I’m having a nice lie-down for myself on a row of three hard blue chairs in the departure “lounge” of Stansted Airport. It’s been a tiring weekend.
On Friday, between college, work, warnings of discipline, sorting out the fact that I’d accidentally been paid for 62 hours of work I didn’t do, packing and printing out boarding cards, I barely had time to think. It was a relief to get on a plane.
I was on my way to the Hen. The Hen had been organised by the Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour, a wonderful and wonderfully highly-strung human being, who (although she loves me deep down) has a very low Connor-tolerance-threshold. The Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour had sent many detailed emails in the run-up to the big day. I had read them all, and promptly forgotten all that she had written.
I was feeling guilty about a number of things. I hadn’t checked what time dinner was on the Friday before booking my flight, and so was arriving too late for it. The Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour had held in her rage about this transgression. However, getting on the plane on Friday, I knew I had disobeyed two direct orders. The Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour had told me to buy an Oyster Card (the transport tickety thing for London) online. I had not. She had also told me that a couple, friends of the hen, would be on the same flight as me. I was to contact them, and we would travel together. They were to be my chaperones. I am, and I market myself to be, incompetent at finding my way around, so a chaperone would probably be a good idea. Anyway, I didn’t contact the couple. I knew I’d be in an awful lot of trouble.
I arrived at the pub in London about 3 hours after my flight had landed: about an hour after my coulda-been-chaperones. The Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour welcomed me resignedly.
It was 10:00. The drinking had been going on for three hours. In some cases, longer. People greeted me happily, slurring their words and lunging in for hugs.
I set to catching up. The pub had 8.5% beer on tap. I had four or five of them. I had already sobbed emotionally once by the time we left this pub. In the next pub, someone bought me a mojito. I bought myself a rum and pineapple juice. There was more beer on the way home. Once home, I laid into the wine. I was seen drinking white wine directly from the bottle. I have no memory of this. I do remember pouring red and white wine into the same glass, making a mixture, which I quickly downed.
I fell asleep, snoring thunderously. Five hours later, my roommate woke me, telling me that she was giving me a ten-minute warning before I was to be in the shower.
Nothing made sense. Nothing felt good. A world, which had previously been filmed in glorious technicolour was now an uneven sepia. My brain felt tender, like there was an open sore across its surface. Noise, light, movement and thought were all occasions of horror. I didn’t like keeping my eyes open, as they were portals of pain. All hope, all good, all reason, all justice, all cuddles, all joy had been sucked from the world. I was hungover.
We went to a café, where we queued for 20 minutes and were scoffed at for having the temerity to ask for tea. We had the most beautiful sausage butties in a market. Our bodies cried out for Coca Colas and a nice sit-down in a park. But this was trendy London. We had apple and beetroot juice and sat down in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral.
There were no actual seats in the grounds of the cathedral. My body couldn’t face the idea of crouching like my friends did. I stood. But then my hangover took over. I lowered myself onto the ground and then, blissfully, lay down. I didn’t care that the flagstones were probably covered in the poo of a thousand pigeons and the urine of fourteen hundred homeless men. I needed to lie down.
I had been lying down for about 10 minutes when the hen herself, with family and more friends, happened upon us. They all looked clean, beautiful and painfree. The friends I’d arrived at the cathedral with sprang up, looking sprightly. I basked on the ground, like a hungover whale, beached in a carpark. The hen’s brother-in-law playfully put his foot on my head, as if to declare victory after a deathmatch. It seemed like an OK way to go at the time.
Eventually, I hauled my mass upright. I was ordered to stay with the hen while the Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour went to ready the next venue. Thankfully, the hen’s group were moving at a slower pace than the previous group of friends. So slow in fact that we were late to the next venue. I enjoyed this, because the hen appeared to be just as scared of the Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour as I was, and took no consolation from the fact that, as hen, the party couldn’t start without her.
The activity for the afternoon was swing dancing. I was looking so pallid and doom-laden at the start that one friend suggested I sit it out, but I realised that this might be my one chance to shine.
It was wonderful. Two jolly little dancers taught us very well and by the end of the hour, I’d danced with everyone in the room. My claim to fame for the weekend was that I named one of their moves. The boy dancer demonstrated a move where you spring up to grab the air in random places while twirling around. I exclaimed, “just like catching fairies!” The crowd laughed, the name stuck and I think the next swing dancing lesson these guys give, they’ll call it “catching fairies” again. A part of me will live on in London forever.
The swing dancing was fun and energetic. And I sweated buckets. Gallons of sweat oozed out of me. And with it went much of the mojito, wine and craft beer from Friday night. I still felt tired. My eyes were still portals of pure pain. But I was alive again. There was good in the world after all!
The next hour saw me at my best for all of Saturday. I was witty, chatty and urbane. Or at least I think I was.
We made our way back to the flat, showered and changed. For my 2 nights in London, I had brought three shirts, two t-shirts, four pairs of socks and four pairs of underpants. Unfortunately, I only had one pair of trousers. They smelled of last night’s beer, of sweaty dancing and of beer-sweat. I imagine whatever I lay down on in the grounds of the cathedral probably added its own musk to the mix. Still, now, there is a smell rising from my trousers.
Anyway, we had the nicest, heartiest dinner I’ve had in ages. Plate after plate was served and devoured. The bill came to £1000. One. Thousand. Pounds. Imagine.
(To be read in an incredulous Cork accent): Connor went to London for the weekend and had a thousand pound dinner!
If the night had a theme, that theme was “vintage”. Vintage clubbing had been a possibility mentioned in one of the earliest emails that issued from the Office of the Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour. It had morphed into a 10-pin-bowling-pub-club by the final email. But this didn’t deter the hen’s former schoolmates, who all came to dinner, dressed in vintage gear, with white gloves, fascinators and fancy hairdos. They all sat at one end of the table, looking like the wives of the Mad Men. At the other end, the rest of us sat in shirts and jeans, a steam of funk rising from my trousers, looking more like the cast of Fair City.
Throughout dinner, although it didn’t stop me eating, my hangover came back. I faded in and out of consciousness, picking up on conversations halfway through and pretending to understand what was going on. This only got worse when we got to the 10-pin-bowling-pub-club.
I stayed for a while but was just too tired. I decided to go for a walk and wake myself up a bit. I did. And I found a nice hotel, sat in the lounge and had a lovely cup of tea. This proved to be the tonic I needed.
I returned to the pub, apparently looking calm and happy. People asked me where I’d been. When I said I’d gone for tea, no one believed me. There were two theories. Some decided I’d disappeared to have a sexual encounter with a stranger. Others thought I’d gone to buy drugs. Obviously, none of them believe in the restorative powers of a cuppa and a walk.
We started bowling. The Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour asked me to be on her team. An opportunity to rehabilitate myself! I jumped at the chance.
I didn’t rehabilitate anything.
We didn’t lose. We came second last. But if you look at individual scores, I came a very, very clear last. Ball after ball tumbled along the gutter and zero after zero registered. And given that I’d avoided all alcohol since my restorative cuppa, I was the soberest person there. I lost at drunk bowling, while sober.
In spite of having had the worst hangover in the history of modern Europe, and in spite of my malodorous trousers, and in spite of disappointing the Co-Chief-Bridesmatron-of-Honour on more than one occasion, it was a wonderful weekend.
I can’t wait for the wedding.