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Suits and Housewarmings

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Saturday was a busy day which rolled into a drunken night. My best man duties entailed me driving to Epsom with Nick, his brother and dad for suit fittings. Handily, it proved a good opportunity to test out the Lexus. We discovered that rear leg room was an issue (“I can’t feel my legs anymore”, Nick’s dad exclaimed halfway through the journey) and that most of the controls were unnecessarily complicated. And I can certainly vouch for the build quality of the rear bumper, which was tested to destruction by a Ford Fiesta that missed my plethora of brakelights and plowed into the back of me. Epsom is not a place I’d recommend driving round on a Saturday afternoon…
Nick had a set idea of the kind of get-up he’d be wearing at his wedding. A red waistcoat, apparently, was a must – and there was a red and gold theme that had to considered. I never knew weddings were so complicated. After a good hour and a half choosing the waistcoats (eventually settling on one that has to be ordered in, bless him) and half an hour verifying the choices with the wife-to-be, we burst out into the dazzling sunlight of the unseasonally warm weather.
Sadly, I was expecting to be back about an hour earlier to plan for the first party in our new house – it was more of an apology party for not organising a housewarming sooner. Michelle and I had prepared the legendary party bags earlier in the week, and she and Sarah had gone shopping in the early afternoon for food-based essentials. Jac and Shaun had turned up early to watch the Grand National. Jac had managed to win money for the last four years, and he wasn’t going to miss this one. News filtered through while we were suit fitting that his horse had fallen, much to the secret joy of everyone around. When I arrived back at the house the food had been lovingly prepared and they were all playing cricket in the garden. The garden, however, isn’t quite as big as a cricket pitch. Jac and Shaun’s competitive edge saw the softball regularly ending up in both neighbours’ gardens, with one of them eventually offering to leave their garden gate open so we could pop over whenever the ball strayed. “Can we put a fielder in there too?” Nick enquired, pushing the boundaries of neighbourly conduct.
As the sun set, 20 people came through the front door and joined in the revelry. We’d decided on a barbeque, but forgot that fact that I’m useless at them. Nick and Sarah eventually had to take over as the arrival of guests and drinking eventually took its toll on my concentration. Shaun and Michelle found some strings for my guitar and managed to plug away at it through the drunken haze for a good hour or so. The newly-installed Nintendo Wii and Xbox360 were put to full use (an enthusiastic punch from Shunta on Wii Boxing managed to break a ceiling light) and a lot of us managed to stay up until the early hours drinking, laughing and strumming.
The next morning, however, was not so enjoyable…

A bit of Stuff

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“Don’t come too early, cos I’ve got a late night with Renault people. And Hannah.”

Jac’s certainly not wasted time since his release from a long termer a couple of months ago. One woman in particular seems to have become a regular fixture at his new house in Putney, and this latest snippet of information was like a red rag to a bull. Nick and I were due at Jac’s on Saturday morning to visit the Stuff Show in Hammersmith. We hadn’t met Hannah, and decided it was about time we forced Jac’s hand. We turned up on his doorstep at 8.30am, eager as a couple of beavers. It was a freezing morning, and after a couple of rings of the doorbell, I gave him a call.
“Morning Jac. How are you feeling?”
“I see. We’re outside your house.”
“Let us in please.”
“You utter *****.”
It still took him a few minutes to gather his senses and open the door, by which time we were slowly turning to icicles. Turns out he wasn’t too impressed with our early start, his hangover still in full force – and Nick and I instantly made the most of it, laudly stomping round the house and requesting breakfast. We took ourselves for a short tour of his new pad, and as we entered the front room he hurriedly removed items of clothing and underwear from the chairs and floor. “Had a good night?” I asked, catching a glimpse of Hannah round the door. “Hmmmm,” he replied. Nick and I gave ourselves a look of mirth.
A couple of sausage sandwiches later, we’d met Hannah, teased Jac (“she seems nice,” was met with a Jac-based scowl) and hurried him along. After discovering I’d got a parking ticket for NO REASON AT ALL (complaint pending on that one, let me assure you) we arrived at the Stuff Show and took in the gadgetry. It was actually a little disappointing – far less stands than the year before, and the stands that were there were mostly selling MP3 players. We left a few hours later for lunch, discovering that Putney is actually very nice, and that Gourmet Burger Kitchen is an amazing place to go for cracking burgers.
So, a bit of a revelation – I’ve found a bit of London I actually like! Check me out…

Liver Damage

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We don’t have many excuses for a lad’s night out these days. I’m buying a house (more on that in another post, I’m sure), Nick’s getting married, and Jac’s working all the hours god sends him. But last Friday, we managed it – and with it came the realisation that we’re definitely getting on a bit.

