A boozy goodbye to Britannia

Here I am, on my way to Stansted Airport, that little bit of Ireland in England. 

I smell mildly of stale beer. I smell rather strongly of sweat, both stale and fresh. And I smell very strongly of the chemical-laden liquid soap dispensed in the bathrooms of Cambridge Railway Station. I need a shave, I need a haircut and I’ve worn these jeans for a day too long. My eyes are sunken into my head like some kind of aged poet and my teeth feel terrible from the Lucozade and Coke I’ve been drinking to try and feel normal. 

In short, I am hungover. 

I’ve been drunk on a number of occasions since arriving in Cambridge. The first was in the company of the friend I’m in England working with and a New Zealander who does the same job as us. We had a gloriously nerdy evening during which I lowered pint after pint of Aspall’s English cider. We talked about all the usual stuff, but we (or at least I) spent most of the time getting excited about different ways of laying out tutor feedback forms. 

At the end of the night, I was drunk enough (and clearly over-excited enough by the tutor-feedback-form revolution I was planning to initiate) to make new friends. Three hideously-moustached toffish young men tolerated my alcoholic over-friendliness and directed us to the chip shop, where I made friends with all the actors in the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. I learnt their names. I learnt who was in which play, where, and with whom. I promised to see them ALL. Then I ate a burger, forgot they existed, went home and had a horrendous next three days at work as I recovered oh-so-slowly.  

The following weekend, I was visited by a friend of mine from college who lives in London. Let’s call her Gardenia. We had a wonderful catch-up over Gardenia’s drink of choice: prosecco. Now, bubbles make me happy-drunk (unlike gin, which makes me cry) but I didn’t know that people just went into bars and ordered prosecco. This revelation shook me. Just like when I was 14 and Colin Dowling told us he had the internet at home. “A computer? Making telephone calls to another computer? Don’t be silly!” “Irish people, ordering prosecco by the glass in a pub? Don’t be silly!” But that is apparently how we roll these days. And I like it! Nothing eases the path down memory lane like bubbles. And Gardenia and I swooshed along memory lane with very effective lubrication. 

Yesterday was my day in London. And yesterday I got drunk again. 

In the morning, we walked our legs off looking at various churches and buildings that were closed for the bank holiday. London is massive and brutal and beautiful. And I love it. 

At 5:00, I met another old college friend – Hepsibah – for a drink. She promised to show me some great pubs. We walked our legs off and discovered they were all closed for the bank holiday. 

London, you’re the biggest city in Europe. Get your act together. 

Eventually, we found a ludicrously ornate Victorian pub that was open. It was a bit like your granny’s mantlepiece. Only pub-sized. 

I think of Hepsibah as an able and accomplished drinker. But the practice I’ve been getting in Cambridge is obviously paying off. I outdrank her. Pint after pint went in. And we talked high-brow. We talked low-brow. 

So here I am. On my way back to Ireland. I think I really enjoyed last night, but my beer-sodden brain is unsure. 

I feel I was unfair, blogwise, on England. My four weeks in Strasbourg got a much more detailed write-up than my four weeks in Cambridge, which is an incredible place. I’ll just have to come back and do it better next time. 

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