Monday, 27th September 2004.

Hag weekend, part 1

Friday night: to the glory that is Reading town centre.

Holly made antlers. They fit rather well, really, as the photographs indicate, although I don't know whether their gradual floppiness over the course of the evening was a euphemism of any sort. In any event, we got noticed - exclusively by women. Here's a curious phenomenon I've spotted: if you're an obvious part of a stag party, you'll get all manner of women approaching you to wish you well and ask you about the big day and where are you going next - but you'll never have any comments from men; not even a conventional "Good luck, mate". Conversely, Em was telling me later that the only remarks they got came from men. I don't know if it's a mutual cattiness on the part of both sexes, or an unspoken ethics code, or merely - as Ewan suggested - that "girls on hen nights are easy".

After Jon had completed the second of his taxi rides into the town centre, we all hooked up in Nandos and ordered chicken (which calls to mind the question of what the hell *else* you're supposed to do in a Nandos) before moving on. It was decided that rather than do the conventional handcuff-to-lamp-post thing, we'd construct mock-ups of embarrassing photos and then snap them, thereby saving time, embarrassment and bail money.

So you have: 1) photo of me wearing antlers, getting money from a cashpoint; 2) photo of me pretending to be chained to a lamp post, and 3) pictures of me standing outside Ann Summers, appearing to fondle the breasts of the cardboard model in the window. The rest of the evening was a question of having all my drinks bought for me, only to find that they were a little stronger than I'd have expected. Thankfully we'd actually got into town relatively late, and as a result of this it was more or less impossible for me to drink so much that I felt ill as a result; those who wanted to see copious vomiting (or, at the very least, a strong hangover) had to settle for amusing merriment instead. This all occurred much to the disgust of my brother, who I think had high hopes for seeing me drunk on a train with a goat. And some of the others were quite put out to discover that the girls with whom they'd tried to set me up - in a vain attempt to produce an embarrassing photo - got nothing more than mildly slurred small talk. Or, to put it another way, consider the words of my soon-to-be-brother-in-law, who was heard complaining "We introduced all these girls to him, all the ones who looked interesting, and what does he do? He has a bloody *conversation* with them!"

Here's the thing: I read a lot. And you hear horror stories. And I know how my brother's nights out invariably end (after he'd left us he went to visit his girlfriend, only to be kicked out in the early hours of the morning when he discovered he'd once more fallen asleep on the sofa), and the prospect of frantic alcohol consumption, blind dizzy spells, embarrassing behaviour and then the hangover from hell is not one that particularly appeals to me. Perhaps I am being a killjoy, or perhaps I am merely becoming safe and conventional in my old age. But I really couldn't see the point of reproducing everything I'd consumed that evening in reverse, purely for the sake of getting a laugh. Thankfully Jon agreed with me and promised to keep the high spirits of the others in check, although he did suggest - after I told him that I was pleasantly merry - that "we'd have to try and take that a bit further".

We wound up in the local Wetherspoons, where for one reason or another we bumped into the hen faction, who'd decided to have a few drinks there before going clubbing. The girls left not long before we did - Matt and Mark having shielded me from them so that Em and I wouldn't have to see them. "Why is this, exactly?" I asked.
"Well, it's bad luck."
"Is it bollocks. Why's it bad luck?"
"'Cause, you know..."
"I don't. Hasn't it occurred to you that so many of the traditions that we go with are based on utterly ridiculous superstition? Like not seeing the bride the morning of the wedding. There's no actual common sense in it; it's just something we go with because it's been done for years. But why should we bow to that trend? I like to follow rules where I can see the sense in them. Let's take the dress as an example. I have no idea what it looks like, although I've had the opportunities to look. As far as I'm concerned, it wouldn't be bad luck to see Em wearing the dress before the service - I just don't want to. It'll be much nicer to see it for the first time when she arrives at the church. But it has nothing to do with *luck*."

I don't think they quite followed my train of thought, but I'd had a lot to drink by this time. The hen party crossed the floor: as instructed, I looked away, so as not to make eye contact. And then I looked back just in time to see a veiled, L-plated Emily throwing me a smile. And I threw one right back.

Sociological observation of ridiculous trends aside, it was a darned good night. The next morning, of course, we all went paintballing. But that's for a new entry.

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