This week, for the primary time in all my 69 years, I purchased a dozen cans of alcohol-free lager for our Christmas celebration.
They are not for me, I hasten to say — and I guarantee you that copious portions of one thing stronger will likely be on provide to these of our friends preferring, like me, to view the festive season by a boozy, woozy haze.
As for many who will inform me that zero-alcohol wines and beers have come a great distance over current years, and you can hardly inform the distinction any extra, properly, every to his personal style. I discover they merely do not hit the spot.
No, the lager in query is for these youthful grownup members of my household who, for one motive or one other — and most uncharacteristically of Utleys — have forsaken alcohol this Christmas.
Against this, roughly three quarters of my technology of over-55s anticipate to be celebrating with alcohol — though even this determine is sharply down on 12 months in the past
What I discover astonishing is that, in resolving to abstain, they’re very removed from uncommon amongst their technology.
Such, anyway, is the exceptional conclusion of a survey this week by the net grocery store Ocado, which discovered that greater than half of 18 to 34-year-olds — 56 per cent — plan to not contact a drop of intoxicating liquor in the course of the festivities.
It is a dramatically increased proportion than final yr, when 46 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds, and solely 37 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds, opted for a dry Christmas.
Against this, roughly three quarters of my technology of over-55s anticipate to be celebrating with alcohol — though even this determine is sharply down on 12 months in the past.
After all, Millennials and members of Era Z might have all kinds of causes for avoiding the demon drink.
Some will likely be observant Muslims. Others, like one in all my daughters-in-law, will likely be abstaining as a result of they’re pregnant. Certainly, as we speak’s expectant mums are way more cautious of harming their infants than earlier generations had been, within the dangerous outdated days.
The current surge in costs may have one thing to do with it — as anybody who has purchased a spherical within the pub currently will likely be all too properly conscious.
However one other, intriguing rationalization is usually recommended by Amanda Thomson, founder and head of the alcohol-free vineyard, Thomson & Scott.
Such, anyway, is the exceptional conclusion of a survey this week by the net grocery store Ocado, which discovered that greater than half of 18 to 34-year-olds — 56 per cent — plan to not contact a drop of intoxicating liquor in the course of the festivities
She says that youthful individuals have seen their mother and father and elders ’embarrass themselves’ after imbibing an excessive amount of festive cheer, and having grown up within the age of social media, they’re anxious to not be caught pie-eyed on digital camera, making the identical mistake.
All I can say — and I reckon I communicate for quite a lot of of my technology — is that I merely could not face the ordeal of internet hosting an enormous household Christmas with no stiff drink or six to alleviate the stress.
I am not pondering solely of over-excited kids and grandchildren, working round the home, bawling their eyes out as a result of their new laser gun is lacking its batteries, or Mrs U flapping as a result of she’s forgotten the stuffing.
Nor do I imply simply the standard tensions that may come up when grown-up siblings and in-laws are confined collectively in small areas. (OK, I admit it, alcohol should take a lot of the blame for reviving disputes from the distant previous about, say, who borrowed whose favorite saucepan in 1983 and did not return it.)
No, I do not find out about your loved ones, however one thing nearly at all times appears to go spectacularly fallacious at Christmastime in mine.
The current surge in costs may have one thing to do with it — as anybody who has purchased a spherical within the pub currently will likely be all too properly conscious
There was the unforgettable event, again within the Nineteen Seventies, when my mom produced an impressive, flaming Christmas pudding on an enormous, heavy dish, carrying it into the eating room to common acclaim.
The dish promptly snapped in two, falling on the desk, which then buckled within the center, knocking over all our brimming wine glasses — whereas the flaming pudding set hearth to the tablecloth.
If solely smartphones had been accessible on the time, we might have been assured of £250 from You have Been Framed.
Rather more not too long ago, there was the Christmas morning when our second son switched on the left-hand facet of our double oven to heat up the chocolate-flavoured croissants we might purchased for his kids as a breakfast deal with.
As they tucked in, he absent-mindedly switched off the right-hand oven — wherein sat the turkey, roasting for our lunch. It was a number of hours earlier than anybody seen that the chook was sitting in a chilly oven.
This delayed our meal till tea-time, throwing out all of the strict timings laid down within the gospel based on St Delia (Delia Smith’s Christmas, revealed in 1990 — extremely advisable). By this time, many of the adults among the many 18 of us had been so sozzled that we may barely communicate.
Which brings me to final yr, when the pandemic stored away most of our invitees. Simply 5 of us sat right down to eat an enormous turkey ordered weeks earlier, once we had been anticipating as many as 20.
All through most of January, we had been consuming turkey sandwiches, turkey risotto and turkey curry. Goodness, it was a reduction once we consigned the bones to the meals waste bin.
This yr, we’re anticipating 15 to lunch on the large day — or 16, if you happen to embrace our new child grandson (although at two weeks outdated, he is maybe a bit of younger for the festive feast) — and I’ve gone to very large lengths to make sure that all the things will go easily.
Studying from the previous, once we used to squash as much as 25 members of our prolonged household right into a kitchen that comfortably seats six, I’ve transformed our knocked-through sitting room right into a mini-banqueting corridor. God is aware of why I did not consider it earlier than.
I’ve even purchased matching tablecloths, plates and mats for the whole thing of us — a primary in my ever-growing household — calculating that since my cash will likely be price solely a fraction of its current worth earlier than the brand new yr is out, I could as properly spend all of it now.
What may presumably go fallacious? Properly, I am going to inform you.
On Monday, our eldest rang to ask permission to convey his new pet, Stevie, a Labrador/Alsatian cross, and I could not very properly say no. That is the season of goodwill, in any case.
The difficulty is that our Jack-Dack, Minnie — half Jack Russell, half dachshund — simply cannot stand Stevie.
Usually the sweetest-natured of creatures, who loves nearly all canines and people, she bares her enamel, growls and yaps every time poor Stevie seems. How are we supposed to maintain them aside, in a home overrun by over- excited kids?
Then on Wednesday, our second son rang to tell me that his five-year-old has chickenpox, whereas his youthful sister is prone to go down with it too. But each, he tells me, are completely decided to return on Sunday.
Now, I is probably not a lot of a medical skilled. However I do know that chickenpox may be extraordinarily harmful for unborn infants (although my pregnant daughter-in-law assures me that she’s had it, and is due to this fact immune). I do know it is not nice for newborns both.
Because of this if all of them come, as I hope they’ll, we’ll not solely need to preserve two warring canines aside. To be on the protected facet, we’ll additionally need to preserve our son’s little lepers in strict isolation from the infant and the expectant mum.
However I mustn’t go on about my Christmas woes. I am going to guess you have got loads of your personal to consider — and none extra so than those that face a lonely day, with out associates and relations, whether or not tipsy or sober, to console them.
Regardless of all of the disasters of earlier years — and people nearly actually in retailer for me this yr — the loopy factor is that I nonetheless look ahead immensely to essentially the most festivity within the Christian calendar.
I want all my long-suffering readers a really blissful one. In the meantime, I want a stiff drink.