Monday, 30 July 2001

Stag Weekend - Saturday night review & return home

Well what a night that was! Absolutely superb fun all the night through.

After we finished dinner we said our goodbyes to Mark and Martin and headed back to Neil's flat to begin getting ready. There was a small problem in this, that being that Neil had forgotten to turn his hot water on and we would all have to try and get ready with only cold water available (Neil thinks he can live without central heating - I differ in my opinion on the matter).

All of our clothes had been hanging up all day, so ironing was kept to a minimum. I can't remember who was ready earliest, but I was ready pretty early and took the opportunity to call Lorraine. She informed me that my neighbours had taken the opportunity to slag me off to her Dad, which I really didn't appreciate. We had a nice enough conversation but I was agitated. I was worried that it was showing, and that it might ruin the night altogether. I don?t know if it was the best thing to do or not, but I kept the problem to myself.

We were nearly all ready. As per usual for the weekend the video camera was running, and as Neil and Nick had noticed Pat would come out of the bathroom unaware of this fact. Needless to say we got a perfect comedy moment from him, as he reiterated that the camera wouldn?t see any more of him that they had already.

Eventually we left, got into the car, and ventured towards Croydon. Neil provided more CDs and contrary to my worst fears we had a superb singalong in the car on the way up the M23. We arrived in Croydon just after 10pm, parking in a residential area and began our walk towards our destination - McCluskeys. The wonderful weather was continuing and we were all able to leave our jackets in the boot of the hire car and walk up in shirt sleeves.

After a pretty long walk (which passed pretty quickly given some amusing conversation) we were at the club. At this point we followed Neil's plan and split into pairs, given his presumption that a group of four guys wouldn?t get in all at once. Nick and Pat went in first, and after a short wait Neil and I joined the queue a few people behind them. We were all in pretty quickly and the night could really begin.

We went up to the bar and I took the decision to buy first. Right at that moment the classic call, "Who let the dogs out?" came booming out and Pat and I were barking at the bar! I got the drinks in, and given that it was a while since I had bought a serious amount of alcohol I was surprised that three pints and a coke left me with thirty pence in change from a tenner! Never mind, I was prepared to "go large" that night and I wasn't going to let cost be an issue.

Before long we were up and dancing, singing along to songs and having a great time. Some of the music was a bit iffy (IMHO you simply cannot dance to anything by Destiny's Child), but it got better as the night progressed. We were back and forth to the bar, and one occasion the results of one of Neil?s walkabouts was revealed when the DJ spoke the words, "Congratulations to Tony on his big night". The guys cheered and for about the umpteenth time that weekend I felt lost for words. I soon regained them though once Neil started moaning about the DJ playing S Club 7 right after the announcement. "I asked for Spiller!" he moaned, although his manner of doing so was difficult to take seriously.

The night moved on, and despite the prolonged absence of Pat (throwing up in the loos - what he called a "January Sale") we were having a great time, especially once we were dancing in an area away from an obnoxious fat bloke who wouldn't give us any space. Neil disappeared when they started playing "Stuck in the Middle With You", but both he and Pat reappeared just in time for a stirring rendition of "Daydream Believer".

Oddly for a group of guys in their mid-20s we were quite into the 60s stuff that they were playing. A 60s medley went down really well, and the guys even joined in with the "Glad All Over" section. Then some familiar tones started...

"Isn't that..."
"No, it can't be..."
"It is!!!"

Before we knew it the famous tones of Tony Hadley were clearly evident - "Gold!" It had been a joke between the four of us that it should be Neil's themesong, and although I can't remember fully how that all started it was here that it would be written in folklore. While the rest of the club danced like it was just another song there we were, four guys huddling together, jumping around and having the best time imaginable. We hadn?t even asked for the song, it really couldn?t have been more perfect.

As it was it was the last decent song played that night. After a couple of really bad slow songs were played we took our leave, walked back to the car (deciding against the kebab shop on the way) and headed home. As the guys had been on soft drinks for about an hour and a half I wondered if they had something planned for the way back. Evidently they didn't, and even if they had I wondered if they could have done anything given that Pat had fallen asleep on the back seat.

We got back and digested what a great night it had been. We eventually got to bed around 4.30am.

The next day I woke up at around 11.30am, slightly tired but not feeling too bad all things considered. Everyone else was up, and again we spent time discussing the night before. However the weekend was winding down, and we all needed to pack prior to leaving Neil's flat. Time seemed to rush by before it was time for Nick and Pat to head to their respective homes, and at the same time I returned the hire car to Gatwick.

Following Gatwick I returned with Neil to his flat, but with time against us he decided on an early return to Stansted. It was a good call, as the traffic on the M25 was manic. I had a good amount of time to kill at Stansted, but it wasn't long enough to be bored. Instead I had the time to get something to eat, get Lorraine some nice perfume (the requested present!).

