I had a night out last weekend. In St.Helens. I can't see you right now, but I know you're sneering at that. Who goes out drinking any more? At the age of 38? And in St.Helens? Perceived wisdom has it that the only types of people who go out in St.Helens are drunkards, sex pests and their inappropriately dressed victims. No, you're well over that, you desperately mature, upstanding member of the community, you.....
As it happens it was an unquantifiable disaster from start to finish. This was not aided by the regular appearance of my hiatus hernia. I haven't a clue what this actually is, I was just informed of its existence by a specialist in bowel activity some years ago. I can't define it, but when it makes an appearance I know about it instantly. I had started with a few pleasant beers in The Wheatsheaf with Mark, a friend of mine from university days in Barnsley. He is now the sports editor of a barely credible THREE local newspapers in the Derbyshire area and was covering Ilkeston FC's trip to Skelmersdale. No doubt after a few hours in Skem he would have arrived in St.Helens under the impression that he was on some idyllic paradise island. It's all relative.
Before we left we had a bit of food. I knew I was meeting a couple of mates later and if you are going to insist on being so immature and desperately uncool as to socialise at night then you should never do it on an empty stomach. Unfortunately that is where my problems began. I was ok drinking as long as we were inside the pub, but as soon as we decided to move on and the fresh air hit me I began wretching and rolfing like a demented Monty Python character. Having had this for years it is not unusual for it to happen once, usually the first time we leave a pub to find another. The fresh air again. But by the third or fourth time I had to endure this barfing paralysis I was starting to think that maybe something was more seriously amiss. I remember rather tipsily speculating that I might not be long for this world. You can only go on so long puking up odourless bile in the street before you finally meet your end. Probably.
But I managed to soldier on, and we ended up in the Running Horses. For those that don't know the Running Horses is a glorified Whetherspoons which, on a Saturday night, turns into a less than glorious dance venue. We bought a round and trundled off to find a clear space to sit. We came to a halt just outside the disabled toilets. There's possibly something about disabled people, or at least some of those that I know, that makes them feel more comfortable in a public place if they are within sight of the disabled toilet. For some it is not quite enough to know that there are adequate facilities, they have to have it proved to them for every minute of their visit. If they can't see the preposterous man-with-a-stick-up-his-arse disability logo on a door somewhere nearby, they start to get tetchy. Anyway, there was an added feature outside the door, with two young ladies apparently offering free testing for sexually transmitted diseases. What a delicious irony. Offering sexual health care outside the territory of the sexless, the fucking Undateables. Incidentally, as we approached the Running Horses earlier we brushed past the girl who I deleted from my Facebook for her Undateables-related nonsense only that week. She wanted to get across to her friends how wonderful Channel 4's voyeuristic pleb-fest is which is bad enough in itself, but when you start your gushing praise of such a programme with the word 'awww' your time is up. You have to go. She went.
Back to the inside of the Running Horses then, where by now we are somewhat stuck for entertainment. It is so loud in there that conversation is not an option. It's not that I'm not normally a good conversationalist, honest. The lack of chatter here is in stark contrast to my Christmas night out with work. Although we were in a dark, depressing gothic bar playing ranting, noisy non-songs by the likes of Slipknot about killing your dog, we still managed to have a good time of it. Apart from the 20 minute hiatus (I never thought I would get that word into a column twice) in which I had to go scouring the city of Liverpool for a disabled toilet. See how important they are? It's no wonder some folk get obsessed.
So anyway when nobody is talking you just find yourself idly looking around at everyone else being ridiculous. Nobody in St.Helens can dance, that is a fact. Not that this stops them trying. To be fair they are not helped by some very questionable musical accompaniment. If anyone can find anything moving about fucking Robin Thicke or John Newman then they are a better man than me. Actually it is mostly women doing the dancing, with their absurdly short dresses which wouldn't qualify as belts in some countries. Most of them are probably not out of their teens which only serves to make you feel older and more out of place, as if a wheelchair doesn't do that for you in any case. It's not long before we move on, having not had a test for a sexually transmitted disease. The girls probably would have laughed at us if we had asked. Nobody has sex with the disabled. And anyway how were we going to pee into a bottle if we didn't have a penis between us?
As we moved on to another dark, sparsely populated bar one of my two accomplices had to go home before he died of boredom. I lasted for half of another beer before making my apologies and leaving. My other cohort had found female company by then so I wasn't leaving him in the lurch. I was feeling decidedly peaky and questioning the wisdom of this having a social life lark. I was seriously considering Not Going Out. Ever.
But then when you think about it what is the alternative? You people who consider yourself above binge drinking in piss-pot outposts like St.Helens do not have the intellectual high ground. What have you replaced it with? Staying in glued to your big fat diet of Celebrity Shit. I'd sit around slurping silently in the dark on a Budweiser that is going to make me ill for a thousand years before I would subject myself to Celebrity Big Fucking Brother. Lionel Blair has been an embarrassment for many years. I don't need Channel 5 to point it out to me any more than Andy Murray needs to be told that it's a bit warm in Melbourne at the moment. Celebrity Shit is on the rise too, unfortunately. Only this morning I read a distressing article about plans for a Winter Olympic themed snore-fest featuring such z-listers as Richie Neville and Celebrity Celebrity Amy Childs. They're all going to go Ski-jumping with Eddie Edwards. It's vomit-worthy, and makes Splash look like a sophisticated expression of sporting aesthetics, when what it actually is is a chance to see some beautiful people in a swimsuit. That's fucking dishonest too. If you want to look at naked people buy yourself a jazz-mag or watch Babestation. Don't pretend you're interested in what Tom Daley has to say.
So in the end my cure for Not Going Out is probably going to be more angry material like this. It may not be the happiest thing you have ever read, but at least it isn't trying to dance to every single dance tune known to man with the same manouvre, over and over until it dies.