This weekend I had the honour of being invited to a mates stag do in London. This was especially fun as pretty much most of my long time friends from University were going too, and it’s always a good laugh when we get together.
Planning for the weekend actually started 4 weeks ago, when I bought first class train tickets. A Manchester to London standard cattle class return trip costs £60 these days, but due to advanced booking, I got 2 single first class tickets for a combined price of £70, just a tenner more. Sweet! The down side was that I had to get on a specific train, and the tickets were not valid on any other train, so it makes the journey too the train stations a bit more stressful as you absolutely can’t be late, and of course, having arrived early I couldn’t get on the train that was waiting to leave either, nark! However, the free food and free booze soon soothed my angst.
I travelled down on Friday evening and finally arrived at my friend Dave’s house near Lewisham at about 11pm. Dave and his lodger Al, are very good friends and I always look forward to seeing them. Dave has finally managed to kick out his slightly psycho ex-fiancée, who lingered on in the house like a bad smell for 2 years after they broke up! So instead of being put up on the sofa, I had the spare room to look forward to sleeping in.
Little had I realised, that a condition of my 2 day stay was that I had to partake in some minor DIY first – namely in the form of helping Dave lug the new bed he’d bought up the stairs and put it together! Actually I enjoyed it, though I was slightly drunk already. Not however as drunk as Al, who had already had a skin full of free wine a works do that evening, something to do with a birthday and 20 year anniversary celebration or something. All I could get out of him was the infeasible amount of free wine they kept forcing him to drink! 😉 Either way, he was sleeping when I arrived, but got up shortly after and just one look in his rather crazed eyes, told me all I needed to know about how his evening had gone.
This first evening passed uneventfully, full of chatting, reminiscing and playing Battle Field 2 with Al. I think between them, Dave and Al have some 4 PC’s in the house, all networked and on the internet of course. Al is a BF2 nut and I was amazed that I remembered my password from the last time I played it, over a year ago. I think it was about 3am before I got to sleep.
In keeping with my old man status, I woke up about 8am, which I actually consider a lie in these days! (Take today for example, awake at 05:30. 🙁 ) Dave and Al wouldn’t get up for some hours yet, so I busied myself with some early morning BF2. Ah, just like the good old student days.
Fast forward a few hours and everyone is up, we’ve been to the local greasy spoon down the road for a late breakfast (I hate the word “Brunch!”) which is actually surprisingly easy to Zone: Egg, bacon, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, is if anything, a bit light on the carbs, which is where a slice of bread comes in. More friends have arrived, including Nigel the Stag, and we’re off into London – first stop: 10 pin bowling. Our mate Jim had the shortest distance to travel, as he lives closest to the bowling alley, and typically he was 30 minutes late!
Even now, 15 years later, I find out new things about some of my friends: Dave for example is a completely ambidextrous bowler and can bowl equally well with both hands, using a variety of different styles, even not bothering to stick his fingers in the ball, a grip he uses for a specialised super spinning shot that he does with shocking accuracy. I think Dave’s best score of the day was an impressive 171. (I’m sure he’ll correct me if I got that wrong.) I actually managed 150, which is my 2nd best 10 pin bowling score ever, so I was well chuffed with that. In total about 3 hours ensued of bowling, boozing, pool (at which I was undefeated as per usual 😉 ) and table football, before we left for venue #2: some seedy Belgium restaurant in what appeared to be some under ground concrete bunker!
The food was unmemorable, by virtue of the fact that I can’t remember anything that I ate there, or perhaps by now an afternoons drinking was starting to take effect…. either way, the beer was typical Belgium slop and barely palatable. All I can say is that I’m so lucky to have been born in England, where a decent pint of Ale is the norm, I actually feel sorry for the rest of the world, who for reasons that escape me, still haven’t cottoned on to the majesty that is the great British pint of Bitter! I think I’d have to say that we were all getting fairly well oiled by now, as I *do* remember an impromptu arm wrestling competition that sprang up before we left. I put my recent Crossfit activities down to the fact that I was also undefeated at this too. 😉
Venue #3 was actually back to Dave’s gaff for an evening of poker: Texas Hold ’em style. Not before, a rather interesting exchange on the train. I shall not embarrass them by mentioning names, but one of the group brought up the subject of salary, I’ll call him Friend A. He seemed quite sure that he was paid the most out of any of us, which was funny as many of us knew that that was very unlikely as another of our number has done extremely well for himself. Undeterred by many comments of “I don’t think so” and “you probably don’t want to go there” and “I think you’ll find that Friend B has that honour”, friend A was insistent that he was the best paid of the lot.
It came down to a “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” conversation, which was pretty funny really. Friend B agreed and so Friend A proudly announced that he was paid £68,500 pa (insert smug smiley here). There was a slight pause, and someone, I forget who replied: “I think you’ll find that Friend B earns about twice that, in the region of £150,000” It was then that with true aplomb Friend B cleared his throat and chirped up with: “Errr I think you’ll find it’s closer to £200,000 now!” It was a comedic moment, poor friend A looked crest fallen. “I thought I was doing well?” he said, with the faintest discernible quivering of his lower lip. And indeed he is, £68,500 makes him very well paid in my book, it’s just that Friend B is extremely well paid. You have to laugh though, to initiate a proverbial male pissing contest, on a public train no less, and lose, it was very funny. 🙂
The evening starts to get a little fuzzy about now, I know we went back to Dave’s and played Poker till the early hours. I remember many occasions when I folded when I should have stayed in, and many more when I stayed in when I should have folded. By the end of the evening I was down £14, but up by an evenings fine company. 😉 Poker with the lads really is more about the experience of ragging and baiting your friends, and of course 1 person comes away with bragging rights and about £100 in their pocket.
It was another 3am job before bed time, and Sunday morning was a staid affair, pretty much whilst I nursed my tender head, wondered when I could get back on the Zone diet, and waited till it was time to get my train home. Which brings me nicely to my last grumble: why is it, the train takes 2 hours and 10 minutes to go from Manchester to London on a Friday, but 4 hours to get back on a Sunday!?! 🙁
All in, including train, booze, food and poker losses, the weekend cost me about £200. A small price to pay to spend some quality time renewing and reinforcing friendships with people I’ve known for up to 15 years, and will probably know the rest of my life.