Monday, 27 January 2014

Big Night Out!

When I was about sixteen I used to go to friend's house parties. This was a time of great excitement for me. For a start I was at an all boys school so these parties tended to be full of females who were full of novelty value for me as I just didn't have that much interaction with them at the time. But I wanted to - wow, did I want to. Those hormones were running rampant at the time, I'm sure if you think back you'll remember what that was like - it was the same for all of us, wasn't it?

Aside from girls, the other exciting thing at these parties, which was considerably easier to get my hands on was the booze. At that age we were too young for pubs and booze wasn't that easily accessible, so most consumption took place at these parties, which happened maybe once every month or two. Alcohol was new and illicit and exciting. And also dangerous. You could guarantee at every one of these parties there would be at least one attendee who would over do it and end up chucking up everywhere. In fact I think it was me at least one time. I think we all took our turn at one time or another, it's one of those rites of passage into adulthood through which we all must pass.

Over the years though, booze lost it's taboo status and became mainstream. Within a couple of years we were all down the pubs, though that in itself was a brave new world, and my late teens were one long party round the pubs of Oxford. Booze was still new then and still fun. There were many new people to meet, girls were everywhere by now (college) and I was keen to make up for lost time. Many a night out in town would end up with a drunken snog, or more if I was lucky. They were exciting times, and I never thought at the time they wouldn't go on forever, but life changed. College was replaced by work, meaning more responsibility, I left home which meant money was for bills, not booze, and things gradually changed.

For many years I still went out, but it wasn't as adventurous as before most of the time, more a case of a few pints in the local. There was no longer much in the way of excitement about it, it was just a pleasurable way of whiling away a few hours with friends. I certainly had no reason to sit in during the evening in my twenties and early thirties. But then two big changes came along - the kids and the fact that I became a DJ. Now when I was out in the pub I was working rather than playing, and on the nights when I wasn't working I was looking after the kids at home.

Eventually as you know, I gave up alcohol almost completely, going whole months or more at a time without a drink. I had gone from one extreme to another.

I think that no matter how responsible and dedicated a parent you are though, it is very important to maintain some sense of individuality and I was getting to the point where I realised I was becoming virtually reclusive and never meeting any new people. This became particularly noticeable after October last year when I made the decision to hang up my DJ boots. Whilst I am happy at home most of the time, I can see that it is essential to let one's hair down occasionally, so I made a resolution at the start of this year that I would have one night out a month without kids or partner to enjoy some proper grown up adult company. And I wanted this night out to be exciting and special - not just wandering down the pub and hoping there might be someone there to chat to.

So I was delighted on Saturday to be invited out for the night by a couple of my mum friends from school. What started out as quite a vague plan - I thought it was going to be just two or three of us going out for a few drinks actually snowballed into being quite a major event. We met at my friend Laura's flat for pre-pub drinks which is conveniently situated just across the car park from where I live. When I got there, there were at least ten people already there - and I was the only male, but this wasn't a problem at all. All the years of school and nursery runs and play centres have left me quite at ease in a female dominated environment. I only knew a few of the girls there, but I soon got to know the others. They were a really fantastic bunch, out for a night of fun and the atmosphere was fantastic. It was the first time I had really met a lot of new people all in one go for a very long time but I didn't feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with it at all. I really enjoyed having a drink too, the first since New Year. I realised that staying off the booze has given it back that exciting edge that it used to have back at those teenage parties all those years ago.

We went into town to the White Hart and then on to the Bell. The night was a great mix of old and new. Not only did I have all my new friends in tow, but bumped into dozens of old ones too. The old reclusive me completely disappeared for the evening and I felt full of a new-found confidence. The fact that I've lost over a stone in weight since November can only have helped too.

I was so up for it, I readily agreed to go to Yates, and if you are wondering how long it has been since I did that, well I think it was called the Litten Tree the last time I went there. We were having such a good time, it was a laugh a minute and I could recount so many amusing moments and random conversations. I think my favourite was the debate about a certain brand of cider and whether or not it was made from strawberries. It was very important to one of our group, but I just couldn't stop laughing.

I stopped short of a trip to G's and headed for the kebab shop. Despite my long absence from there also, the second I walked in the door the guys clocked me and instantly served up my regular order without me even having to ask. They looked very pleased to see me, I imagine takings have probably gone down these past few years in my absence. I sat on the wall by the Bure wolfing down my dirty great kebab with not a moment's guilt and headed home, ahead of an extremely fragile Sunday.

And now I am back on the wagon again until the next event. But thank-you all of you who were along on Saturday - that's three Laura's, Kaz (of the strawberry cider fame), Kelly, Angela, Athena, Kat, Rachel, Rozie (sorry if I forgot anyone!) not to mention all of the other old friends in the Hart, Bell and Yates. I had a fantastic evening, made some great new friends and really blew away the cobwebs.

Here's to a more sociable 2014! Cheers! x

PS: In case you worry Claire's missing out on all this, she's having her nights out with friends too which must get pretty messy judging by the time she gets home (probably about the same time I did). It's healthy for a relationship for each partner to have a little space of their own, you can't live constantly in each other's pockets.

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