Wishing a very Happy Birthday to one of my dearest, daftest friends.

 

“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.” Queen Victoria

 

 

 

I am writing this special blog for a friend who celebrates her birthday today (she knows who she is). 

We have been acquainted for forty years and the best of friends for thirty-three of those (and still counting) and despite that, in many ways, we are extremely different,  we are also very similar and during this time, as you would expect, we have enjoyed endless exploits and entertaining and emotional experiences together.

Our joint experiences have covered almost everything imaginable, far too much to mention here, but just as a summary we have gone from little girls dressing up and playing silly games, to wanting to be Madonna or Whitney Houston, our first cigarette after watching Breakdance the movie at Dreamland Cinema and thinking that Ozone was just the coolest ever, sitting next to each other in every possible class throughout secondary school, the arrival of puberty, being madly in love with Michael J Fox (her), being madly in love with David Bowie (me), sneaking naughty alcoholic drinks from our parents drinks cabinets, discovering boys, boys, boys, being madly in love with all of the pairs of male foreign students that stayed at my parents home, never fancying the same boys…not EVER!, bunking off school when we had stand-in teachers and spending the afternoon in Chelsea Girl instead, getting awards for our GCSE grades, drunken teenage parties, cruising in her White Renault 5, nightclubbing, holidays to the South of France, Tenerife and Marbella, Dancing, Singing and ‘after show’ parties, larging it up in London, becoming Nineties Yuppies, moving away from home, knowing each others secrets, covering for each other, defending each other, bringing out the best in each other, occasionally bringing out the worst in each other, entertaining each other, emotionally supporting each other, being bridesmaids at each others weddings, not letting more than a few weeks go by without speaking to each other and generally developing into the adults (though not necessarily grown-ups) that we are today.

Obviously, I am not about to share anything deeply secret, too personal or overly embarrassing as that would just be unkind and not a very nice way to pay homage to one of my best friends in the whole world.

Instead, on this occasion, you will have to make do with a couple of witty little scenarios.

I’m going way, way back now, over two and a half decades ago and it’s a Saturday night.

We are seventeen years old. We are on a double date with two boys we recently met at our local nightclub, they are a year or two older and, like us, they are also best friends. We have fancied them for a few weeks and having finally caught their eye, they had asked us out on a double date. They have chosen to take us to Dreamland cinema and then onto Thorleys for drinks afterwards. To this day I can not for the life of me remember what film it was that we went to see, in fact very little about that evening sticks in my mind at all which is quite unusual as I generally have a most remarkable memory for details.

We have not been seated for long when my friend starts to make rather a commotion about a “disgusting smelling person” sitting somewhere near her (not her date I might add!), saying that it smells like someone has “shat themselves”. I tell her I can’t smell anything and to stop making a scene though I guess that she is making quite the fuss about it, because she obviously would not want her date to catch a whiff of it and think perhaps that it is she that is responsible for the stench, so she sits there, wafting her hand in front of her face, pinching her nose and muttering under her breath, as the film starts.

Sometime later, the intermission arrives and we hastily make a beeline for the ladies conveniences, primarily to check that our permed, hair-sprayed hair has not moved a millimetre, that our No17 lipstick is holding fast, to avail ourselves of a top-up squirt of Impulse and obviously to also have a wee. It is only now that my friend discovers that at some point prior to our arrival to the cinema she must have inadvertently trodden in a great big messy dog poo because one of her shoes is smothered in it.

Uh Oh! Not only that but having spent a great deal of the first half of the film with her feet up on her seat, she has now also managed to transfer said dog poo onto the back of her gleaming white jeans. Shit! It is now my unenviable task, in the available few minutes that we have, to try and remove said dog poo from the back of her white jeans with just cheap cinema toilet paper and mostly cold water at my disposal! Back in the day, we didn’t have exclamations such as OMG! or WTAF! but had we done so, then this would certainly have been a bona fide opportunity for the use of both. I did what I could to remove anything that was visible and after thoroughly washing my hands, I emptied almost half a bottle of Impulse onto the back of her jeans to ensure that no nasty niffs would be forthcoming for the rest of the evening. Obviously, she had also cleaned her offending shoe by now and that too had received a liberal spraying of fragrance. We returned to where we were sitting, re-joining our dates, and knowing that one of the seats was covered in dog poo we expertly managed to convince them to shift along the row a few seats since there were some spare seats next to us, naturally, under the excuse of the ‘unknown origin of the smell’.

