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Long day


Winding down after work. Sitting on the Lords terrace drinking with colleagues, watching the shadow of the Palace of Westminster creep over the Thames.

5pm: See 4pm.

6pm: Ring a friend I haven’t seen for ages. She’s in the Soho Theatre bar with her housemate, getting ready to go back to theirs for her housemate’s birthday barbecue. Have a final drink and set off to join them.

7pm: Catch up with them in the bar. We have a drink before we set off in a cab for Homerton.

8pm: Arrive at theirs. Sundry other friends I haven’t seen for ages. Bloody marvellous. We have a drink. The barbecue is lit.

9pm: One of my friends who lives at this house, K, shows me a book by a female doctor from the 1960s called Coping With Periods. It contains a list of “common euphemisms” for periods, including “the curse”, “time of the month”, references to “my red aunt” and, unexpectedly, “The Magnificent Marquis is visiting”. She and I toast the Magnificent Marquis with a drink.

10pm: The food from the barbecue is ready. Pretty much all the other food that was meant to accompany it has, unsurprisingly, already been eaten. We wash the sausages down with birthday champagne.

11pm: A few people begin to drift away. A girl who used to live there, H, has gone to crash out in someone’s bed because she’s coming down with a cold. Those of us left in the garden continue to drink.


I’m talking to birthday girl’s boyfriend, N, who has worked in some particularly hostile parts of the world. He’s reminiscing about working for dodgy Russian billionaires in the mid-1990s. We drink to them.

1am(ish): We’re all still sat chatting in the garden by candlelight. We hear a sash window being opened. “Are we making too much noise?” K calls out. “We can go in if you like.” There’s no reply. “Seriously, just say if we’re too noisy,” says K.

Seconds later there’s a massive crash. “Everyone go inside! Call an ambulance! GET INSIDE! GO!” shouts N, reaching for his phone. There’s general confusion, but N keeps yelling the same instructions and people do indeed get inside and call an ambulance. N had been the only one standing at the time, so was the only person to see a man in his underpants sitting down on the ledge of the open window and swinging his legs around so they were dangling over the edge—a little unusual, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily suggest that he’s then going to push himself unsteadily off the ledge so he can drop two storeys and smash through his conservatory roof.

I don’t know much about N’s experiences in the world’s hotspots, but at least one of them has to be far too “interesting”. His wasn’t an instinctive reaction but a learnt one; everyone’s first thought is to go and find out what happened, and if everything’s okay. Of course things weren’t okay; it had sounded like someone had dropped a car out of a plane. He was impressive. He also went into mild shock shortly afterwards, which was only fair.

The ambulance is there five minutes later. The next-door neighbour answers the door in a shock-induced daze. “It was Peter,” he says. “He seems all right.” Peter is his partner and, of course, is not remotely all right. Another ambulance and more paramedics turn up. It turns out that Peter has not been the same since his brother hanged himself last week. The ex-housemate who had gone to bed—and what a way to wake up; “Jesus Christ, I thought it was one of you,” she told us blearily—takes the neighbour a cup of tea, half of which is sugar, and talks him down. Talk normally about anything, everything, basically just push away from the shore and drift aimlessly: holidays you took, parents, schooldays, pets, anything that isn’t what they just saw. She does a fine job.

After the initial impact of all of this, there’s a general realisation that there’s nothing to be gained from sitting around and moping. If we sit and dwell all we’ll do is speculate, the worst possible option. So we retire upstairs to birthday girl’s bedroom, put some music on low and start trying to talk about anything else. After a little while, of course, we don’t have to try, and we’re all chatting mutedly and drinking. The flashing blue lights outside make it feel as if we’re above a back-alley bar.

Eventually the ambulances drive away. The medics have had to saw away some banisters in order to get the stretcher up the stairs. Peter will live to regret. His back will never be the same, although it isn’t broken. The roof of the conservatory broke his fall, and once again the magical muscle-relaxing powers of alcohol meant that he wasn’t injured far worse. His partner doesn’t go with him in the ambulance. “I’ll go in the morning,” he says disgustedly. “As far as I’m concerned they can keep him.”

