When you’re twenty nine years old you find yourself standing on the edge of a cliff. Likely, as you look down a high flying seagull will drop a white bomb of good luck on your bonce. At the bottom of the cliff lies the abyss of responsibility. Friday night at thirty means being in bed by midnight, it means proper hydration and setting aside adequate time for recovery. The wild years are drawing to a close; I fear they’ll be forgotten and forever lost.
The prospect of a double header seemed daunting this weekend. When I was a young binge drinking whipper snapper I could down gallons of beer, endure the torture of shot after shot and still have stomach for a late night meat feast pizza at the Olive Tree. These days I line my stomach with a carb packed evening meal prior to a night on the town and hope it all stays down. I tend to find mashed potato acts as the best gut plug.
Friday night I felt reticent. I began the night at Revolucion De Cuba, a hive for sophisticated young housewives on a softcore Girl’s Night Out and carefree office workers living for the weekend. You can spy the accountants in their casual Friday salmon pink shirts. I’ve never been sure what to wear at Cuba’s (as it’s known to the locals), I was wearing this weird t-shirt made out of Aztec patterned jumper material that I got on sale from Topman and a pair of generic dark jeans alongside my trademark Adidas samba classics, a poster man look for smart casual. I met up with my mate ‘A’ who was drinking with his office team. Immediately I locked eyes with a pretty red head sat on his table. I made sure to hold a meaningful conversation with her before I had drank too much and started spouting bollocks. If luck be a lady then she’d likely be the one to slap my face when I get too forward and suggest we go back to my place and play a few rounds of Mahjong.
As I get older I’ve become quite the silver tongued fox; a man who is reasonably adept at breaking the ice and making a connection with the opposite sex, but if I’m honest then I’m not that great at sealing the deal. I can at least take some solace that the early twenties seemingly infinite dry spell of second guessing and painful shyness has gone. I think as you get older you begin to care less. Failure isn’t quite the same skull crushing disappointment it once was.
Me and the office workers moved across the street to Vodka Revolution. Going somehow from Cuba to Russia, and wondering how the head honcho of a bar chain dreamed up two communist power houses as inspiration for a capitalist cash cow. My drink count at that point was three rum and cokes. A band called Loki had its kit set up in the corner of the bar. I made some Avengers-inspired wisecracks.
To give you a good idea of the area of Norwich we were situation in. Bank Plain might be considered as a corridor of approachable trendy-ish bars, leading on to the actual stretch of trendy bar cum restaurants that occupy Tombland, sitting in the shadow of the Cathedral. There is a cash machine midway down this corridor of uncertainty where several beggars sit opportunistically sit. It always feels uncomfortable withdrawing money from the cash machine when a homeless person, wrapped snug in a tatty sleeping bag, is sitting underneath you. “Got any spare change?” they mutter. No, but I’m going to blow fifty quid tonight and will have a head full of regrets the morning after.
It was around half eight when we reached our main destination for the night – The Playhouse. A boho bar found within the clutter of buildings that make up Norwich’s art school. We were there for a birthday gathering. Our mate ‘C’ was celebrating his… actually I’m not sure how old he is, the wrong side of thirty I guess, but he’s the kind of chap who appears ageless. Over the course of the night I got chatting to two interchangeable ditzy blondes who worked with ‘C’, former work colleagues, a monosyllabic group of punks, and a bright eyed IT expert with jazz on the brain.
After a multitude of drinks, which included another half dozen rum and cokes and a bottle of a Chinese beer I’d never had before called Tsingtao we made the brave march across to an after party of sorts at the house ‘C’ and his girlfriend shared. To get to this destination we had to brave the human zoo that is Prince of Wales Road’, a coral of strip clubs, trashy bars and some real insipid nightclubs, the kind of grotty alley where young men fight in the early hours.
I didn’t stay long at the after party, had one beer, might’ve been a Grolsch, I think. I can’t exactly recall for certain. I just sipped at it for a while before deciding to retire home. My mouth was dry, so I popped into a takeaway place opposite the train station. I lined my belly with a tray of chips and made the long walk back home; again I had to navigate my way through Prince of Wales Road. Scantily clad women wore scowls and burly muscle heads hulked at each other. A few tanned hands made a grab for my chips, batting them away I followed the streetlights and staggered homeward. I made it in bed just before four AM.
Saturday began in cramps and soreness. I unrolled my eyelids and waited to the world to collapse around me. An afternoon pre-season friendly at Carrow Road meandered by before the booze baton was picked up by a few warm-up ciders a mate’s house. Pro Evolution Soccer on the Playstation was played; I haven’t owned a games console for nearly a decade, so it surprised me (once I got told what button did what) how competitive I was. I didn’t roll over and die; I packed the midfield and hit em’ on the counter.
Again the main venue for the party was The Playhouse, after a gutful of rum and cokes on Friday I decided to stick to Aspall Cider. The night was far weirder and the colours were brighter. I found myself enchanted by a panda eyed PhD student, who claimed to be a feminist. I garbled cack questions which she answered. If in doubt get them talking about themselves.
We moved to other venues, usual boxes to tick on a crawl – the Rumsey Wells and Delaneys, before the group splintered. There was a disagreement of sorts, but I was too merry to get involved in the rough housing and dirty banter. I grabbed one of the participants who was close to fisticuffs and dragged him into Bar Tapas on Exchange Street. I purchased a pair of Desperado’s and reality hit. We stared at or bottles in silence as Spanish students danced provocatively. I could not feel the rhythm.
There were bad signs on Sunday, that invisible kidney punch that causes a grimace. Now given I’m a social drinker, but a man who possesses no self-control during a boozy night out because I’m a product of the binge drinking generation (spellbound aged fifteen by watching the alcohol fuelled hedonism on Sky One’s ‘Ibiza Uncovered’), my resolve to remain standing and absorb the toxins will inevitably lead to problems in the long term. Perhaps mainly because the psychological edge of youth that carries your temple through the carnage is lost when you step over the barrier into thirty. I’m on the wrong side of my prime.