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TABLE TALK: Our food writers discuss their lockdown drinking habits in first of new video series

In the first of our Table Talk video series, the food and drink team gather virtually to discuss what and how much they were drinking during the lockdown period…

For three months from March to June it felt as though each day was Groundhog Day with the nation stuck at home, sheltering from the coronavirus.

And it seems that during that time more of us hit the bottle, perhaps in an effort to relieve boredom, anxiety, frustration, or all three.

A report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed the number of people drinking at “high risk” levels has doubled to almost 8.5 million since February this year.

With pubs and restaurants remaining shut until July, sales of alcohol in supermarkets and corner shops soared during the lockdown months. But have we been able to kick the habit?

In the first of our Table Talk series of discussions, the food and drink team reveal their own lockdown drinking habits – and their favourite tipples during those long spring months..

Clare Johnston.
“Suddenly, my drinking had doubled,” Clare Johnston

“My husband stopped drinking alcohol six years ago so, consequently, I changed my habits both to show support and also because I no longer had anyone to drink with at home.

“My mum and dad live next door and, pre-lockdown, they would usually come in for their dinner on a Friday and Saturday night if we weren’t going out, and I would have a glass or two of wine with them. That was pretty much the extent of my drinking for a long time. I came to realise that by drinking very moderately I still had all the benefits of enjoying a relaxing glass of wine – but without the hangover.

“Lockdown was a strange time because, although my parents were right next to us, we couldn’t see very much of them. As the time wore on and the weather got better and better, I would go and sit outside their house and have a wee glass of wine in the sunshine with them at a safe distance. Soon we were doing this, weather permitting, four nights a week. We were still sticking to just a couple of glasses, but it meant my drinking doubled.

“For so many people, a glass of wine, a beer, or a G&T became that beacon of normality in an otherwise surreal time. It marked the transition from day to evening, the start of the weekend – just something to break the monotony of staying at home for weeks on end. It’s not hard then to see why drinking could spiral.

“Scottish drinks brands showed immense initiative and creativity in responding to the pandemic, with businesses hosting online tasting sessions, sending out cocktail-making kits, Champagne afternoon teas and more. It was genuinely cheering to see.

“Now, as we approach winter and times look to be getting tougher again, those services are likely to be utilised in homes across Scotland. The key, as with all things in life, is finding balance – setting ourselves limits and sticking to them while still enjoying the things we love.”

Julia Bryce.
“I didn’t drink more, but I ordered in from my favourite cocktail bars,” Julia Bryce

“Throughout lockdown I didn’t really notice a big difference in how much I was drinking. I very rarely drink through the week anyway, so that didn’t really change, and when I was drinking at the weekend, I would primarily only have one or two drinks.

“What I did do more of was use local bar delivery services seen as I couldn’t visit them. One of my favourite cocktail bars, Orchid in Aberdeen, launched a delivery service and then a collection service, which I used quite a few times. As well as ordering myself a drink I’d order my friends one and send it to them. We would them catch up on Zoom with our drinks. We then started sending each other different ones to try, so it was always a nice surprise when one turned up at your door.

My tipple of choice would definitely have been a gin – probably Isle of Harris or Porter’s, – and I have been trying to get into whisky more and more this year, so I’ll always have a sip of my boyfriend’s dram when he decides to pour himself one. Quite a few of my friends love wine and were drinking it a lot more during the week throughout lockdown. I don’t think the same really applies to spirits, so maybe that is why I didn’t drink as much.”

Brian Stormont.
“I drank more initially in lockdown, but got bored of it,” Brian Stormont

“I won’t lie about it, I do enjoy a drink and in a normal week before lockdown would visit the pub or bowling club a couple of times, as well as enjoying a drink in the house on occasion.

“Certainly when lockdown began, I was drinking more – initially it seemed the right thing to do to unwind after a tough day at the “virtual” office. I was working on production at that time so would be finishing at 9pm and I would have a couple of drinks – and on occasion a couple became a few more.

“However, the novelty quickly wore off and I was actually a bit bored of drinking in the house watching a film or listening to music. I pretty much returned to my normal habits and then before I knew it we weren’t in such a strict lockdown and I could pop out for a drink and meet my pals.

“One thing my wife, Karen, and I did do during lockdown was try out some different gins and mixers with them, adding fruit (some we have frozen like grapes or raspberries) or different kinds of tonic to make cocktails. That was fun but we only ever had a couple on a Saturday night.

“I do believe it’s important to monitor what you drink and, as health experts tell you, ensure you have a few nights free of alcohol each week.”

Rebecca Shearer.
“Between March and July I think I had three drinks,” Rebecca Shearer

“I don’t tend to drink very much anyway, usually just on the odd social occasion or when I don’t have anything on the next day. I think during March to the end of July I had three drinks – two gins and a wine. Then later joined my friend who had had a baby in June for a glass of prosecco once I was able to.

“I think I actually consciously drank less during lockdown because I live by myself and there is nobody here to cook me a full Scottish breakfast for my hangover the next day!”

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