Now that it is all over I can be as rude as I like - my friends can be a pain. Picking a weekend when everyone is free is tricky at the best of times but I had the added complication of trying to organise a biking trip away for around the same time with a best man who was somewhat constricted by the looming birth of his second child. For the biking holiday Steve seemed to be the most constrained so we gave him free choice to pick the time of the holiday and so fix the weekend of the stag weekend. He seemed conspicuously keen on a stag weekend, right up to the point that his other half pointed out that they would be on holiday at the time - or at least she was going to be. Steve was down and others could only make either the Friday or Saturday night. Cue Andy and his spreadsheet magic. This wasn't sufficient to tame the likes of Pete who initially signed up for the entire weekend, dropped down to the Friday night when he realised that he was double booked, sent a text on the night saying that he would be late arriving and then finally canceled altogether.
The festivities started in Oxford on the Friday night with the promise of a 'quiet couple of warm up drinks'. I've seen the warm up nights before and know full well that they can turn more into the 'let's hamstring the stag with alcoholic poisoning' night but Andy was adamant that he had it all in his safe hands. Weighed against that were the several people who could not make the rest of the weekend correctly spotting that this was their only chance to kick the man while he was going down. The evening started for me with a pair of fairy wings being attached to my back just in case anyone in their drunken haze would mistaken who we were all gunning for and to attract the local wildlife to the weakest member of the herd. Andy tried to live up to his promise by booking a meal in a nice Thai restaurant in Oxford, the Chiang Mai Kitchen. So began the awkward initial introduction of unfamiliar people in a round table 'My name is and I'm a...' style. After a couple of drinks everyone was getting along fine and so far other than the odd encouragement to speed up drinking things were looking sensible.
In an effort to keep people on the straight and narrow I suggested we head to a rather nice, and even better expensive, cocktail bar. This was a good sobering stroll away and so we set off - all was looking good. Sadly at some point Glynn had spotted the plan and waylaid it by suggesting that we could pop into an establishment which was targeting the more robustly drunk end of the market. Glynn went to the bar and returned with a pitcher of pink cocktail including who knows what at which point I thought I'd try the 'I'll drink it if you'll join me' to which Glynn, safe in the knowledge of our relative drinking capacities, flatly replied 'Fine'. Choppy waters were ahead.
A crystal clear recollection of the rest of the evening was not what I have been left with. I do remember we did get to the original target cocktail bar, whether this was before or after Glynn's treat above I'm not too sure. I am sure that the mix of beer and cocktails was not doing me any favours and at the same time people seemed a little worried I wasn't worse for wear. I could only hope I had managed to hide the whiskey at home otherwise it could get messy. I was accosted by one lady from a hen night but it wasn't quite the raucous drunken exchange I had imagined would happen. She carefully explained that her daughter would very much appreciate the fairy wings that I was wearing much more than I ever could and could she possibly take them when they left. While it didn't quite seem in the spirit of the evening to simply give them away without some sort of forfeit penalty, since she had asked nicely I agreed and advised her to take them and run for the door before the rest of the group noticed.
The warm up night out of the way and we were going to re-locate to Nottingham to continue the fun, picking up some new faces and losing some already tired looking faces. I was feeling surprisingly well at this point, so much so that Andy was happy to have me in his car on the drive up and after picking Glynn up from his well hidden house in Bister we made our way north. The first call was to the go karting center in Loughborough. On arrival I quickly realised that life could be worse having seen another stag dressed up in the pinnacle of Lycra achievement: a morph suit. The format for the karting was a team based event and it soon became apparent that we had a taste for the competition and put together a dream team of drivers from the pond we had to select from. I was first out and the plan I had been told was that we would swap drivers every 10 minutes or so. While on the track the team deduced that this would involve more pit stops and it would be more efficient if each person drove all their allotted time in one stint, if only their manic hand gestures got the message across. I thought I was being left to hang out and dry. Eventually waved in I crawled out of the kart and was pleased to see that I had taken us from the back of the grid to the front. Watching the karting was made more fun by one guy who came around the same hairpin in front of the spectators way too fast every lap and hit the tyre barrier in the same place, with the same thump. Time and time again until eventually it got a cheer from the crowd and a sigh from the owners of his kart. The rest of the guys saw off the minor challenges and with Andy Cross bringing us home there was no chance of being caught and we were just haggling for the faster lap time. A mention for our second string team is warranted, they were somewhat disadvantaged by not all even owning a driving license but they made a good fist of it and certainly did their share to spread chaos and confusion on the track. With the award ceremony over in a shower of cheap fizzy wine (foolishly given to me to pour over everyone one else!) it was time to relocate once more to Nottingham center.
The dress code for the evening was Dj's all round. Andy conveniently told me that I could save myself some time and leave mine at home...
Between the car park and the hotel Andy Cross decided to teach me a valuable lesson - never walk in front of him with your rucsac undone, shoes might just have a habit of walking away. The dress code for the evening was Dj's all round. Andy conveniently told me that I could save myself some time and leave mine at home so it came as little surprise when he arrived at the door of my room with a bright pink t-shirt with '007 starring Colin as Plenty O'Toole' on the front and 'keeping the British end up' on the back. Classy. Suitably attired for the evening we headed to the hotel bar for a quick 'sharpener' on the way. Glynn took the opportunity to test the generosity of the British public by leaving all his money on his seat. When someone from the hotel gave the money back the next morning I considered it test passed.