2.30am: Birthday girl and N say they’re going to try and sleep, so would we all mind getting out of their room. We do exactly that, head downstairs to the sitting room and drink. The ex-housemate goes the hell back to bed.

3am: Because everyone else in the room lives there they’re used to it, so I’m the only one who finds it slightly distracting that while we’re all talking and drinking there’s a cricket chirruping loudly in the corner. It was bought as food for birthday girl’s pet gecko, which lives in a large aquarium by the window overhung by an unforgivingly bright light bulb. The lizard, called Riptor, is unwell and isn’t eating anything. When the cricket was first put into the aquarium, it was terrified, with good reason, and tried to get as far as possible from its natural predator. After a week or so of the slow-moving Riptor showing zero interest the cricket was visibly less worried, even emitting the odd stealthy chirrup. Now, another week later, it’s leaping around merrily, beeping like a trimphone. It has taken to staring Riptor in the face nose to nose, and more than once has been seen sitting on his head. Riptor is due for treatment soon.

4am: Others have flagged and gone to bed. N and birthday girl have given up on attempts at natural sleep, and have gone to spend the night at his, where he has some valium. Eventually it’s just me, K and my friend I had rung that afternoon. (I’m not initialising her because “IT” would look too weird and “I” on its own is just confusing. And as a rule I don’t believe in real names on the internet.) We are all cheerfully talking—an objective observer would be forced to concede—shit. Suddenly K clasps her forehead. “Peter jumped out of a window,” she said. “I’d completely forgotten.” She starts laughing in sheer astonishment. This will happen more than once. We continue to drink.

5am: My other friend has finally gone to bed too. K and I are having what at my work would be called a “wide-ranging debate”. Much of it is now a blur but it certainly involved gorillas and the Qur’an, though not at the same time. The conversation is liberally fuelled by drink.

6am: We are joined in the living room by G, the only male housemate and an old schoolfriend of my friend and K. In a few hours he’ll be moving out after 18 months in the house, so this has been a hell of a last day. He only went to bed around three, but has been woken up by torrid hayfever. He lies on the floor, covers himself with a blanket, tries to chat, fails, nods off and starts to snore. K and I continue to drink.

7am: We have run out of beer. We have some vodka and orange instead. “Put some ice in it for a real breakfast treat,” says K. After a while, though, we realise the vodka is, curiously, harshing our buzz. G wakes up briefly. “Of course there’s more beer,” he says. “I brought some more in last night.” He’s right, and by the time my friend wakes up and rejoins us half an hour later the vodka lull is but a distant memory.

8am: A competitive element has entered the atmosphere. Neither K nor I have any intention of being the first to crumble. Her exact words are, “There’s no way I’m going to let you be more cunted than me”. As a result we agree that we are now formally engaged in a “cunt-off”. Each vaguely accuses each other of cheating, either by not drinking as much as the other or by sneaking out for caffeinated fluids. This will also happen more than once. My other friend is singing along to a song she’s put on: a cheery Scots reel medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs. That bloody cricket’s chirping again.

9am: The ex-housemate goes home. G has gone back to bed. God only knows the nonsense the three of us are talking as K and I continue to drink.

10am: Drink, etc.

11am: G’s father arrives. G is leaving a whole load of stuff in the house, so there isn’t much to take. My friend and K hug him goodbye, come inside and weep. He’s only leaving because of money, and they don’t want him to go. Then they pull themselves together, agreeing that any bad thing short of a death is only worth 10 minutes of that kind of display. I hand K another beer, and my friend decides to join us on the vodka.

12pm: You join us mid-way through a long drunken discussion about my friend’s recent break-up with her boyfriend and why she needs to stop trying to mend other bastards and concentrate on herself for once. We needn’t dwell.

1pm: My friend, who normally has the alcohol tolerance of a six-month-old foetus, is lying prone. K and I finally, with some trepidation, make the move away from the sofa to go the shop. We find that we don’t burst into flames the moment we’re out the door and in the sunlight, which we had vaguely suspected we might. We make it to the offie and back. We celebrate with a drink.

