars. Three Woodpeckers.
I tried to stretch my limits. Tried the mythic four, which tended to happen at the Krazy House thanks to the two for one offers on bottles. Tried to extend the process with halfs. Even mixed my drinks.
All of which was essentially disastrous. Without studies to keep me from tipping over, I'd be shit faced within a couple of hours and would stay that way and the hangovers began. I chundered, a lot. Sometimes over my bed clothes.
But the thing I noticed was that I was a horrible drunk, or more specifically a horrible person whilst drunk. Apart from the verbal diarrhea, I was often sarcastic and if not that, embarrassing, and because I was drunk without having blackouts, I remembered every horrific moment.
Apologies were made. A lot.
As I've been writing this I've been trying to remember when it was I finally decided to stop. I think it was gradual, beginning after an especially terrible evening during a work leaving drinks when my legs gave way in a pub on the way to the bar and I puked outside a takeaway and I decided I wasn't going to ever be drunk again. After that I decided I'd only ever drink with people I trusted. Then, I think, I just stopped anyway.
I never have liked the taste of most of it. I never have liked the person I become when I drink, mostly because if drinking is supposed to make you more of the person you already are, I'd hate to think what that actually means otherwise.
Now that I'm out of practice too, it takes even less for me to get drunk or at least tipsy. Shocking. Really.
Thank goodness for the trend towards bars in which caffeinated beverages are on a somewhat equal footing to the alcoholic kind.
There's still a stigma to not drinking apparently. Every now and then I'll have a conversational flashback to those undergraduate conversations.
It's actually a decent bellwether for whether I'll be friends with a person or even like them. If the not drinking is a thing, well ... it's also surprising how unwelcome it is when you turn the conversation around and ask them why they do drink.
Which is a bit defensive probably. But you should hear how defensive some people get when they meet someone who doesn't drink.
Not that I judge anyone for it, as I shouldn't. In fact the whole thing is one of life's disappointment.
I'm also fascinated by wines and love visiting wine cellars, longingly glancing along the labels. Sideways is one of my favourite films. But I've little to no sense of what they're drinking, my main experience of the stuff being whatever's been dished out at private views. Whiskey (or whisky) too. Swig and spit seems pointless and sad, and I'd probably still get drunk all too quickly on the vapours from the bucket.
But as I sit and write this on New Year's Eve considering a second bottle of Shloer to see in the new year, I'm fine.
I like Shloer. I like water or fizzy water if I'm treating myself. I like tea, especially Lady Grey. I like coffee. I like that the most it does is keep me awake or, oddly, with some kinds of coffee, usually instant, make me sleepy.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter @feelinglistless.