The second half of the film finished (I still can’t think what it might have been that we watched) and we, along with everyone else, prepared to leave the cinema. Disaster had thankfully been averted and my friend’s jeans were now reasonably dry, fragrant and poo-stain free, ready for us to enjoy the rest of our evening. We were walking through the brightly lit lobby of the cinema, which after the dark of the auditorium for the past two hours seemed almost blindingly bright when my friends date suddenly stopped in front of one of the long Art deco mirrors that lined the entrance. He was busy inspecting his stone coloured chinos. “Ah shit, I think I’ve got chocolate on my trousers.” he said looking a little uncertain as to how it could have happened since none of us had eaten any chocolate “it must have been on my seat”. My friend and I dared not look at each other, knowing that to do so, would risk us exploding into panicked hysterics; we have always been prone to fits of the giggles at the most inappropriate times and we definitely needed to maintain our innocence and composure at this point. He picked at his trousers in an attempt to remove the ‘chocolate’ and instinctively, like you do, he gave his fingers a quick sniff. His face froze, for he now knew that it was not chocolate. Obviously, not wanting to admit to having something that certainly looked and smelt very much like poo smeared on his trousers he brazened it out. “I’m just going to pop to the toilet and see if I can wipe this off,” he said and at this, he nodded at his friend in the suggestion that he should accompany him. The minute they were out of earshot my friend looked at me and let out a long breath that she had obviously been holding for some time “Christ, how did that happen?” she said, followed quickly by “Don’t you dare say a word” she looked at me firmly. I laughed but, of course, shook my head in response, it would never cross my mind to rat her out and embarrass her like that. We reasoned that she either must have got it on his trousers when perhaps she put her legs across him when they cuddled up during the film or maybe that he had brushed against the front of her seat briefly when we were absent during the intermission, perhaps standing up for a stretch. Either way, he probably now felt responsible for the smell that had been present all evening and certainly, neither of them needed to know that it was actually because my friend had trodden in dog poo. That would remain just between the two of us.

I can’t, in all honesty, continue with the rest of this story because at this point I would literally be making it up. I genuinely can’t remember what happened after that. I have no clue if we ever made it to Thorleys or what we did, I have zero recollection of the rest of the evening, I have no memory of so many other details of this evening, specifics that you would imagine would have been important to me, all I can remember is Poo-gate!

I can, therefore, assume that my date certainly did not turn out to be the love of my life and that the film we watched did not become one of my firm favourites.

I’ll give you one more story, it is not necessarily one of the funniest or the most remarkable in all of our years together, it is merely a memory that came to me earlier that made me smile.

It’s another Saturday evening, many years later. We are now about thirty and it’s in the days when the famous celebrity haunt in London is Chinawhite and I’m talking about the original club between Piccadilly Circus and Soho, not the newer version that now exists in Fitzrovia. With her ‘connections’, she’d normally manage to get us on to the guest list of the best clubs in London and we’d usually manage to blag our way into the VIP area beyond that. Anyway, on this particular night, I believe we had become quite ‘merry’ (aka royally shit-faced) in various bars before we had even arrived at Chinawhite. Once in there, we were raring to go and I decided, when the resident Bongo player had popped off for a break, that I would get up and give it a try, it certainly didn’t look too difficult. To be honest, I thought I had slapped those skins pretty good but the thunderous look on the Bongo player’s face as he wrestled his way through the dancing hedonists back towards me was sufficient to make me give up any ideas of a career in ‘The Art of Bongo playing’ and I hastily jumped down off the stage and disappeared into the crowd before he could lynch me. Apparently, it is a very serious offence to touch another man’s bongos.