2pm: My friend is feverishly ringing around colleagues trying to get someone to cover her imminent shift at a cinema. She claims to have mentioned having work today to K and me earlier this morning, but we point out that by that stage it was rash to expect us to remember this. She isn’t exactly too drunk to work, but you wouldn’t want your employees turning up in her condition.

2.30pm: She has failed to get cover. We put her in a cab and she races off to do her shift. K and I continue to drink.

3pm: More wide-ranging debate. And drink.

4pm: Someone at the door. It’s Christians! Evangelical, at that. We’re from your local church and we’re doing a survey, and so on. K is nothing if not polite—and drunk—so gives them the time of day. They give us a free DVD called The Final Events of Bible Prophecy, presented by this man:

apparently from the deck of the USS Enterprise. K and I settle down with our drinks to watch. She doesn’t know a lot about the Bible, while I’m a big fan of this kind of eschatological tosh. The video doesn’t disappoint, and K reacts with the amazement, amusement and horror, often all at once, familiar to anyone who comes into contact with this stuff who doesn’t believe. She agrees fervently when I ask if I can keep the DVD.

5pm: K turns to me. “I can’t do this any more,” she slurs. She is a broken woman. We shake hands solemnly, as I have officially won the cunt-off, but I have to admit I’m not far behind her, as I have now been drinking solidly for 24 hours. “What the fuck did we do that for?” I ask, laughing. “I have no idea,” she replies, and staggers off to bed.

I get home over an hour later and sleep straight through for 13 hours.



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2006 09:40 am (UTC)
I was thinking that I hadn't seen you for a while. Now I know why.
Jun. 26th, 2006 11:54 am (UTC)
I haven't been doing this every weekend, if that's what you're thinking.
Jun. 26th, 2006 11:57 am (UTC)
It just seemed a session of such titanic proportion that its effects may have extended both forwards and backwards in time, like some kind of booze-fuelled dimensional cross-rip.

Talking of which, we must meet up for a pint soon.
Jun. 26th, 2006 10:10 am (UTC)
you are like superman when it comes to drinking, I get jealous as every line of this post is later and later into the next day

That cunt(for the christiany dvd) looks like a rapist!
Jun. 26th, 2006 10:18 am (UTC)
> you are like superman when it comes to drinking

I really don't think I can claim that. Inspector Gadget, maybe.
Jun. 26th, 2006 10:21 am (UTC)
> rapist!

He's a very, very creepy man. He's the head of the organisation that put out this DVD, and every time he's describing the hideousness that awaits us with the coming of the Anti-Christ and the subsequent apocalypse (why would the Anti-Christ bother with all that, by the way, hasn't he read the Bible? We already know he loses) he can barely suppress the sickly smile of the Saved. Ugh.
Jun. 26th, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)
Point of DC Universe order:

Superman doesn't drink anywhere near this much!
Jun. 26th, 2006 11:16 am (UTC)
Sir, I salute yadda yadda yadda.
Jun. 26th, 2006 01:08 pm (UTC)
Good lord. Congratulations.
Jun. 26th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)
Well, thank you. Obviously it's neither big nor clever, but it is fun. I didn't do nearly enough of this sort of thing at college, and I appear to be getting it out of my system while I still can.
Jun. 26th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. Word.

And this was in Homerton? I live in Homerton!
Jun. 27th, 2006 06:55 am (UTC)
Once in a while
You kind of have to have a day like that I think. Hats off to you sir. Get some milk thistle x
Jun. 28th, 2006 01:19 pm (UTC)
How on earth did I miss this post? o_O

Love it. I haven't done an endurance drinking contest for far too many years.
Jun. 28th, 2006 06:16 pm (UTC)
hmmm...having run many, many cinemas, I've often been the one dealing with no-shows on Sunday due to staff getting pissed on Sat. Them turning up drunk at least gave me the pleasure of firing their unreliable arses...

...I think I'd have eaten the cricket myself by the end of the day..
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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