I have been in the habit of giving up alcohol for Lent ... except when abroad (a territory which starts, on the Beard definition, after security at an airport). The trouble is that I am in Washington for the whole of Lent this year -- and my conscience (aka publisher) emailed me the other say to say that he didn't think that this long term transatlantic location let me off.
Well, I dont either. But it is quite difficult to give a series of lectures, with dinners and receptions, and to forswear the grape entirely (come to think of it, it is quite hard to write a series of lectures without the occasional snifter). So what is to be done?
I guess we are celebrating a reduced Lent.
That is to say, the plan is (OK not quite started yet) to keep off the alcohol when home alone with the husband, but to allow alcohol when "out" (on the grounds that it would be rude otherwise).
This means the usual Lenten strategies. Number one, finding non-alcoholic drinks that are actually nice (ginger beer is the traditioanl favourite, but not stocked by the local CVS). Number two, finding wholesome evening activities that do not make you think that you would quite like a glass of Greco di Tufo (vel sim).
Top of that list is the movies -- an activity that I have never associated with drinking, nor even prompts a single thought of said glass of G di T (popcorn and icecream, maybe ... but where would you put the glass of wine at the cinema?).
Anyway, we started this yesterday with a visit to the local movie theatre, which is just a few metres up the street. They were showing a brilliant Spanish movie called (in English) Even the Rain (the pic at the top of this post is a still). This is not on general release in the UK, but if you find it showing DO GO AND SEE IT. It is a brilliantly sharp, and sometimes very funny, film about a group of film-makers making a film about Columbus' cruel exploitation of the New World. But the joke is that this group of "liberals' has come to Bolivia for the shoot, as extras are so cheap there... you get them for $2 a day.
Things, predictably, go wrong. The Bolivian that they have picked for a big role ends up leading the violent protests against the planned privatisation of water ("even the rain") .. and risks unseating the film, when he gets arrested and beated up etc etc.
The interplay between the film and the "film" is wonderful...so good that I want to see it again.
And while we are on movies, I found that I rather enjoyed Kevin Macdonald's new The Eagle: not quite sure what Rosemary Sutcliff would have made of it (it's based on Eagle of the Ninth).. but it is a lot more than the sword and sandals, plus a bit of sublimated gay erotics, that some have characterised it. The story isn't true of course, but it's a good against-the-grain look at the imperialist project.