My second stag weekend in a one month period, this time as one member of a Best Man trinity.
It started off with a disturbing lack of sleep and a heart attack inducing series of events. It was up to me to obtain the necessary drugs from a nice man in the centre of town during Friday's morning rush hour. I hadn't slept well the night before as I also had to pick up a large 16-seater minibus and drive it to Exeter some 170 miles west of the capital, and both events had congealed in my overactive mind that evening; thoughts of a humiliating public arrest and imprisonment, or else inadvertently causing a 15-vehicle pile-up on the M3.
I calmed myself with the thought that my oft-imagined worse case scenarios rarely come true, and eventually fell into a fitful, sweaty sleep. When my alarm woke me up at 7am, a good four hours before I had to pick anyone up, duty called.
I took a train to London's financial district, an area completely alien to me as I don't have any money, and stared uneasily at all the miserable looking suits on the underground. I was disturbingly early, a rarity for me as I'm impatient and hate waiting for anything - even job interviews for which I've been known to arrive late - yet in the drug buying arena, I was there half an hour ahead of time. Which in the event, didn't calm my nerves. For a start, on leaving the train and reaching the top of the tube escalator, one of my previous night's nightmares had come true...
Stood there chatting amicably to each other by the exits were two policemen, with two sniffer dogs by their feet.
My eyes widened, and I tried not to look as if I was about to buy four grammes of cocaine in separately wrapped, highly arrestable 'I may as well be a dealer myself' packets.
I walked past the coppers and their dogs, all of whom seemed largely indifferent to my presence among all the other commuters. However, the angry-looking policewoman around the corner wasn't. She glared at me, forcing me to look away in panic and pick up my pace to the wider concourse nearby. As I walked out, I saw two more policemen surveying the area so I walked outside where I was confronted by an extremely conspicuous CCTV camera aimed right at me. Deciding to read a paper to wait and panic quietly, I came to believe that I was being specifically targeted when, from the other side of a sea of people criss-crossing to work, I spotted a sixth policeman standing directly opposite me, arms folded, just staring.
Then a strange thing happened; I was getting so utterly terrified that I realised I had one of two choices - scream and run off, or stand my ground and get on with it. And a strange, zen-like calm descended on me for 45 minutes until my man turned up. We grabbed a nearby coffee while my mind raced over just how we were going to do this with a police van directly next to us but we did, as if we weren't actually engaged in anything sinister - which I don't think it is by the way, but that's just my opinion. Don't get me started on drug laws, or the fact that the most heavily defended part of London in today's glorious world of global terrorist threats just so happens to be where all the money is, and not necessarily where the most commuters are.
So we do the swap and I'm sorted. I tube it to another part of town where I pick up a rusting behemoth that I have to somehow navigate through the narrow, roadblocked streets of London with a pocket full of drugs. I'm now collecting people and crates of beer along the way, including a Large Northern Flatmate who was good enough to forget his own suggestion that I call him and hang up immediately, to signal that I was five minutes away.
Before long, I'm driving seven of us to Devon, to a sprawling cottage in the middle of nowhere. More people arrived at the cottage in drips and drabs, including my teetotal friend Suky who was to drive the minibus from the middle of nowhere to the middle of somewhere all weekend.
'I won't envy you when you're driving that thing,' I told him.
'I'm not if I'm not insured,' he replied casually.
I've certainly not arranged anything. Almost immediately, I came to the grim realisation that a cock up has occurred, and I'm fucked. I took it at face value when Chopper, the stag, told me that Suky was willing to drive the minibus each night. It never occurred to me that while I'm willing to go off and grab Class A's in broad daylight, Suky has to ruin everything by being a model fucking citizen.
The whole weekend was totally competitive, the only exception being hardcore German pornography viewing each evening which became a competition of sorts - who could appear the most casual about a screaming DP scene among a gang of fifteen pissed blokes. The group was split into teams of four, led by one of the three Best Men and the stag. There was a pool tournament, bowling, a football game that I still haven't physically recovered from (including a humiliating spell in goal where I fucked up and had to defend against a casually taken penalty that the likes of me was unable to stop), a cricket match, and a boules tournament.
My team came last.
Saturday night was interesting. I had booked ahead for us to get to a couple of clubs and, after the minicab debacle, the other Best Men arranged for taxis home so I could join in. The first club hardly broke new ground; a provincial hellhole called Arena, playing the finest R&B, rap and commercial house music to a disturbingly young crowd. There was a thirty man brawl on the dancefloor, and I managed to rid our table of three neighbouring girls just by saying 'hello' and talking to them for two minutes.
So we went on to a strip club called Tiffanys.
