My Stag season's over and as far as I can tell, no-one'll be getting married any time soon. Handy really, as if anyone else wanted me to be Best Man, I would admit myself into the nearest hospital under the Mental Health Act 2007.
I've had 8 stags in the last year and a half, been best man thrice, spent a grand total of Aaargh, and had a harder time planning this than if I was personally responsible for organising the recapture of Dunkirk with a pencil, a wristwatch, and a turn of the century pocketmap of Wales.
It began somewhat regrettably. Jimmy, the stag, phoned the day before to ask if he needed to bring his passport.
'Erm, no', I told him. 'We're staying in the UK.'
We often surprise one another by lying, but in this instance, it had been the truth. If we went abroad by plane, his attendance wishlist would have been halved. If we went via the Chunnel, we'd have gained just the one person, a Large Northern aerophobe. Even if we stayed in Britain but went too far north, we'd only be able to add just a couple more cash-starved attendees.
The only destination that would draw everyone was southern England and, seeing as we're almost all from the south, it was hard to know where to choose. In fact, you could say organising it was a COMPLETELY THANKLESS TASK.
When we got to Victoria station on Friday morning and met up with Phil, Jamie and Jim, Phil informed me that he'd just seen a man in a gorilla suit walk past. Looking at Jim standing there in his jeans and a Jimmyshirt™ made me realise I should've made more of an effort to humiliate him so, using my amazing new iPhone, I tracked down a nearby party shop and got a cab for a frantic, last minute dash to buy a camp hat and Village People moustache.
Regrettably, I didn't think to call first, which would've helped as I would've realised before hailing an expensive London taxi that it was closed. So instead, as the cabbie drove me back to the station, I called Westy, a to-meet-us-there guest, and asked him to buy anything on his way up.
Despite our attempts to prevent Jim from finding out where we were headed, a ticket inspector announced it about 10 minutes in. Jim looked crestfallen. The day before he thought we were going to mainland Europe. Now he discovered it was a market town an hour and a half outside London that he'd been to before.
On the plus side, he had no fucking clue we'd be going to Canterbury - mainly because no-one thinks it a good stag destination apart from me.
On arrival, we checked in then headed to the city centre for a river tour which had been rained off, so we went to Nandos instead where I got the shits. We then wandered aimlessly while resentment simmered in the heads of the other four lads. Westy met us en route with a well concealed if inexplicably irrelevant pirate costume (an overpriced wig, a plastic eyepatch, and a moustache that didn't stick), then we made for an alehouse where I was yelled at for playing with my iPhone again. It was around this time that I realised it's far more enjoyable to experience a night out when I'm not 'in charge'; one where my associates don't hurl abuse in my direction because the pub isn't good enough, or lacking in pool tables or atmosphere.
When Paul, our second arrival, joined us, we hailed a cab to Whitstable and continued drinking, downing tequilas, jumping up and down on their pebbly beach, and eating curry late into the night in an empty restaurant while Jim's memory abandoned him and back in our hotel, Phil wrestled me to the floor and attempted to smash my iPhone. It occurred to me as I went to bed that the following day's early start in a brewery wasn't the best idea as people struggled to not throw up in the midst of a room stinking of boiled hops.
We missed the train to Faversham anyway. Phil had puked upon waking and took his time while Suki and Dave, the planet's most self-righteous human who chose to wait 6 weeks only pay me the day before after repeated nagging in a frustrating re-run of Barcelona, had joined us to walk slowly to the station.
I'm still not sure why we didn't take cabs.
When we got to the Shepherd Neame brewery (late), I was mortified to find a dozen or so strangers waiting for us so the tour could begin. It didn't help that we were ushered into a corner to watch a ponderously slow promotional film about the brewery, one even worse than this.
There was something painful about the whole experience, of us racing to miss trains for a destination I'd told very few about, as I sat next to Large Northern Flatmate - a man best described as a 6 foot tall toddler - who sat there deadpan and licking an icecream he'd managed to acquire from somewhere.
The monotone, uninspiring drone of their Chief Executive squeaked out of the speakers, the only sound in the otherwise oppressive silence of the room, while I doubled over, snorting and crying with laughter that got worse the more I attempted to stop, acutely aware of the strangers scowling at me and of the eight gentlemen with hangovers I'd forced out of bed so they could sit in a room to watch a corporate video.
On the upside, I tasted barley and found out what a mash tun was, plus no-one puked. We ended up in a pub after that, one with football that I would've incorporated into the schedule if I actually gave a fuck about it.
All bets were off by nightfall once we'd swapped a Westy for a Nick. I'd had my fill of being steadily abused about the lack of activities, criticised about the brewery, and generally considered inept (mainly by Dave if you're wondering, a man who shuns organising anything in his life but is extremely skilled in doling out extensive criticism. Hello, Dave.) Plus I was sick of beer. I was quite happy to let everyone just wing it, which we did. My Canterbury pub crawl was off; instead we grabbed a pizza and found a great bar /club that seemed populated by older, more forgiving women. Jimmy did press-ups, and was cajoled into wearing lipstick from the handbag of the nearest woman. Despite his initial protests, he kept his warpaint on all night.
As usual, it wasn't until the lights went up and everyone was forced out onto the street that it occurred to me to try and pull in earnest, but that boat had long since sailed. Instead we ended up screaming 80s hits in our hotel room til 4am whilst playing computer football and drinking Phil's vodka.
Jim called the following day to say he loved it. Frankly, that's all that mattered, even if we never went near a colossal cathedral that legend has it is bang in the centre of town.