Lent is up and running.
Giving things up is an old tradition. My mother always urged me to give up sweets but I never did. I gave up sponge cake instead.
I never liked sponge cake.
I remember my father telling us a story on his return from a game of golf in Foxrock on the first Saturday of Lent, many years ago.
A fellow golfer had lit a cigarette on the first tee.
Nothing wrong with that.
Only the same man had announced three days earlier on Ash Wednesday, with great ceremony, that he was giving up cigarettes for Lent.
My father said that, as he lit the cigarette, he reminded him of his promise made only a few days previously.
He was ready with an answer.
“Tom,” he said. “The thing is, that when I give up cigarettes for Lent I don’t give them up for as long as I do when I give them up for good.”
Another Lenten effort which went a little astray involved a former colleague who I won’t name although I doubt he’d be embarrassed.
I asked him, one Ash Wednesday, if he was going for a pint.
No, he said. He was off it for Lent and added that he was surprised I wasn’t off it too.
So I went with a few others and had a couple of pints.
I came into the office the next day, the day after Ash Wednesday, and even from a distance, I could tell that my “abstemious” colleague, was looking a bit dodgy,
As I got closer, I could see that his eyes were bloodshot.
I walked closer still and I could smell the stale booze off him.
I said hello.
And when he said hello back, the whiff of stale Guinness was almost overwhelming.
“I thought you were off it for Lent?” I said.
He stood up and put his face close to mine.
And with real anger, he spat out the words:
“At least I f**kin’ tried!!” he said.
And I suppose he did.