Now I have this love/ hate relationship with strip clubs, based on the two joints I've visited in the past. One was a huge church of stripping, a virtual superclub of flesh in Acton when I was on another stag do about eight years ago. The other was in Hungary, a seedy little dive where myself and three friends were very literally threatened with hospitalisation by a huge Russian bouncer because we refused to buy the minimum four beers each at a cost of £5 a bottle. We had only been there five minutes. In the end, only I was allowed out to a cash machine to procure £60 just so we could all leave immediately.
Tiffany's was no different, not in the threatening stakes, but in the intrinsic seediness. It wasn't totally unpleasant, but it was what it was; a bar populated only by men and staffed by semi-naked women who removed their bras and gyrated their breasts at us. Now this is not a totally unpleasant situation to be in, but I always want to appear a cut above the average guy; a bit more decent, a bit less of a woman objectifier. Yet I found it rock hard to stop myself being sucked in by the visual gravitational pull of a wriggling Thai dancer or a gaggle of blondes with boob jobs. I would occasionally avert my eyes lest I be thought of as a seedy, ogling bloke, until I realised that in here, that's all I could ever hope to be.
Strip clubs are a moral jungle of contradictions.
They also sum up for me something I've never denied; that men are basically very simple creatures, and pretty much retarded fuckwitted morons. One of the dancers came over to me and said hello, although I sensed pretty quickly that she was largely indifferent to us chatting, what with her constantly looking anywhere but at me as we talked. She asked if I wanted a private dance for £50 and I said no. I even told her that I read the bloody Guardian, for god's sake, and that I am actually cut above the average guy and I don't objectify women even though I was finding it extremely difficult not to when they're all wandering around in nothing but a thong, splattering sex all over the floor.
I asked her how long she'd worked there - six months, it transpired - then asked her what she now thought of men.
'Not a lot,' she replied.
She never elaborated, and walked off to try her luck with someone else. I would've loved to have found out how she came to that conclusion, although bloke ÷ alcohol + women = arsehole.
Half an hour later, I was in a small room staring directly at her incredibly well-presented vagina a mere inch from my face.
She had approached me later that evening as I was chatting to Suky. He was loving every minute of the strip club, free to chat to women and flirt, confident that none of them would tell him to go fuck himself. As she stopped to talk, Suky immediately offered to buy me a cheaper 3-minute dance with her.
'You don't have to do that,' I told him.
'Are you sure? I don't mind.'
'Fine, go on then,' I said.
She walked me to the 3-minute dance room, concealed from the rest of the club by a curtain. It was full of gawping men with naked women on top of them. I grimaced. It was like the last days of Rome.
She sat me down in the centre of a leather sofa and instructed me to spread my legs and place my hands out and onto the sofa where they frustratingly remained throughout. She then proceeded to strip and wriggle all over me. A lot. While rubbing her long, silky legs up and down my crotch, which was now experiencing a 'raising the dead' moment.
I had a couple of dances at the strip club in Acton years ago, but I now know they were rubbish. There had been no contact of any kind, and I struggled to find any eroticism in a bored girl bending over and slapping her arse cheeks in my general direction although again, this wasn't a wholly unpleasant experience. But here, in the darkest recesses of Exeter, I was actually indulging in a sexual experience in which I couldn't participate, with a now completely naked girl writhing and wriggling between my legs, rubbing my chest, diving at my crotch and opening her mouth, then grinning slyly before raising a long, tanned leg over and behind my head and getting so close I could see the little diamante stud in her impeccably tidy labia. Then she jumped onto my lap, rubbed herself furiously then licked her fingers, and I started to cry.
Suddenly, with a quick kiss on my cheek, she stood up and said 'There we go!' as she picked her bra and thong off the floor and began to dress. I was fundamentally speechless and totally unable to stand, plus my testicles were now like lead weights following that and the earlier pornography viewing, with no way to release the tension.
'Can I have your number?' I said more out of breaking my silence than anything else.
'Ok,' I mumbled, feeling somehow honour bound to at least buy her a McDonalds happy meal or something by way of return. 'Do you want some coke?'
Again, inexplicably, she refused. I don't know why. A drunk, drug addled punter visiting a strip club would obviously be a brilliant one-night stand proposition for any attractive dancer.
The following morning, I equated my dance to the feeling of being close to death through starvation, then buying and being served a meal but not being allowed to touch it. A wank just isn't going to come close. I was more full of semen than Marc Almond after a big night on the town.
All my talk the next morning of desperately needing a 'Therapy Wank' was shot down by Phil and Jimmy, the other Best Men, as nothing more than an excuse to indulge in a 'Regular Wank' like any normal day.
Trust me, I am fit to burst right now.