I wouldn’t exactly say I have led a sheltered life, so it may come as a surprise to learn that the saying, presumably in fairly common usage, “Not on a school night” only pricked my consciousness a few years ago. The saying is often used in the context of having commitments the next day, especially in the morning; commitments such as work, important meetings or deadlines which prevent one from doing something (usually fun and sometimes even downright stupid) on that night.
“Not on a school night” is said to owe its origins to children having to go to bed early because school was the next day, but adults now also use this expression informally to describe the evening before a day when they have to get up to go to work.
Several posts ago I wrote a CAMRA-related article about the problems currently facing Europe's most successful consumer organisation which, despite rising levels of membership, is seeing active participation in the Campaign, falling to an all time low.
My own situation is that after 30+ years of involvement at committee level, with my local branch, I have taken a back seat and am just an "ordinary member", who can pick and choose which meeting or socials I attend, without having to feel guilty about "not doing my bit". I actually stood down two years ago, and whilst I was not as heavily involved as some, it still felt like a great weight having been lifted off my shoulders; liberating, if you like.
It is now, as an ordinary member that I can start to appreciate why attendances at branch socials are at an all time low (certainly within my own branch, that is). Historically, many branches held socials mid-week, during the evening, as this was when pubs were most likely to be at their quietest. This meant members could socialise without getting in the way of the pub’s regular customers, but a by-product was a welcome boost in mid-week trade for the pub.
When I first became actively involved with CAMRA, back in the late 1970’s, attending mid-week evening socials was not a problem. I was 40 years younger and a regular pub-goer. Having two to three pints of an evening was not a problem; sometimes I might stretch it to four and still feel OK the following morning. In addition, my job was not as arduous back then and neither did it carry as many responsibilities, all of which meant I could turn up at the pub in question, enjoy several pints and then be fine for work the following morning.
Times have changed, my body has obviously changed too and I find myself no longer able to consume the amount of beer I did 30-40 years ago. This is not a bad thing, and I’m certain I am healthier, and wealthier for it. I also fairly certain that I’m not the only person whose alcohol consumption has declined over the years; but one thing I’m not at all certain about is whether the thinking and the strategy behind many CAMRA branch socials has changed in keeping with people’s altered drinking patterns.
With this in mind, I am becoming more and more of the opinion “Not on a school night”, especially as I find that drinking more than a couple of pints, leaves me feeling nowhere near as bright and alert as I should be the following morning.
There is another reason though why I am not so keen to venture out on a weekday evening, and it boils down to having my dinner when I get home from work. We normally eat at around 6pm, which is the time our son is normally home from work. It might sound a lame excuse, but by the time we have finished eating, washed up, had a cup of coffee and then relaxed for a while, I don’t particularly feel like going back out again; especially after a busy day at work.
Meetings and socials, organised by my local West Kent CAMRA Branch, have traditionally kicked off at 8pm. This situation came about because the former branch chairman worked in London, so would aim to arrive at the pub straight off the commuter train. Getting something solid inside him beforehand didn’t seem to matter.
I am the complete opposite, as I don’t like drinking on an empty stomach. Perversely, I don’t enjoy my beer as much either if I am too full up; so rushing out to a social, straight after dinner, especially if it is a train ride away, is not my idea of fun. If I have a beer at home, I will normally wait until around 9pm, by which time my body has had time to at least partially digest my meal.
I have been known to turn up to socials at this sort of hour, but I tend to restrict my attendance under these circumstances to purely local locations. It certainly isn’t worth making a train journey that late in the evening, particularly when it’s an early start for work the following morning.
Now if other folk feel and act the same way as me, then it’s likely they too won’t be over keen to turn out on a cold January night, especially if there’s some travelling involved. So is it any wonder that attendances at CAMRA socials have fallen off, particularly if they fall on a weekday, or the location is a rural one.
In these sorts of situation, the saying, “Not on a school night,” seems to make more and more sense.