Monday, January 25, 2010

Wear & Tear

From the top deck, we track the advance of the bus as it wobbles and weaves up Whitehall, the midsummer rising sun starting to glint on the very top of Big Ben’s spire, the sky a heady mix of bright blues and pinks. Excitedly, we recount adventures which have left us with nowhere near enough sleep for the best part of a week, our backpacks contain clothes stained with beer and suntan lotion, and we have each received texts from separate 20-year-old girls saying they are waiting up for us in their respective beds in Kentish Town. They probably won’t even make us shower. Life is good.

As the bus tip toes through the crowds of people being ejected from clubs around Leicester Square, we see people we know, and we wave as they throw chips. At Tottenham Court Road, people we know get on and we chat. In spite of six days of booze, we make plans to go out the following evening. We own this city.

Eight years later, I stir my empty mind and puff my cheeks with fatigue as the bendy bus finally reaches inhospitable Stratford, and I look out at the grey twilight of a cold midwinter’s London dawn. My animated companion tries to talk to some girls, but at 7.15am he’s going to have to come up with something extraordinary to make any progress, surely? I will him to fail, mainly because I need to get to bed, pronto. I listen in, and he has perhaps passed the point of decipherability. I think "good".

Nowadays, I have a little mantra: know when to go home. Problem is, after my sixth or seventh drink, I don’t have a lot of time for receiving my received wisdom. And so, every few months, I try to do what I would have effortlessly done twice-weekly ten years ago, and experience weary despair at how much just one night of it pains me. I will be going to bed at 9pm for a week.

“Hey, look at you, fatso!” someone who hadn’t seen me for a year had said earlier that night.

Oh, lost youth.

1 comment:

Chris Cope said...

Knowing when to call time on an evening is a fine and challenging art. The magic trick is to go home right when things aren't going to get better. But it's hard to see that a few pints in.

In a nightclub, that time is immediately after they play a track by Madness. Actually, at the point it's already begun to slip downward but it's still early enough not to wake up regretting the whole thing.