Things have changed since I retired eight years ago, and the biggest thing has been my weight. For most of my life I've been lean, or leanish, and when I needed to lose weight I lost it. A minimum of fuss, just an occasional false start. I'd go fat free, or give up bread, or have salad for lunch, and within a couple of months I'd be back to my fighting weight, in the mid to late 80s. That's kilograms. I never gave up beer, by the way.
Since I retired nothing has worked for me and since COVID-19 everything has worked against me. As I've become fatter I've become slower getting out of bed, slower up the front steps, slower digging the garden, and so slow on my pushbike I stopped riding it.
And slowly I've accepted the fact that all my previous attempts of the past decade have failed because I carried on drinking beer, that while drinking beer didn't seem to matter when I was younger it matters now. So two weeks ago I weighed myself as I set off on a grog-free journey to lose 15kg, and I weighed 97.2kg.
So, in the interests of sustainability, I've decided against going grog free, and the last thing I've heard about that has provided the solution. A neighbour tells me that I'll be bound to lose weight if I drink gin instead of beer, and naturally I believe him ... so from the beginning of this week the new beer o'clock is gin o'clock.
I had one grog-free night, a sleepless night that I put down to the cup of tea I had as replacement therapy, and mates made me an offer I didn't refuse at beer o'clock the next day. Just a couple of beers, but enough to fail. That's OK, the jolly fellow inside assured me, drink and be merry and start again next Monday.
Mondays are always the start day, a hangover from the working days when weekends were a last hurrah I suppose.
The following Monday, early this week, as I set off on the restart it was confirmed that my weight was accelerating. Bang on 98kg, up almost 1kg. But I've made some changes, because in dieting at least I put great store in the very last thing I read or hear.
Skipping breakfast stays, because the 5-2 diet guru Dr Michael Mosley says it's good for me and because 18 months ago a GP inspecting my annual blood-test results said it was clear that I looked after myself. I didn't tell him that I just skip breakfast.
The meal-replacement shake for lunch has gone. I haven't had a meal-replacement shake but it was the new plan after three friends told me it was how they'd lost 20kg. It's gone because my daughter, a dietitian, has pointed out to me that it is pointless replacing an 800-calorie meal with an 800-calorie shake.
So, lunch will continue to be as it has for many years, a bowl salad with perhaps a small tin of fish, although I am as usual impressed by a diet I read about in a weekend newspaper of no breakfast, half an avocado for lunch and whatever you want for dinner.
Dinner will continue to be whatever my wife cooks, almost always with vegetables or salad, albeit on a smaller plate, and while I sense that replacing dinner with a shake will be too severe it is Plan B.
That's not a bad diet, you'll be thinking, but there are weaknesses. Fruit, nuts, my wife's cake and biscuits, the lollies that I hide in my car, and they will all go. Mostly. It's not forever, I tell myself.
I know lean people who eat much more than I do. But, I have to admit, I don't know many lean people who drink as often as I do and therein lies, I suspect, the problem.
All my adult life I have had a few beers at the end of the day, and it didn't occur to me to stop when I retired. Since about the age of 30 I have drunk cautiously, light and mid-strength beer mostly, and I've been cautious because I detest hangovers, in particular the waste of the day.
While I don't think I am chemically dependent on alcohol, it is true that my very occasional three grog-free days are no sure test and it is true also that I don't drink the new alcohol-free beer. I do, however, have a habit, one that would be very hard to break and one I don't want to break.
As I sit with a beer at 5 o'clock I feel myself relax, almost to the point where I go limp. It is a ceremonial thing. Think Japanese tea ceremony without the geishas, although I am always thrilled when my wife patters in bowing with a bowl of snacks.
It did occur to me while I was caravanning around the backblocks of Queensland by myself recently that I was more concerned about running out of the beer than I was about running out of food, not that we should read too much into that.
So, in the interests of sustainability, I've decided against going grog free, and the last thing I've heard about that has provided the solution. A neighbour tells me that I'll be bound to lose weight if I drink gin instead of beer, and naturally I believe him.
I know a clever and generous fellow who has an endless supply of craft gin, which hitherto I have drunk infrequently, and so from the beginning of this week the new beer o'clock is gin o'clock. I've been wondering what I'd do with my four trees groaning with lemons and limes.
The weight is falling off me as we speak. I'm calling it the COVID diet, and the best I can hope for is 15kg by the time the vaccine arrives.