The flight back seemed to go really slowly. Again I was sad to be returning home, back to the pressure cooker of preparations, two-faced neighbours and work. It had been a fabulous weekend with great weather and better friends. Thank goodness at least I had Lorraine to come back to.

Sunday, 29 July 2001

Stag Weekend - Saturday review

Well late Friday night was fun, but laughing our way around the Crawley branch of Tesco and then staying up and chatting until 3.30am was never going to make an early start to Brighton likely. Neil (my best man) is putting myself, Nick and Pat up in his flat in Haywards Heath, West Sussex. He has gone to a lot of effort and we he also opened up a bottle of champagne to celebrate the weekend last night too.

Upon waking up the first thing I remember seeing was Neil with the video camera, filming me in a state of semi-consciousness on his bedroom floor (he's putting us up, but you've got no chance of getting Neil out of his bed - he put this down to "dirty sheets", the sly git!), which I'm sure will come out well... if it doesn't get burned first! ;)

We ended up leaving Neil's flat at about 11am and arrived (via one of Neil's normal, ridiculously twisty routes) at Rottingdean (just outside Brighton) at about midday. Along the way we had an epic singalong (in my hired Ford Mondeo, which shockingly didn't have a tape player - a bit gutting considering we had made up about nine tapes between us), and launched into a massive chant of "Back down, you're going straight back down" (in regard to the local football club).

The pitch 'n' putt at Rottingdean didn't go to plan. It was scorchingly hot, but stupidly they didn't allow drinks on the course. None of us played well, and worst of all Pat almost hit a motorcyclist when one of his tee shots hooked, went up over the bank and across the road. I honestly couldn't tell you how near he was to hitting the rider - I couldn't look and turned away before anything happened (the rider was wearing an open-faced helmet and the last I saw the ball was travelling right towards his head).

We decided to pack up the golf early (minus one club, which could have been taken by any one of the idiots behind us that day), and headed down to Brighton Marina with Mark and Martin now in tow. Having got some lunch (Tuna Baguette - I was probably going to eat far too much unhealthy food otherwise) we went Ten-Pin Bowling, whereupon the six of us easily surpassed our target of a combined 600. We ended up with a total score of 725, with Nick leading the way with 162.

After a brief flirtation with a pool hall we headed back to Haywards Heath, whereupon we changed into our "See You Jimmy" hats, before quickly abandoning them and heading out for dinner at Zizzi. I couldn't help but laugh when we made an initial drinks order, five Cokes with Neil being the typical exception to the rule with his exclamation, "I'll have a beer!"

The meal was fantastic, and became very bizarre towards the end when first Martin and then Mark tried to stick Amaretto biscuits up their noses. Pat followed by actually managing to get a sugar cube stuck in each nostril. Naturally enough we left the money for the bill and left pretty quickly.

However as nights go, being out at dinner with five of my best friends, who had travelled considerable distances and gone to a lot of effort to give me a good send off. I am lucky to have such good friends.

Saturday, 28 July 2001

Stag Weekend - Friday night review

So my Stag Weekend had begun. It began at 5.30am when I got up to go the airport and catch my flight down to London. Glasgow was grey and wet when I left, whereas the weather at Stansted was hot and sunny. A nice way to start the weekend - my jacket was packed into my large bag and didn't come out again until my return on Sunday evening. Magic!

After a seeing a bit of London and eventually picking my car up at Gatwick we went karting on the Friday night in Crawley, having a superb time. I can now highly recommend karting as a group activity.

It ended up with twelve of us meeting for a one and a half hour race. It was the first time I had ever been karting at such a venue, so along with my team-mates (Nick and Pat) we took the rookie positions as the "Skoda Chasers".

We were racing against "Palace" (made up of the just-met Gavin, Martin and Gary), "The No-Hopers" (made up of legendary Palace fan Alan Russell, my old mate [and sooner to be Formula Ford racer] Dave Goodhand and one of Dave's mates, a guy called Ash) and "Bankrupt Racing" (formed by a guy called Jason, although I didn't get to know any of the team which eventually turned up).

The drivers briefing was delayed because Pat wasn't feeling too well, but eventually we started (without Pat, who turned up mid-way through it). After getting a bit of practice in the race started, and ominously Nick had been left out there with very little practice. It wasn't long before we were being passed over and over by just about everyone.

Nick came in and I replaced him, and after an exhausting stint Pat replaced me. I didn't have any idea just how hard it would be on the arms, or indeed on my quickly drying mouth. Ten minutes in a kart seemed like a long time, especially when you were literally finding your feet as you went along.

