It seems that some were very keen to crack on with the weekend and prompted a stampede from the sleeping bags far earlier than required or expected. Of the eight bodies sleeping on the floor only one thought that they had heard no-one snore all night, and thus the culprit was found - Simon. Keen to stall the eager masses until go-karting o'clock I started the eggs and bacon conveyor belt. Filled up we made a start on the orange juice mountain I had over-purchased for the weekend, and entertained ourselves with a little bit of Monty Python's Holy Grail but soon it was time to display our Mansell like skills on the race track. While getting there Antony displayed some of the navigational tendencies that we had been berating the night before ("that's the turn off we need, the one we've just gone past") but we found it despite his efforts at mis-direction.We were kitted out and told that we were on a 50 lap sprint, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Much to 'Light boy' Stewart and I dismay we were told that since the track was wet the heavy lads would have the advantage of grip, and no they didn't have any sacks of stuff to beef up the skinnier drivers. The warm up couple of laps revealed just how slippy the track was, with no-one completing a spin-free lap, but we were on the grid before we had time to say 'see ya later loooooosseerrrrrs'. The race is a bit of a blur, with many hand gestures used when passing fellow drivers who had spun to the way side. The one and only hair pin produced a high number of spins due to the combination of sharp turn and handily placed puddle of water. Each corner was a lesson in controlling a skid, with opposite lock the norm rather than the exception; obviously this only added to the fun although it did make my car feel a bit ponderous on the way home. After some good battles, some bumps and Andy running Jon off the road in a spectacular display of the red mist which left Jon stranded the race was over. Being boys we had no intention of letting Andy win and despite his best efforts at slowing him down Jon took first place by 0.67 seconds. This left Simon (K) a very green and annoyed second place. Obviously 'Late boy' came in last, narrowly beaten by Simon (B). Nigel came third, which bolstered his determination to be first to the crowds later in the day and it only remains to say that the best man nipped in ahead of the stag by a mere 18 seconds (looooosssssseeeerrr!).
Back at home base we picked up lunch and headed to the train station, some in the comfort of a taxis and some wedged in the back of Stewart's car. Stewart turned from 'Light boy' to 'MIA boy' and left us to it while the rest of us found the few remaining seats on the train. Simon (B) seemed to have done the best with a chatty lass sat next to, and on occasion straddling, him while I had a pair of 10 year old twins to entertain. Food was dispersed, along with the portion of the orange juice mountain we had taken with us and soon 'Snoring boy' Simon (K) was living up to his nickname.
On the walk to the hotel we were easily distracted by Hyde park and it's potential for a kick around. A quick head count revealed a perfect four aside and we had plenty of luggage for posts, rude not to really. It soon became apparent that our competitive edge had only been sharpened by the mornings activities and we were soon going at it hammer and tongs. Andy personified this attitude with several career ending tackles on his opposite number, Jon, the best of which was a two footed, studs up, flying tackle from behind while Jon was in the air. With the score settling out about level we looked to Nigel to eventually find his scoring touch and get the perfect goal he was looking for. Meanwhile Darren was happily knocking them in any which way and ended up lead scorer by far. Suitably warmed up, and with the stag's side winning, we decided it was time to head on to the hotel.
Map in hand I marched my fellow stag weekender's the scout mile to the red circle on my map. Which was a shame because the hotel was a couple of miles away. Multimap had let us (me) down (and I have checked this since!), selling us the dummy 'red circle in the wrong place' nicely. The signs had been picked up earlier by Simon (K) who mentioned that he thought it was a little closer to Picadily circus, but I had put my faith in the postcode look up of MM. I can't really say anymore as the law suit is ongoing. It turned out that taxis drivers had a better idea of where our hotel was and soon whisked us there.
The hotel was a thing of beauty. At least when it was constructed it might have been but decades of abuse had left it lacking that professional touch. It had been booked on the location and cost, both of which were reflected in the shared showers that you had to phone reception to open ('for your safety' ?? - I have one of these at home and I've survived so far), the bed heads screwed (just about) to the wall, the broken window, the bag of unspeakable things on the window ledge and the paper thin towels (as long as you had phoned reception to bring them up). Still we weren't to be deterred and intended to spend the least possible time in our rooms gathering fleas as we could. Pete found us at the hotel, after being navigated in by Jon, and was looking raring to go and so we wasted no time in getting changed and down to the bar to watch the England match.
A note on Andy's clothing. Obviously we weren't going to let him out without wearing a few silly items but the most notable at this stage was his t-shirt. Designed to encourage a little crowd interaction it was plain white with 'STAG Collecting signatures' on the back. Armed with a pen we expected a t-shirt covered with suitable comments - we weren't to be disappointed. We started things off by lowering the tone immediately, finding that the back of the t-shirt was by far the most popular spot to abuse Andy. The football crowd was turning out to be a rather male, grumpy looking lot so at half time we moved onto the Walkabout where Nigel began to give us a glimpse of the form that was to earn him our heartfelt thanks by the end of the evening. It's not a hard sell to get people to abuse a stag with barely legible (sometimes barely legal) scribbles on his t-shirt but the sheer quantity of candidates that Nigel generated from the crowd was impressive. Andy was trying to ensure that the comments he could see were factually correct, or at least that certain numbers were a little more flattering) but it soon became obvious that he was onto a loosing wicket. While our main aim was filling the t-shirt, the secondary goal of watching England play was hampered a little by Crouch's big brother standing in front of us, luckily he hadn't invited the whole family.
