I’m not sure how it happened but I - a respectable middle-aged man, whose idea of a wild time is having an extra heaped spoonful of cocoa powder in my nightly hot chocolate - found myself in a nightclub at 3.45am over the weekend.
How did this predicament come about, I hear you yelp? Well, the answer is that I was on a university reunion.
It is, apparently, 20 years since I graduated. I’d have happily let this pass without any frivolity or fuss but unfortunately my former class-mates are less miserable than me and decided to arrange a get-together.
It was held in Preston, were we went to uni. (I had, I should point out, options to study at Oxford and Cambridge too – in fact the vice-chancellor of the former begged me to come – but I opted for Preston on the basis it had a reliable bus service and an excellent Argos).
Initially the reunion was quite pleasant. It was nice to see people I’d not set eyes on in two decades and hugely satisfying to note that at least 75 per cent of them were bald. Some of the men were too.
The smalltalk was tricky though. I mean it’s quite hard to sum up 20 years of your life in one exchange and you don’t know what people have been through.
For instance, I asked one girl - Jenny; dark hair, unsightly wart below her right eye, walked with a heavy limp - how things were and she sighed heavily and replied: “Not so good. I had two children, lost one, my husband left me, I re-married, then we divorced, I’ve been made redundant and last week my mum died.”
‘Oh, that’s a shame’, I replied. ‘Weather’s picking up though isn’t it?’
We met at 1pm. I’d hoped we’d begin by ordering coffee and having a bite to eat, perhaps followed by scones and cream, while talking about intellectual matters such as politics, the environment, and whether Bury FC might avoid relegation.
Instead one chap (who I suspect has done quite well for himself in the years since uni because he drove a sports car, casually mentioned having a swimming pool in his house, and was generally a bit of an obnoxious git) ordered three bottles of champagne, followed by pints of beer all round, while everyone chanted, ‘down in one’. Never one able to withstand peer pressure, I felt compelled to join in.
This pattern continued throughout the day and so it was that I found myself slightly unsteady on my feet in the early hours of the morning in a nightclub.
It was – and I’m taking a positive view here – horrific.
There was ear-splittingly loud thumping music, flashing strobe lights, and lots of very young people either dancing, kissing or fighting – sometimes doing all three at the same time.
Everyone else in our party headed for the dancefloor but dancing is, like knitting or breast-feeding, a skill I’ve never possessed.
I stood sort of tapping my foot and nodding my head, swaying slightly, and occasionally jabbing out my left arm. I thought I looked quite cool, until a member of staff walked over and asked if I was having a cardiac arrest.
The most amusing moment came when I was – and bear in mind I’m 41, married, with greying hair and bigger bags than Sainsbury’s – propositioned by a girl who looked like she was taking her GCSEs.
She was wearing a top that made only the vaguest of attempts to cover her bra and a skirt so short she needn’t have bothered.
She leaned towards me, close enough for me to detect she’d had a substantial amount of garlic for tea, and asked, romantically, “Do you wanna snog?”
‘I beg your pardon?’ I said, part shocked, part convinced I’d misheard her through the relentless screeching music.
“Me and you. Do you wanna snog?” she repeated, giving me a wink that she presumably thought seductive but to me looked like she had a slight nervous tick.
I panicked. A curt no would have been rude - it would suggest I didn’t find her attractive - so I needed a viable excuse.
“Erm, I would do,” I said, “but I’ve got a serious gum complaint and the doctors say it’s very contagious.”
She gave me a funny look, walked on to the next bloke, and within seconds was sticking her tongue down his throat.
Finally, after several hours of listening to terrible music and watching teenage boys punch each other in the face (I witnessed five different people actually topple to the floor because they were so drunk … four of them were on our reunion), we staggered out and called it a night.
I got to bed at 5.45am and woke three hours later with a head throbbing so much that for a moment I was convinced there was someone playing drums at the foot of the bed.
Next time a reunion is suggested, I’ll make sure I’m out of the country
You’re a worthy winner Pat!
It’s Christmas and I for one would like to doff my cap (I’ve put one on specially for the moment) to Patricia Aldridge.
The 55-year-old from Slough won £1m on the lottery earlier in the month but unlike those other instant millionaires who quit their jobs, buy helicopters, and go on luxury holidays abroad, Mrs Aldridge has announced she’s keeping her job as a care assistant at an elderly people’s home and will work her usual 12-hour shift on Christmas Day.
‘I love what I do, so why would I give it up?’ she said.
How wonderful is that?
And we’re obviously cut from the same cloth, for when I was younger - and I’ve not told many people this for fear of attracting money-grabbing, hanger-onners - I once entered a raffle at a local hospital and won £250.
Did I let it change me? No I didn’t. I kept my feet firmly on the floor and continued to live my life as normal, though admittedly - getting slightly carried away - I did briefly go through a phase of buying Andrex toilet paper instead of the supermarket’s own brand.
Mrs Aldridge, I salute you - a very worthy winner.