How has January been for you?
Dry? Wet? Middling?
I don't mind January, as it goes. All those faddists giving up booze for the month make it far easier to find a seat by the fire. Admittedly, the benefit to me personally may not be felt by the wider trade.
What I'm not a fan of is Dry January. I've never liked quitters. Mainly though, I don't like the moral posturing of it all. I mean, how hard is it to give up alcohol in January anyway? Try doing it in December when it's more of a challenge.
Actually, don't. Dry December is not something the pub trade needs right now.
Going to the pub in January is fun. It's more relaxed than December when every man and his dog (and office full of vociferous work colleagues) seem to be in the pub for much of the month.
I've been keeping an eye on the sessions I've enjoyed in January and the conclusion to this hugely scientific project is that my life has been enhanced by each and every one.
There was the pub in London where I was early to a meeting with a friend. It was so packed that I struggled to find a space to stand awkwardly on my own with my pint.
Then I saw a guy I knew from my home town and had a quick chat about nothing much.
An hour later I was in another lively pub, chewing the fat with that friend I had been meaning to catch up with for months. Over a couple of pints (OK, four) we reminisced about old times, the way the newspaper industry we worked in together has changed and why he is getting out. The pub is the only place I have those conversations.
I crawled and trawled the pubs of Margate in the name of work and met innovators dedicated to driving this sector forward, but were happy to pause for a chat (see more in February's issue of Inapub).
Another January night in the pub was the setting for organising the next batch of fixtures for a junior football team, and getting to know my fellow coaches that little bit better.
I had a longish, surprisingly sober lunch, with a contact, at a pub I had never been to before. We pushed the boat out and had a dessert.
I watched live football in another.
I talked about books, women, pets and politics with a friend over the best pizza I have had for as long as I can remember.
And I've even found a little boozer where I am happy to go by myself to write and enjoy a little bit of me time. I'll take the bar over a spa every day, thank you very much.
None of those above events are remarkable, nor were they massively big sessions. I drank at some, others I chose not to (because you can choose not to whenever you want and not just when a campaign says you should).
They do, I think, show just how fundamental the pub can be in bringing people together. It may sound a little trite but honestly, I can think of nowhere better to enjoy the things that matter in life: time with the people you care about.
That's why there is no month of the year that will encourage me to do anything that means avoiding the pub.