Pat came in (causing carnage by not putting his hand up as he did so), and was replaced by Nick. I suggested to Pat that we mix up our order so that we drove against different people. He agreed, and asked if it was okay for him to get his camera. As Nick had only just started driving I okayed it, as Nick wouldn't be in for about eight minutes yet. Small problem, as a few minutes later I saw Nick coasting in with his hand in the air. We were meant to be changing drivers, and our new driver wasn't even in the building! I scurried for my helmet and gloves and ran to the kart, at which point the marshal told me I needed to be ready quicker. However at the pre-race briefing they said it was better for a tired driver to come in rathern than continue, so I fully supported Nick's decision to come in.

Out I went and with the surprise of catching up to someone I hit them in the back when a red light came on. Not a big concern, I apologised and tookt the opportunity to have a breather. However it was a difficult stint, as I started to develop a cramp in my right foot. I was trying to keep the car going quickly, but brushed against the barriers a few times. One time down the back straight I got a "No Bumping" board. I did not realise but it was our second offence (both my fault I believe), putting us one more offence away from a 30-second stop and go penalty. However I felt a lot better when I actually stuck an overtaking move on someone - needless to say that felt great!

I came flagging in, barely able to lift my right arm to indicate that I was doing so. I was told I needed to keep my arm up longer, which almost made me crack up with laughter as it was so difficult to do. Pat took my place as I tottered away from the kart, exhausted and very, very thirsty.

Before long Pat had hit something else, and we were in for our penalty. Again we were at a disadvantage because Pat had missed this part of the briefing and processed to:
1) Park in the wrong place.
2) Leave the kart, making a 30-second penalty a two and half minute one!

In various shifts we came up with a few ideas to help us along the way (we were a long behind in last place), including giving a five-fingered sign that we were half-way through a shift to help us pace ourselves. In my first shift after we started using this method I felt a lot better and felt like I was competing at a better pace. Indeed I was now clocking laps at just over 22 seconds, much better than my early 26 second efforts.

The more we drove the more enjoyed ourselves. We got better and faster, while Nick kept other drivers behind him in determined (but not dirty) fashion, while Pat was slinging the kart around in a far more effective fashion and waving every time we made a signal to him (in a manner becoming an English gentleman - I was cracking up at his every move). Time was winding down, but I got one last shift in. At times I wondered if we had got an extra thirty minutes, but thankfully I achieved my aim of my last shift and got one lap in at 21.85 seconds. Not blindingly quick, but I broke 22 seconds as I had hoped to do.

So one sub 22 second lap, a couple of passes and lots of fun. Oddly as fourth placed finishers we got a bottle of champagne (sorry, cheap fizzy white stuff) first, and I had great fun spraying it around. Naturally I got somewhat doused myself, but thankfully I was wearing an old t-shirt and had planned for that to happen.

A great night, rounded up by meeting Neil in The Snooty Fox pub in Crawley afterwards. The weather was lovely, and it was nice to be able to enjoy a drink outside at 11pm on a Friday night. A great start to what I was sure would be a great weekend.

(Karting link

Monday, 23 July 2001

Tiny things please tiny minds!

Just one of those little things which makes you really happy on a Monday morning. My long-lost work mug turned up - no more chipped cups for me!

Last night was kinda dramatic. I got home from Church and I found Lorraine on the sofa, unresponsive. She wasn't taking in anything I was saying, and typically she didn't have her device which measures her sugar levels with her.

After unsuccessfully attempting to give her Lucozade and chocolate I decided to take her straight down to the hospital. Typically my back felt weak and so getting her into the car was a struggle.

I couldn't get her to sit up, so I just put her in the back, buckled her in and then drove off to the hospital with the driver's seat almost touching the steering wheel. It was far from comfortable but time was of the essence.

Anyway, I got her down to the hospital, where fortunately some porters were able to help me get her out of the car and into the hospital itself. Fortunately they were able to deal with it quite quickly and soon enough Lorraine was right as rain and complaining about the standard of hospital coffee (no change there!).

I still felt guilty for not being there when it all happened. If anything worse had happened to her I don't know what I would have done. I felt guilty enough as it was, I dread to think how bad it could have become.

Finally (for now!) my Stag Weekend is a matter of days away. Oddly it is the first one I've ever been on, and yet it is my own! I'm really looking forward to it but there is a bit of apprehension on my part too. The last Stag Night I heard about ended with the Groom being thrown in an industrial-sized bin, and I don't fancy that much!

Tuesday, 17 July 2001


Uh-oh! My stag weekend is a week on Friday and a cold I thought I had shaken is showing signs of re-appearing. I've been sneezing like you wouldn't believe today, but thankfully it has been a Bank Holiday for those of us who work in Glasgow so I haven't had to work with it.

I have had to do wedding stuff though. That (as always!) is something else altogether!