He’s a businessman, a councillor – and now a News Shopper columnist. Welcome to Peter Fortune’s Occasional Column of Ramblings (Disclaimer - All ramblings are ill-thought through, likely to change and have tongue firmly placed in the buccal pouch).

I’ve done it! Thirty-one days of alcohol-free moral supremacy later, the first of February loomed into focus and with it, the freedom to gulp down foamy pints, pretend I know what I am talking about with wine and promulgate the fallacy that whiskey is medicinal.

But you know what? I’m having doubts.

Going ‘dry’ focusses the mind on the extent to which our social infrastructure revolves around a ‘wee tipple’.

Go for dinner? We’ll have a couple in the pub first. Meetings all day? We’ll have a drink after work to wind down. Watch Crystal Palace get hammered? Need booze. Catch-up with old friends, celebrate a birth, leaving a job, starting a job, having a job… everything seems to have alcohol attached to it.

Unlike smoking (a discipline I used to have a black belt in before my kids came along) there is no social exclusion attached to alcohol. I sometimes marvel at the commitment of the modern smoker as they gather, cold, wet and ostracised, under whatever cover they can find. Their home is the ‘designated smokers' spot’, pitched far away far from the ‘Normals’, with its mountains of discarded fag-butts forming smouldering nicotine micro-volcanoes around an over-stuffed cylindrical ciggy-bin. You know those bins which are never quite not alight.

To be a smoker these days (we’ll talk about vaping another time) is just a little…odd. But alcohol! To be alcohol-free results in raised eyebrows in polite society. The feeling is that you are not joining in. You are somehow judging those around you or, put harshly, you’re just boring.

But January, oh blessed and dry January, provides the perfect cover, for you and your friends.

I tried not to avoid my favourite watering hole during this alcoholic desert. Keen to prove I visit the establishment for the cheery banter and Cheers-like ‘everybody-knows-your-name-edness’ of the place, I proudly strode towards the bar on January 4 - as if nothing had changed.

The friendly barman had already put a pint glass to the Fosters tap when, raising my hand, I proudly declared: "Not for me Joey – I’m on dry January."

"What?" came the frankly disgusted reply.

"Just a coke for me please," I replied with faux-confidence. "I’m on dry January."

"Get out."

For a second I wasn’t sure if he meant it, in fact I am still not sure if he meant it, but I stood my ground and demanded his finest pint of coke.

"Pespi OK?"

"Yes, I don’t care."

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The pint of Coke/Pepsi arrived containing two large glaciers of ice, a pink and yellow straw, perky umbrella and general all-round mockery.

Unperturbed I stripped the glass of its accoutrements and set about the post-mix.

It was refreshing, tasty and lasted a great deal longer than my first pint usually does.

But here was one of the first challenges, no longer was I marking time with my fellow drinkers. The metronome of alcoholic consumption was out of kilter and the universe off its axis. The rest of the crowd are ready for drink number two and yet I’m only a few sips into number one.

The order goes in, "one Bud, one Carling…Dave, Dave.. you having one?" Dave has just walked in. "Another Bud for Dave, Sav Blanc, Kiwi one for the missus and," here it comes, "Pete, you having a proper drink?"

News Shopper:

I have never quite worked out why I become ‘Pete’ in pubs. I may discuss this with you at another time. Anyway.

"No, I’m fine with my Coke/Pepsi thanks."

"What’s that about?" asks Dave, who's incredulous that the order of things has been shaken and was not privy to the pre-amble.

"Dry January" goes the chorus. Roughly 10 people in unison declaring the state of affairs.

"What are you doing that for?" asks Dave.

Everybody has a friend who, while perhaps not somebody you would have on your quiz team, always manages to get to the nub of the thing. I guess the lack of any pretence results in permanent unvarnished truth and clarity.

"What are you doing that for?" was of course the right question to ask and a difficult one to answer.

Why was I doing it?

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I am not a person that follows fad or fashion. Anybody that has seen me dressed will know that.

Losing a bit of weight could be a reason. Anybody who has seen me undressed will know that. But was that the reason?

I think the reason was that I wanted to see if I could. Alcohol has become such an integral part of my work and social life that I wanted to see if I could walk away and maintain the discipline, workload and friendships that I treasure so much.

Was alcohol the glue that held these things together or could I function perfectly well on sugary drinks and cocoa?

Dry January has provided the cover with which to experiment. The casual mention of the event allows people some understanding of what you are doing. But, as February loomed, people were becoming increasingly excited for me. Volunteers were coming forward to help drag me off the wagon at coming of the midnight hour.

What if I want to keep going?

The booze section of my mind (temporarily closed for refurbishment) has already provided a list of reasons not to go dry in February:

• Wife’s Birthday

• Work Party

• Celebration of the Assentation of Queen Elizabeth II

March is no easier with Quinquagesima Sunday on the 3rd and preparations for Easter.

The rest of my mind has, however, had a reawakening, a revival, a blinding flash on the road to Damascus. There is no doubt I am sleeping better, losing weight, more productive, saving cash and, generally, happier.

With the evidence so weighted in one direction one has to wonder why you would even think of rolling out the barrel. Why on earth would any sensible person pour litres of poison down their gullet when the benefits of sobriety are so very clear?

"What’s wrong with you?" I can hear Dave asking.

I guess what is wrong is that not drinking in Dry January allows you to still be ‘normal’. It’s a blip. It’ll soon be over and everything back to normal.

Not drinking for the rest of the year means you’ve given up – with all the extra social pressure that brings. It’s a decision, a statement perhaps even a judgement on others?

Perhaps it is just easier to abstain when thousands are doing it with you.

Dry February anyone?