My first ride in a stretch Hummer. I haven’t lived, I now realise. The prodigious, ridiculous thing, tricked out in multicoloured neon piping, drew up outside the pub where we were getting stoked. I was privileged to be invited by Trev to his niece’s 18th birthday celebration in a nightclub. It was very much a family affair and they are a proud family. ‘Who the fuck is that?’ I kept hearing from the younger, micro-skirted, six-inch-heeled element, in disgusted tones, referring to me, and Trev would do his best to explain me to them.
Trev thought a ‘punch-up’ inevitable when we got to the club. The women were as liable to start one as the men, in his opinion. I looked around at the state of play as we waited to climb aboard the limo. One of the young nephews was already being strenuously argued out of having a warm-up fight with some innocent and surprised-looking person not of our party. With one exception, the younger women were drunk in the same squiffy, deliberately vacuous way, and teetering about precariously on their tall heels as though on stilts. The exception was passed out lopsidedly on a chair. The birthday girl’s proud father, emerging from the pub to see his princess for the day climb into her smoked-glass carriage, fell down backwards twice in the space of five seconds.
But the most likely instigator of a punch-up, to anyone who knew their history, was a nephew of Trev called Danny, not often seen out much these days, late thirties, wiry build, big blond hair, and tonight wearing a T-shirt with the single word ‘Breed’ across his chest. Looking about him and rubbing his hands together in delighted anticipation, he said to me, ‘Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m all ready for a spot of fudge-packing, Jer.’
We clambered aboard the limo. Thumping music, disco lights, mirrored bar. I admit it — I felt like a lord. At the front, the birthday girl and her pals screamed for drinks and danced crazily in their seats. The driver appeared at the open door. I was beginning to forget what a sober person looked like. He wasn’t going to let us have any booze, he said, because our young ladies were out of control. So we elder statesmen at the back assured him we would keep an eye on them, and he handed in two very cheap-looking bottles of sparkling rosé, reluctantly, as if it was against his better judgment.
The ride took about 20 minutes. I sat beside a bloke whose shaved head had what looked like an old sabre cut running obliquely across it. Duffle-coat toggle stuck through an earlobe. He sat clutching his empty glass flute between his legs and stared grimly ahead. He and I were the quiet corner. He spoke to me just once on the journey. After about ten minutes he turned to me and said, ‘I’m dying for a piss.’ And that was it.
Our stretched Hummer pulled up outside the club and we decanted. The birthday girl teetered on her high heels, grabbed at one of her pals’ arms to stop herself falling, and three of them went down on the wet tarmac like skittles. It was now midnight. Taxis from all over mid-Devon queued to deposit their inebriated contents then sped away. The cold night air was making already drunk people suddenly much drunker and a hellish sort of pandemonium reigned outside the club. We formed up and joined the queue to go in. Somewhere up ahead I heard Danny announce to the world, ‘I’m rolling back the years!’
It was two quid each to get in. There must have been 700 or 800 people inside. Perhaps 200 of these were besieging a long bar manned by four or five bar staff. I tried but it was hopeless. Looking around, I noticed a smoking area through a swinging door. Smokers were packed in there like commuters on the Central line. As I watched, a disturbance erupted in their midst. Savage punches were being thrown in the unlikeliest directions. Screaming. At the epicentre, the blond head of Danny was jerking about as though he were riding a bucking bronco. Bouncers streamed past me. A minute later, they were marching Danny out through a fire exit with our young ladies tottering precariously along behind, yelling abuse in their ears.
Two others of our party (chaps) were thrown out also, and with no one left to talk to I went outside too. Trev was patiently reasoning with his nephew Danny, who was arguing for bloody vengeance. Our young ladies were sitting on the wet tarmac disconsolate. It was decided we might as well all go home again. ‘Sorry, Jer,’ said Danny when he saw that I’d come out too. ‘Don’t apologise!’ I said. ‘We’d have all died of thirst in there anyway.’
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