Stubbies downed, the football over and the women exhausted (the supply of): it was time to move on. Strolling around Covent garden with a look out for a suitable bar Nigel demonstrated his Exorcet like eagerness to ply Andy's t-shirt trade when a hen night was spotted in the distance. In this instance he also revealed a terrier like determination to not let go until he had his mark as he simply did not accept no for an answer. Another signature harvested and Nigel was already proving he wasn't ageist in his mission and we collected our oldest signature of the evening. One bar was rejected by Jon but at the second time of asking we found a suitable venue. So suitable that I thought it was time to bring out the second t-shirt of the night....STAG collecting hugs. Now a signature would have a small cost associated with it. With Nigel at work and Jon muscling into the fun we bumped into a lively couple of lasses, gathering signatures was no problem here and without prompting they offered to sign Andy's pants. With such a scoop on the cards at such an early stage of the night we were delighted. All that is except Andy who seemed remarkable reticent to drop trousers in a public place. I'm sure I wasn't the only person about to volunteer to take his place when he finally decided to play along.
Time to move on came round and we persuaded our two 'friends' to join us at the restaurant. We were happy to see a couple of hen parties there when we arrived and felt in good company - needless to say Andy was in luck with the t-shirt and even managed to find some people Nigel hadn't already harassed and got his first signature bag. Any kudos gained from this was soon lost as he tried to talk to the waiter in Spanish. It would have looked good if we weren't in a French restaurant with predictably French waiters. Still she appreciated the effort, or at least Simon (K) impressed where Andy had failed, and signed regardless. Another change of top left Andy topless for a while, but the expected stampede from the hen parties didn't arrive so we gave him the next t-shirt (STAG collecting kisses). In an effort to avoid being dribbled over while people kissed his rosy cheeks Andy went on the offensive and decided to pro-actively welcome signaties Italien style, and so we were all treated to (and the victims subject to) the maneuver which has been dubbed 'the Hamilton lunge'.
Food eaten our thoughts turned to the next venue to
showcase the lunge and we found the Road House club, an American
dinner style club with plenty of t-shirt potential. So much so that
Andy was soon at the front of a queue of women, although that may
have had something to do with standing next to the ladies toilets.
We were delighted to spot that some hen nights had chosen the same
location as us but some were distinctly more downbeat than others.
This was demonstrated by a particularly grumpy hen who approached
Jon, without any outward sign of wanting to be there:
Hen - "Can I have your pants?"
Jon - "No"
Hen - "Why not?" - Note the sophisticated selling tactic used here
Jon - "Tell you what, can we swap yours for our stags?" (forgetting the valuable signatures already gathered on said item)
Hen - "No way!"
There's just no negotiating with some people, which incidentally must be how many women felt after being exposed to Nigels persuasions. In time the Hamilton lunge gave way to the shape throwing contest. Exhausting ourselves on the dance floor we optimistically gave Andy his last t-shirt of the evening (STAG collecting underwear) but we did not enforce strict adherence to the rules in the interest of gathering some more witty comments. One lass wasn't satisfied with writing on the t-shirt, but felt the need to also graffiti Andy's trousers (an unwisely white colour) with a not very imaginative (but somewhat generous) depiction of a certain part of his anatomy.
When the dancing had run out of steam, the drinks consumed and Andy suitably scribbled on we hankered for a change of scene. Perhaps not the cheapest place to be gathering Andy's signatures we thought a strip club was the next obvious destination. Commandeering two taxi's we set off on our hunt. I was in the trailing taxis and so can't say exactly what was happening up ahead but it seems that the first club we had gone to refused to let us in since it was quite late. Even the taxis driver jumped out to lend weight to the argument that surely it's never too late for this kind of place, but they weren't going to budge. So we had a call that we were going to head for an alternative venue at about the same time that Jon woke up to ask if we were nearly there yet. Well we were but there had just changed location. Moving off in a different direction it seems that the same story was playing out in front of another set of bouncers. I couldn't believe that late night Soho was going to let us down in this way but it turned out to be the case. We went back to the hotel and ended up paying 20 pounds for the taxis for a journey that would have been less than a mile in a straight line.
The other taxis stopped in Picadily circus for a bite to eat and to watch the traditional turf fights. Nigel by now had gone but someone spotted a likely candidate for just one more signature, a rather drunk lady strolling the streets.....With signature duly collected Simon (B) pointed to the back of the t-shirt and without pause for thought they were off and Andy was suddenly holding her pants; one careless owner. Slightly uneasy at this victory Andy did comment that he would have considered giving them to Sarah (after a wash we assume) but they just happened to be the wrong size.
We met up with the first taxis in the lobby of our classy hotel and retired for the evening. All that is except Jon who felt a bit peckish. This gave him the chance to wonder down a dark lane in Soho hunting for food and had the pleasure of meeting a random guy promising to get 'whatever you want....anything' before backtracking rapidly and finding the slightly more well lit areas