Our first stop for the evening was Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, one of the many establishments claiming to be the country's oldest pub. Still being early there was a reasonably respectable crowd out who only raised an eye at the James Bond wannabies who had just arrived. Being allowed to drink something sensible was a plus, the minus was in the cheeky grin that Andy had on his face. Once everyone was assembled he explained a little game for the evening. He produced a bag with small plastic toy soldiers in - each of which in a different fighting position - and everyone in turn picked one out of the bag. I got given a special character, some guy laying down. At this point Andy said 'I'm sure you all know where this is going...'. Having had the rules explained several times it was clear we did not. Basically whenever anyone finished a drink they could shout 'assume the position'. At this point everyone would have to mimic the pose of their chosen figure. The last person to do so would then have to take me into the crowd, find a lady, ask them to give me a peck on the cheek and sign my t-shirt. I've been at a few nights when signing t-shirts has been a theme and I have to say that at each and every one of them the pen used was some sort of felt tipped pen. Andy on the other hand packed two biro's, so I must thank him for the lasting near tattoos that I had to remember the weekend by for several weeks after. The rules explained, the first drink finished, the first position assumed and I was being marched off for a slightly too sober trip to the nearest group of people to politely ask for the appropriate interaction.
We'd had some pre-weekend votes for what food we wanted and curry had won the day so the spreadsheet man booked ahead a reasonably random choice. It turned out that he had stumbled upon Nottingham's finest curry house which had a much more upmarket air than what I had expected. I'm sure that the only way they were ever going to let in a stag group was if they were dressed in DJ's, fronted by a respectable looking man and were trying their best to hide the stag - we got lucky. In fact I got luckier, it was obvious that any force feeding of cocktails or assuming positions would simply get us thrown out so this side of the evening lay dormant for a while. The food was lovely, that is until Andy ordered a dish of something 'special'. While it's initial taste wasn't too devastating, the after burn had a life of its own.
With the food soaking up a pleasing amount of time the lads decided that it was time to step it up a bit and we headed over the road to the Salutation inn. There was a round of something horrible at the end of which some fool prompted us to assume the now familiar position. We got lucky with the crowd here as they were pretty interactive. Sarah (Andy's wife) had packed some goodie bags to try and tempt the ladies and despite our assumption that people wouldn't take sweets from strangers they went down rather well. With the signatures stacking up a couple of friendly blokes got in on the action, the full routine of kiss on cheek, signing of shirt and a quick snap with a camera. What made this meeting more memorable was the guy deciding that the appropriate pose for the picture would be to lick the side of my face, very slowly. He seemed more pleased with himself than we were and on that note we headed back out into the night once more.
Heading down towards the market square was a good move as we encountered some hen nights who were easy prey for some shirt signing and by now I was getting familiar with the position of bending over while being scrawled on with the razor sharp biro. I'll assume at this point we were getting drunk because going into Yates seemed like a good idea - or at least it was where the current hen night were going which at the time was the same thing. Once inside it dawned on us that we were several pints too sober for the atmosphere but we persevered to the bar for at least one round. With the sound levels approaching deafening levels it was also a hard place to pick up anymore signatures, as was evidenced by one lady at the bar who we tried to explain my plight to who just looked us all up and down as if we had suggested Hitler come round for tea. A goodie bagged saved the day and we made our escape.
Back out in the street and it was time for some of us to go clubbing and others to head off to bed. The hen night we had befriended earlier persuaded us to go to one of he large clubs, but were shocked to find out that we only knew it by the name it had a decade earlier when we were here for uni. Sadly they got in on the guest list having booked ahead and we waited in the queue, in my case for some much needed hyperventilating to sober up a bit. Once inside I was pleased to see that the place really hadn't changed much at all, in fact I'm sure the carpet was actually the same. Being middle aged, drunk and for the most part dressed in DJ's it was obviously time to throw some shapes on the floor and show the youngsters how it should be done. We were there for quite some time, in fact until it closed, but all I remember are the traditional snap shots of the dance floor, drinks, getting lost finding the toilet and wondering if my hearing would ever recover. Some people headed home early but I'm pleased to say that Andy 'Safe hands' Hamilton, Andy 'not so safe hands' Cross and Matthew 'hands that do dishes' Szyndel were the last men standing. All that remained was a quick bite to eat on the way back to the hotel.
In the morning most people had to head off but Petzel, Andy 'safe hands', Matthew, Glynn and myself went to Wollaton park for a refreshing game of cricket to work out the hangover. Having not clocked the fact that the Nottingham marathon was going to shut most of the roads that morning we set of for a frustrating drive done at walking pace. No matter we were soon bowling balls Shane Warne would have been proud of given the lumpy nature of pitch adding to the random element to any bounce. Just before leaving Matthew spiced things up by producing a mountain board for us to have a go at. Having handed it to me I realised it was heavier than it looked but I soon passed it on, Matthew falling for the old 'can you hold this for a sec while I tie my shoelace' trick. At the top of the hill there was a bit of milling around as we all wondered how badly this could end before they kindly volunteered me to jump on and have a go. My first run was a fluke and I got to the bottom with my pride and balance still intact. With some of the action now on camera I thought I'd have one more roll of the dice and tried a second run - my last thought before sliding off was that I should have quit while I was ahead. The shoelace trick didn't work on the way back but we were soon packed up and off for a quick bite to eat at a pub before driving home, where I could reflect on what I felt had been quite an easy ride from the weekend. Tied to lamppost? Nope. Still walking at the end? Yep. Sent to foreign country without passport? Nope. In trouble with the law? Nope. In fact some people have halfheartedly tried to complain that it was too easy for me but since they were generally there they only have themselves to blame!