It’s my birthday next month. It promises to be an inauspicious, milestone-free occasion, to be marked only by me, a few friends and a night in the pub. I slung a few invites around last week for this minor event on the social calendar and whilst most were happy affirmatives, a couple of people mentioned the pub wasn’t a great idea because of febfast.
For those who don’t know, febfast (febfast.org.au) is an Australian charity promotion where participants are sponsored to give up booze for the whole of February to raise money for charities that support young people with drug and alcohol problems. For the less altruistic, febfast also promotes the benefits of giving up the plonk for 28 days – promising abstainers thinner waistlines and fatter wallets.
Now I don’t mind a bit of abstinence. Last year I challenged myself to 365 days without buying a single CD or DVD. Under my own rules (the best kind to bend and/or break) I was still allowed to buy vinyl records, and to download my monthly e-music subscription (3 albums). However, all casual buying was out.
This was more of a big deal than it sounds in this meh-so-what-who-buys-CDs-anymore-anyway-you-old-man era we live in. For one, I don’t really download music and for two, buying CDs is a form of minor therapy. Even a browse in a record shop at lunchtime can calm my jangling nerves so going a whole year was interesting. I managed it though and felt quite good at the end. I have a nice little pile of LPs to my name and hadn’t added anymore little plastic CD boxes to the piles in our spare room. I didn’t raise any money for charity, but then again I didn’t try and make people feel guilty or spoil anyone’s birthday.
I don’t know who is behind febfast but I bet their birthday isn’t in February. You can imagine the meeting that led to this: a few do-gooders with hangovers around a big boardroom table. ‘What about Opt Out October?’ ‘No’, says Alastair, coughing gently, ‘definitely not October.’ ‘Parched in March…?’ says Phoebe, hopefully. ‘Oh no, March isn’t good for me’ says Jacinta, without saying why. ‘Nothing in November? Spitting Feathers Septembers?’ says Rupert, declining to mention his upcoming tour of the Loire valley in June etc... until they all stumble with glee upon the alliteration opportunities of Feb and Fast and the realisation that no-one they knew was an Aquarius/Pisces rising.
The thing is, it’s not even a fast… not boozing is not the same as fasting. If you take away the roasted peanuts, crisps and pork scratchings then you’re getting closer but a fast? Not really. Try getting away with that on Yom Kippur if you’re Jewish. ‘Well yes Rabbi, I suppose I am eating an enormous tasty pie, but at least I'm not washing it down with a carafe of vino tinto.’
Apart from trying to spoil my birthday, it’s also a bit mean to hold febfast in the Australian summer; especially for those of us at the southern end. Seriously, the weather is insane here. The average temperature in Melbourne in February is 26 degrees. That’s only because we have night time, otherwise you could probably add another 10 degrees. Trying to stop people drinking booze in February is actually tantamount to a human rights violation - especially because the weather is crap for the rest of the year.
I understand the need to promote healthy living and appreciate that plenty of folks are susceptible to the lure of fitter, leaner, healthier bods after the excesses of Christmas. This is fine in the northern hemisphere where January and February are shit anyway, but not here. February is when those long lazy summer evenings feel like they will never end. Being shitfaced, or at least a bit merry is a big part of that. Imagine telling Europeans and North Americans not to drink in August. No, I didn't think so.
So, people-who-invented febfast, where does that leave you and me? Well, since your reasons for this are good ones it's difficult for me to tell people to desist from desisting. I don't want to do a Bill Drummond (who, along with KLF partner Jimmy Cauty made a perfect cube out of 6,250 cans of Tennents Super, put it on the back of a truck and then drove around on Christmas Day 1997 handing them out to homeless people. For their troubles they were given a bollocking by a refuge worker for sabotaging the one day of the year when people can't get alcohol, perhaps get sober and maybe decide to go home. But it was still art.)
That said you really should have asked me first before booking this during my birthday month, so I'm still grumpy with you. The thing is, I don't actually drink that much but since you started it, I'd like to propose feb-fest, an alternative where people drink every single day in February, keeping little online tallies of their binge drinking. Get people to sponsor you the same way - using the handily prepared sponsorship forms available at febfast.org.au - and give all the money you raise to them too. Skinny people - put on weight, shy people - have more sex, drunks - enjoy more company and people who will listen to your stories. Everyone's a winner with feb fest. Especially the Birthday Boy... arriba!