We didn’t rush out to the bars and clubs, which is the first indication that something has changed. We “stayed in for a couple”, conscious of our wallets and bank balances. After several bottle of lager and sessions on the XBox 360, we left and headed straight for McDonalds, eager for a piece of cow to line our stomachs with. Jac looked a little out of place amongst the gold hooped earrings and shell suits, so we rapidly left and found the first bar of the night. In fact, it was TGI Fridays, as Nick was eager to try a fun cocktail and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I tried to be cool and had a Mojito – apparently the “in” drink according the to the bible Heat. I’m not too good at being cool – I got bits of crushed mint leaves stuck in my teeth. A good look, I think you’ll agree.

All £4.70 of Mojito went down in a flash. I’d been looking forward to the night for a while, and I was downing drinks like George Best. Next stop was Lloyds Bar, a posher version of Wetherspoons. Well, I say posher – essentially the only difference is music and big screens. The drinks were cheap, and Jac – ever the spendthrift with rounds – immediately sensed his moment had come. After buying the drinks, he positioned himself under the stairs to the upper floor, so he could ogle the female legs and short skirts that went up. “I’m single,” he reminded us.
Then, the biggest decision of the night, and one which I’m sure every drinking person in Guildford was asking – which nightclub to go to? Harpers – which used to be called The Drink until its owner planted his ego on the name – was the safe option. Completely overpriced, but the music in the Voodoo Lounge section was always good. When Nick and I were little – I was 19, he was 26 – we would always go to the other nightclub in town, Cinderellas. Now renamed Time, the club is and was a tiny shoebox, but in those halcyon days we visited several times a week. It became our local club – we knew the doormen, the people inside, and everyone was our age. We haven’t been for years, mainly because it’s a good while away from the main bars. If we went to Time and it was rubbish, that would be it for the night. So, inevitably, we chose the safest router, and headed for Harpers.

It was the worst decision of the night. £10 to get in, and there was no one there. The drinks were £4.70 each. We were floored by our bad luck. But it did give us the option we all secretly wanted – a visit to Time.

We wandered up the hill to the club, and instantly felt a whole lot better. Good music, friendly faces, and plenty of women for Jac to get his teeth into, as it were.

There were several highlights. In the middle of a popular R’n’B song, Jac and Nick dissolved in tears as I loudly asked the DJ if he had Inspector Gadget. He couldn’t have looked less impressed if I’d asked him to shove a hot poker in an unfortunate place. Jac attracted a large young lady, who he managed run away from several times during the night, while Nick reminisced on the good old days and threw a few stylish shapes on the dancefloor.

After I successfully made Jac and Nick stay until 3am, we meandered into the Kebab House, ordering the last kebabs of the night. We even managed have another XBox session before finally giving in at 4.30. It was a good night. We’re not that old yet…

New Year, New Shock

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Happy New Year! Time is cracking on and no mistake. 27 years old, and my close friends and I have all decided a night in with drink, food and games is a better and cheaper alternative than going to a crowded, high-charging pub or nightclub. Actually, the “cheaper” part was a false dawn – Michelle and I invited people round and then proceded to stock up with food and drink until the fridge overflowed. Jac, Debbie, Nick and Sarah popped round, and together we eat, drank, played Buzz and sped our way into 2005. Selfishly, Nick and Sarah stole the show. They announced that they were now officially engaged – a fact I’d almost ruined earlier in the day when I spied them looking furtive in a Guildford jewellers. This is a big moment, Ladies and Gentleman – Nick and I used to trawl Guildford nightly for about a year back in my Sun Microsystem-employed days, and the final marital nail and been planted in that coffin.
(pause for sigh)
So congratulations to both of them, and for goodness sake don’t let any more of you get engaged…

