(This article is meant as follow up to my article 'Decisions in Vegas')
There is nothing scarier for a man in his 40’s then suddenly finding yourself the other side of a long term relationship, apart from finding yourself the other side of a long term relationship where you were rarely let out on your own on an evening. That was me… after 11 years with my ex things had broken down due to me working away, and when I wasn't working away I was invariably working on something in my office. By the end we had human contact cut down to about 30 mins a day. Although oddly enough we still get on fine.
So there I stood feeling like I had been released from a long term prison sentence and ready to face the world on my own, on my own terms. But to be 100% fair there was a reason why my ex didn’t encourage me to venture out for a drinkies on my own, because I have an irresponsible streak a mile wide. Me plus beers on my own a lot of times ends up in crazy places and lets face it, you’re not allowed to be in a crazy place when you have two young children. I always have been and probably always will be an irresponsible bastard. This is why a woman with a strong character and mind is a good thing to have in my life. It’s also why when I don’t, then things have a habit of going into some odd places.
So I sat in my freezing cold house I had rented in a dead and alive place called Blackhill in the north east of England. The house was at the very bottom of a huge hill that no one in their right mind would want to walk up if they had any choice. But my main problem was that every time it rained (and in the area I was living, it rained very often), was the water poured down the hill and straight under the floorboards of the house. This had a side effect of meaning no matter how much you turned up your heating, the place would never get warm. It was like spending winter living at the South pole.
Being cold in the winter is not a life choice I had envisioned for myself, neither did I envision being stuck at the bottom of a huge hill where any trip out took about 2 hours of careful planning and where public transport seemed a negotiable item. So my days were spent trying to find ways to fill up my time, and my nights spent reading at my local pub (where I had worked out it was actually cheaper to go and sit with a pint and read a book than heat the damn house.)
The most special moment for me was the journey that I started on the very first time I went out for a drink in my home town for the first time in over 10 years. In my head I had a vision that it’d sort of be exactly the same. Only I fully expected everyone to be older with more wrinkles, more grey hairs, some balder and a lot more life experience and interesting stories to tell. What I hadn’t factored in was that there would be a whole new set of people and 90% of the people I had knew would have sodded off to live other places just as I had.
So I went out the first night on my own, going out alone is always an odd feeling when everyone is heading out for a good time with their friends and people they know, you’re stuck like a spare dick at a wedding on your own... an outsider…an observer.
I’m at a serious risk at this point of starting my next paragraph with ‘back in my day….’, but I shall resist the urge to behave like an old grouch. I've always been a person who loves people watching and observing the both the behavior and patterns of others around me. I had to admit that at 42 (at the time) I thought when it came to life, that I’d saw it all and nothing shocked me any more.
The 1st thing I noticed was the women that I nicknamed ‘The gazelles’. These were invariably young women (for the most part), dressed in skimpy clothing no matter how cold it may be. They also wore at least 6 inch high heels that they obviously had never worn before and tottered around like a pack of baby gazelles still finding their feet. I always found it most amusing that near the end of the night when it was icy they would go flying onto their arse, or bounce off walls either side of the main street like a human pinball game. It was truly awesome to watch.
My first reaction like any father was ‘There's no way in hell my daughter will ever behave like that when she grows up!’ But then I started to notice that these young women, although irresponsible in the way that only youth can be, actually took good care of one another. Even if a ‘gazelle’ from another group of Gazelles that they didn't know was left on her own, they would absorb her into their group and keep her safe and make sure she got home alright. This actually made it all make more sense as I sat on a sofa near the window of the club Time watching these many hordes of gazelles bounce past the window in their micro mini dresses on their stilts. They knew they could be at risk from ‘wolves’ and so made sure that while they enjoyed themselves, that they were always safe.
A weird thing starts to happen when your in your 40’s and ‘Off the Leash’ again, you start to sort of regress back to your earlier years. One particular night stands out, and not for a good reason. I’d been drinking with two friends half my age ( and as usual psychologically convincing myself after about Eight 50p jaeger bombs that I was 18 again) and realized I wasn't acting like I usually had, I had indeed regressed to the total fucking lunatic I was when I was 18. This wasn't good as I was now effectively a passenger, and observer on my own actions.
I drank more funny colored drinks than I could outline here, the younger people in the bar thinking it was funny to see a guy in his early 40’s behaving like them. It wasn't till later that I let them in on the ultimate secret that my dad had handed down to me, that had been passed on to him by his dad… Your mind doesn't age, as you get older, you do get more experienced yes. Often hard earned and a painful experience, but the core person you were, you always remain. So inside my 40 plus body was a 17 year old unconcerned with such things as old age and reality of paying bills etc. 17 year old me had been locked in my mind behind an endless wall of responsibilities, bills and cold hard reality for many years. So suffice it to say he was glad to be let out of this mental jail for a while… and like a prisoner after a life sentence...he went fucking nuts.