I must have been feeling super confident that night because, after my brief bongo bash, I was then to be found dancing like something possessed. After a short while I became aware of the fact that I could feel someone bumping into me….a LOT and I distinctly felt some hands, lightly about my waist, I spun around to see who was being so bold and I came face to face with a tiny little fellow wearing a huge cheeky grin. I say tiny because I had long since discarded my heels, so I was barefoot which put me at 5ft 3¾ (that ¾ of an inch is very important) and he was only about an inch taller than me.  He continued to grin and was bumping and grinding and pulling some serious moves so I joined in. We danced for a while, sort of together and sort of in our own world and then I saw my friend gesturing to me from the comfort of the sofa’s waving at me to rejoin her and some friends.

It turned out that the young chap I was dancing with was Shaun Wright-Phillips (son of Ian Wright) but of course I didn’t have a clue who he was since I know absolutely nothing about football.

Anyway, all that dancing had made me thirsty so it was definitely time for another cocktail. Has anyone else experienced the situation of the more you drink the less you can taste the alcohol? I was absolutely certain that the bartender had entirely forgotten to add the vodka! Had we just paid twenty-five quid for two complicated fruit juices? Though admittedly, just a short while later the room did seem to be spinning a little more and I could feel that I probably needed to go and lock myself in a nice cool, reasonably quiet toilet cubicle until my eyes uncrossed themselves.

I must have been in the toilets a lot longer than I had imagined because someone was hammering on the door and barking a command at me that the club was now closing. I stood up feeling a little disoriented and unlocked the door to find the toilet attendant glowering at me and barging past me into the cubicle, most likely to make sure I had not been using the toilet for drugs or had left it in a vomit covered mess, I had done neither of course, just possibly closed my eyes for a ‘few minutes’ or so. As I left the toilets, people were starting to leave the club. I couldn’t remember exactly which of the rooms I had come from and a sea of people were now going against me, hampering my efforts to return to my friends, even if I had known which direction to go in. I decided that the best idea would be to head for the exit and no doubt I would meet up with my friends along the way or outside, certainly easier than searching for them inside. My feet were throbbing again and I was still feeling a little unsteady on them so I decided to take my shoes back off. I stumbled out of the club to the waiting paparazzi. I had my shoes in one hand, and my other hand with my clutch bag, up in front of my face repeatedly saying “No photo’s, no photo’s!” whilst I pushed through them, before remembering that I wasn’t even famous and therefore nobody would be wanting to take a picture of me anyway. To my great relief, I spotted my friend across the street. She was managing to hold onto a taxi and was waving frantically at me to join her before the taxi driver became impatient and decided to take another fare.

Settling inside the dark, comforting confines of the London cab I suddenly longed for a cup of tea, some marmite on toast and of course…..bed!

These are just two excerpts from the hundreds of evenings out we have had. Some are truly outrageous, some are mind-bogglingly bizarre but I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t have a smattering of ludicrousness about it, like one particular very sociable evening in another London club where I got incredibly drunk and was insistent on trying to convince everyone that I was a mind reading alien, I think perhaps the only person that I truly managed to convince that night was myself and I actually went as far to invite everyone back to the spaceship for a party. It was only at the end of the evening when we were pulling away in the cab that I suddenly shouted “Stop. Hang on, how are everyone else going to find their way to the spaceship?” it was my best friend, bless her, who patiently turned to me and said most matter-of-factly “You don’t have a spaceship babes” and signalled to the driver to carry on.

I know it must sound like I am somewhat of a liability on a night out but there have been plenty of occasions where the boot has very much been on the other foot. We kind of take it in turns and I am sure that a great many of you will be able to relate to the inexorable situation of the following formula:

A certain someone + any location + alcohol = inanity, stupidity and more often than not, one hell of a hangover!

As individuals, we seem like rather self-possessed, intelligent, capable perhaps even formidable women but when we get together idiocy is entirely unavoidable as we are transported back to being silly, giggly teenagers again.

I look forward to several decades more of utterly silly shenanigans with my double in delinquency, my twin in transgression.

The Patsy to my Eddie darrrrrrling. Happy Birthday, treasure…..mwah!

The Virtual Recluse