Great Balls of Pain

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“Would the birthday group please stay behind – the rest of you can go off and get changed.”
The words hit my ears like a juggernaut. We – Michelle, Lucy, Simon H, Jac, Shaun, Nick and I – had been fighting it out in the paintball battlefield somewhere in Horsley for the best part of five hours. Earlier in the month, Michelle had had the brainwave while trying to think of a birthday present for me, and knew that I’d loved paintballing when I’d been before. We’d arrived on time that morning – well, nearly. Jac had had “a hell of a night” and managed to arrive still drunk, still with most of the clothes he had on the night before and “unable to remember much before Junction 11 of the M25”. Still, it provided amusement for the rest of the group, if not for any policemen reading this…
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And another year passes by…

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“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of parties, presents, turkey and trimmings.
There was my first office Christmas knees up since I started there, which went amazingly without embarrassment. There was in fact two parties – one traditional Christmas meal and one booze up in Guildford. My manager and I had tried for weeks beforehand to organise the booze up, and despite having to change the date we all managed to turn up and boogie until 3am on Saturday morning. Our chosen venue was the Voodoo Lounge and the cheesy music enabled me to bop until closing time. Limbs flailing and outrageously out of time, I felt it was only fair to apologise for my dancing to the rest of our group the following Monday. No matter though – all agreed it was good fun, and excuses are now being finalised to have another one…
And then there was Mel’s birthday meal at a pub in Fulham. Being so close to Christmas, it was compulsory to have turkey and trimmings, a fact that our stomachs were most pleased about. Jac, however, had promised his girlfriend that he would be round for Chistmas dinner with her that night, and late in the evening, after his second three course meal of the day, I got a text message: “I fell full. And bloated. And about to explode. I don’t think I can manage the eleventh After Eight of the evening…”
Christmas Day was the usual family-based affair, with the largest turkey I’ve ever laid eyes on sitting on the dining table at my grandmothers house. We tucked in, and barely made a dent. My presents were prolific and wonderful, and amongst many other things I am now the proud owner of a tie rack, a cocktail shaker, several DVDs, an XBOX game and a fibre optic light. Playing on my affection for elephants, I’m also now a proud sponsor of a newborn elephant called Tume, with a complementary ticket to go and see the little rascal. A trip to Whipsnade in the near future, I think…
Finally, there was New Year. My usual plan is to leave everything undecided until the last moment, and accept a party offer at the 11th hour. However, this year no-one seemed to have plans. And why, Michelle and I thought on the 30th December, should we go out, spend loads of money on virtually nothing and not remember a thing? As it happens, Jac and Debbie felt the same, so Michelle and I piled round to Jac’s farmhouse, to be presented with a magnificent 3 course meal on a fully laid up dinign table, complete with Winnie The Pooh christmas crackers. It was a grand effort, and 2005 came round with the greatest of ease.
So, there goes another zippedy fast year. I hope you all had a good Christmas!

In The Worst Possible Taste

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Bright yellow trousers? Check.
Outrageous rainbow tanktop? Check.
Outsize afro wig? Check.
Dad’s brown corduroy jacket? Check.
Large kipper tie? Hell yes.
Suitable attired in this spectacular get-up (three layers thick, hence the enormousness of me in the photos), Michelle and I pottered off to Jac, Alex and Tony’s Watford farmhouse last night for what was billed as a Bad Taste barbeque party. The theme was inspired by the September 11th date and the host, never one to shy away from a challenge, managed to outclass us all with the most politically incorrect costume to date. As we arrived, the weather took a hold, and the customary barbeque rain started pattering down on the grass. We grouped in Jac’s room, surveying each other’s attire with amusement.
And so it was that myself (“Badly Dressed Man”), Michelle (“Blood-covered Surgeon”) and Jac’s brother Ben and wife Carole (both wearing t-shirts sporting a photo of a distinctly naked Jac) kicked off a splendid night’s entertainment. Ben took command of the cooking, tossing burgers and rolling sausages with all the experience of a professional griller, while around 25 others set about demolishing the beer and food mountain that had been laid lavishly before us. Highlights include:
– Jac losing his beer at least seven times, only to find that Ben and I had simply moved them all to a secret location throughout the night. The cries of “WHERE’S MY BEER?” every few minutes, followed by frantic searching around the house set me chortling for a wee while, the uncontrollable laughter almost giving me a mild hernia.
– Jac finding his suicidal teddy bear, “Rory”, hanging by a cord from the overhanging light. You have NO idea how much this 25 year old man loves his teddy bear.
– The karaoke machine. For a full 2 hours, we belted out hits from Bon Jovi (Michelle), Meatloaf (Me), Matchbox Twenty (Jac and I), Alice Cooper (Me), and so many more the haze of alcohol has rendered immemorable. I managed to clear the room on a regular basis while Jac, true to form, managed to find a spelling mistake on the karaoke lyrics mid-song.
As the night drew to a close, Jac strummed away on his guitar, giving us his trademark renditions of singalong songs (including “The Only Gay Eskimo” and “Postman Pat”), before we all staggered off to bed, all agreeing that it was a cracking night of frolics.
What’s that you say? What was Jac’s outfit? Well, as Kenny Everett said, it was all in the worst possible taste. He came as… a Russian schoolboy. Complete with bullet wounds.