Now remember the 50p jaeger bombs I mentioned in a previous article? Yep, had enough of those to float the titanic, beers of various sorts, fish bowls full of god alone knows what… Tequila, the works. I was feeling pretty damn good about myself that I could still show these young kids how to really party. After decamping to a local nightclub and dancing like a nutcase for a couple of hours to dub-step it was time to go home. But first there was one very important stop! The kebab shop… so after one kebab wrap with enough chili sauce to set fire to water itself off I went to walk home trying to eat my kebab wrap on the way.
It was very cold (about minus 8) and I was now so drunk I was doing the ‘one eyed ziggy zaggy walk’. You know the one...the one where your so hammered that the only way not to see double is to close one eye? This of course is not a good idea when you are eating a kebab, it slowed down the eating process, made things a lot more messy as I was now dribbling chill sauce all down my t shirt and jacket. Now there are two ways to get from the center of town to where I was living at the time at the bottom of the huge hill. One involved walking down a fucking huge hill with a nasty combination decline and bend that was covered in ice. (That was discounted as I would have ended up in hospital with at least one broken limb.) The other way was down the other side of the hill with a slight detour through the local park. I discounted this as the path through the park was steep and like an ice rink. Then I suddenly had an amazing thought...there was a third way no one had worked out before!
I was now very pleased with myself that even in my extremely drunken state I had worked out a new route home, that was shorter and less chance of sliding on ice and falling on my arse. Drunken me is an arsehole. I probably forgot to mention that, the less than sober me is always a complete bastard to the sober me. His sense of humor is vicious at best and in fact I think drunk me takes great pleasure in making sober me suffer. The route was a simple one… I’d walk through the fields down the hill in the dark and come out not far from the end of my street,. It was genius!
So continuing to stuff kebab wrap in my face, failing 30% of the time and it ending up all over me I started staggering down the hill through the fields. Shit it was dark! I couldn't see a hand in front of myself, in fact I tried this and ended up with chili sauce and a small bit of kebab meat on my glasses. But I kept my eye on the houses in my street that were facing the field, and focused on the lights someone had left on in one of the houses. I was drunk, but I wasn't stupid, that way I wouldn't get lost.
It brought to mind a tale from 20 years previously where me and my mate Reg had been so hammered on the way back from a party that we remembered sitting on a wooden seat near some fields talking for ages then going back home. The trouble was the nearest bench like that (we later worked out) was 2 miles away on the edge of the moors! We’d been so drunk we’d walked to the edge of the moors, had a sit down, had a cigarette or three, had a chat and then walked all the way back again. As a result I have always been very careful not to repeat the episode, so I kept my single open eye on the lights…
I was still rather pleased with myself when suddenly it felt like the earth itself opened up below me and suddenly I found myself in a 3 foot deep square hole in the ground with sharp vertical sides full of freezing cold icy water! I probably don't have to tell you that being in a 3 foot deep hole up to your waist in freezing cold icy water sobers you the hell up really fucking fast!
I was suddenly stone cold sober, freezing and the sides of the hole were muddy meaning I couldn't seem to climb out. Luckily my phone was in my top pocket, that was one thing… but no way was I calling the emergency services “Yeah..Hello? I’m stuck in a 3 foot deep hole full of icy water and I can't get out, could you send the fire brigade or somebody please?” That’d be all over town in no time and no doubt pictures and video would be all over the damn internet. So that was discounted immediately. Option two was phone my dad, wake him up at 4.30am and tell him I was in aforementioned hole and get him to help me out… No fuck that, I’d then hear the story every Christmas, family gathering and birthday party for the rest of time. Death was better than that.
So I tried jumping...that didn't make things any better, I dropped the remains of the kebab wrap all over myself and nearly slipped under the water. So I started clawing at the muddy walls of this pit I had fell into and somehow got a foothold on a stone or something and climbed out. As I lay on the ground I was thankful that no one could see me covered in chili sauce, mud and kebab meat in the middle of a fucking field in the dark. After laying there for what seemed an ice age feeling sorry for myself freezing and soaked to the skin in mud and icy water I started walking (carefully) back to my street. I was thankful that no one had saw me and no one need ever know what had happened. It’d be my little secret.
However, life is not without a sense of humor it seems, as when I was just 20 feet from my front door out walked my neighbor to walk his dog before going to work. “I see you've had a good night then!” was all he said, and as a result I could never look that man in the eye again without him grinning and trying to contain a laugh. So the moral of this story is: don't get so hammered that spelunking trips through a field in the dark in wintertime seem like a really fucking good idea. Touch wood, so far there has been no repeat and I never got that drunk again. It took me weeks to wash the mud and chili sauce out though.