Dom Joly: In search of some self-restraint

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The Independent Online

It doesn't much feel like Christmas. I'm sitting on my balcony on the slopes of Table Mountain overlooking the beautiful city of Cape Town. It's quite difficult to get the old Yuletide spirit going in 30C. Still, I've had worse problems: back in the day, when, for some curious reason, I was a vegetarian (it's a long story, I was an animal-rights activist until I actually met one of them and then changed my mind), I spent a Christmas with a friend's family. The mother had really put herself out to cook the whole festive shaboodle. Then I turned up, announcing that I was a vegetarian. I remember sitting in the corner of the room glumly munching on a packaged vegetable curry from Waitrose as the rest of the party tucked into turkey and all the trimmings. I didn't last much longer as a vegetarian after that.

I'm not very good at restraint full stop. It's a very rare moment when I deny myself anything that I want. When I was filming a TV show in Syria last year, I agreed to observe Ramadan for one day and not eat or drink from dawn until dusk. It was the kind of thing that directors like, as it makes the "artist" suffer as well as tenuously linking you to the local culture. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't really that much of a sacrifice - but it did make me realise how ridiculously indulgent my normal life is. I now think that the occasional self-denial is actually quite good for the soul. This "revelation" was after just one slightly peckish day in the desert. Imagine if I ever went on I'm a Fading Celebrity Get Me Out of this Career Nosedive. After three weeks or so of grumbling about food with Keith Chegwin and Roland Rat, I'd emerge and enlist as a Taoist monk. I'd end up sharing some hilltop monastery dormitory with Leonard Cohen.

My wife Stacey is a bit more full-on than me. She's just come back from a week on a yoga retreat in Devon where they only consumed fruit juice five times a day. It's supposed to be a "healing" and "cleansing" thing, and I suspect that it involved the dreaded colonics. I haven't delved too deeply as she still seems to be in some shock and I don't really like talking about affairs of the bottom. I did suggest, before she went and wrote the cheque, that I could lock her in the gatehouse and slip fruit juice under the door. I have the Sounds of the Forest CD from some stoned shopping trip way back and could have piped that in as well. It would have been a lot cheaper. She declined. There's no pleasing some people.

I might sound a tad all over the place in this column. It's not because I'm ripped to the tits on drink and drugs in my South African bolthole. It's because I've given up smoking. I mean it. I've properly given up. I never even really admitted that I smoked until now. I wouldn't buy a lighter as this would be an admission that I needed one. To be honest, I rarely bought cigarettes, just bummed them off friends. At least for them, this Christmas will be a much lighter financial affair, as not having to supply me with 40 fags a day starts to make a difference to the family budget. I don't even really miss it. Well, right now I do. Sitting on my terrace overlooking the Cape, a glass of excellent red wine in hand, The Killers on the stereo. Normally I'd have a fag to finish off the whole experience. Not today. I'm a new man. I'm a man of restraint, somebody who doesn't need social crutches. I'm free. I am not a number...

Ooooh, I've just spotted that there's a cigar club down on the waterfront. I wouldn't mind paying that a visit. I could just have a little shufti. Cigars don't count do they? I've given up cigarettes. The occasional Montecristo is surely allowed. It's Christmas after all. It's not like I'm going to start smoking 20 cigars a day, is it? What's the point of life being extended if you can't have your little pleasures? OK, maybe I'll just go visit and not have a cigar. Yes, that's exactly what I'll do. Shouldn't be a problem... Taxi... TAXI!

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