James Hunter Has Arrived – The Homecoming

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So, Michelle and I trotted off to meet James Hunter last night, and lo and behold I got mushy. Only for 30 seconds, of course – I’m a man, and I’m hard. The whole family were there, and our presents of baby clothes and champagne went down suitably well. James was awake/asleep/crying alternately throughout the night, as proper 1 day old babies should, and pictures were still being taken every minute or so. Everyone wanted a turn holding the little bugger – everyone apart from myself, who has an inherent fear of dropping babies on their heads. “Maybe, if he’s lucky, I’ll give him a fireman’s lift when he’s seven,” I surmised.
Nick and Jac are joining us for a second visit on Friday, before a swift meal at a local restaurant. How jolly grown up we all are nowadays…
P.S. Simon H has posted photos of James here. Some highlights:
Photo 44 – The Missus and I.
Photo 11 – The emotional dad and his less emotional brother Shaun.
Photo 27 – Shaun and Kate – in a pose I imagine Kate will regret.
Photo 36 – “Thank God that’s over…”
Photo 51 – Simon H’s receding hairline makes a cameo appearance.

Michelle’s 24!

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Michelle (and, of course, Becki) was turning twenty-four, and that was a promising excuse for a knees up. What’s more, Jac, Debbie, Nick and Sarah all were booked to turn up, an occurance rarer than a turnip in winter. So off we went to Bar Med on Saturday night for a flask or seven of ale. Before the drink took hold, discussion was held on Shrek 2 (VERY amusing, I recommend a visit), and the lateness of most of the rest of the group. We contented ourselves with a new discovery – plastic shotglasses filled with “intense” flavoured vodka. 3 shots later, and Jac and I were wincing in agony at the vaguely “Tequila and Lime”-flavoured concoction.

The night descended into a haze. We managed to get to The Drink nightclub, where we boogied until 1am, and then our increasing years took their toll, returning us home in the early hours. A splendid night.

Over The Hill

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So, Jac’s 25. To commiserate, we all popped up to his farm in Watford on Saturday night for jolly knees up with him and his housemate Alex, who also happily his just turned the birthday corner. There was a theme, as ever – this one was outrageous ties (not, as his invitationary email clarified, loud men from Thailand). A quick scour round Guildford on Saturday afternoon resulted in two splendidly outsized foam ties for myself and Michelle, which were received with pleasure by the group as we turned up that night. Such excitement, in fact, that the entire group managed to tear their eyes away from the graphic lesbian porn that was playing loudly in the corner of the room.
I should take a moment to counter the impression you may now have of Jac. His farmhouse isn’t a seedy establishment, you understand – you may have visions of men in long anoraks feverishly ogling nubile forms on cheap, discreet televisions, in a dimly-lit room slit with light poking through the slatted blinds. No, Jac has standards. The televisions, for instance, are classy Sony numbers, placed prominently in the room. He has curtains. The videos and the anoraks, though, are just as you imagine.
We all bundled out in a fleet of taxis at 10pm for a trip to an 80’s nightclub in Watford town centre. The weather was dribbly and cold – enough even for me, with my substantial natural “insulation”, to feel a chill. The club, though, was a touch of genius. 80’s music blared out at us from the street; inside, giant rubik’s cubes hung from the ceiling when animated pacmen were chased by monsters round the walls. This was heaven.
We drank, we sang out loud, we spilled drinks and marvelled at the revolving dancefloor (at least, I think there was a revolving dancefloor – it may have just been the drink). Michelle and I even made friends with a ginger man. And then, we managed to get home, wet, windswept and full of late-night Quarter Pounders with cheese.
Happy birthday, Jac and Alex! You’re halfway to 50 – make the most of it…