time for a change of mood.
By way of a disclaimer, if you are easily offended please don't read this. Sometimes being true isn't adequate justification in itself:
I live alone, apart from the zoo of course, and I think I always will - and I know there are lots of other people in the same boat because I've spoken to quite a few of them. Strangely most of them seem to be a bit woolly on the "why" they live alone, it seems to be a genuine surprise to them, how did they get to this place and still not have found the person of their dreams? am I not lovable? attractive? (at least easy to please?)....I'm different in that respect at least, I have more than just an inkling into the "why". (And it wasn't anything to do with the ancient gin-soaked gypsy woman in the pub in Wales who grabbed my hand and sucked on her teeth before proclaiming, "you will bring happiness into other people's lives but you'll never find love of your own", but damn her hairy wart to hell anyway).
I arrived at Manchester University with my hy-man completely intact. It was a new beginning, a clean sheet, and a city that was bound to be full of girls, one of whom (please god) would know by just looking at me that I was really a sensitive, sexy young man who had a lot to offer - so long as it didn't involve conversation or sexual technique. So I was happy. My flatmates were magnificent caricatures too: A vicar's son from Blackpool. A gay skinhead from Blackheath who intended to finance his way through University by selling drugs, and a bluff potato man (he seemed to be 40 while the rest of us were just 19) from Preston. The latter had been sexually active since he was 9 years old and had come to Manchester simply because he had either slept with or been rejected by every girl (goat, sheep, relative) in Cumbria.
It was pretty bloody good. I know I don't have to explain anything about University life (or your first flat), but pretty soon we had our own collection of pizza boxes, stains, skin diseases, traffic cones. I learned how to wash my clothes without using water, how to order drugs politely...and then which order to take them in, and to lock the door of my room when I wasn't there.
I've always played hockey. Not ice hockey, but field hockey. It was an option at school. The other one was rugby union and I chose to hit a ball with a stick rather than have 14 hairy arsed strangers sit on me in the mud. It was a good choice, I've always enjoyed it and to be honest I'm actually quite good at it, I've played at county level and on one rare occasion for England. It's a very social sport, we play to win and with 22 men with sticks and one small, hard ball people often get hurt. It can be aggressive and sometimes positively nasty, but at the end of the game we shake hands and shout "three cheers for Old Loughtonians (substitute team name)", "huzza, huzzah, huzzah", really...and then off to the bar for beers.
It's served me well over the years too. After University I led quite a nomadic life, but all I had to do was to join the local hockey club and I would immediately have, if not mates, then like minded people to spend Saturday night with. So one of the first things I did was to join the Uni hockey section.
It was fun, but we were hopeless. We were in a league with other local teams who regularly thrashed us by cricket scores, which actually had the effect of making us quite popular. The other teams were made up of players who had jobs, whilst we were very poor (students), and they seemed happy to buy more than their fair share of the beer. Now I am a sociable soul at heart, and often as not I was either unable or unwilling to get back on the team minibus when it left, so I saw a lot of spare beds and living room settees, and I made my way home on Sunday morning from some pretty obscure places around Manchester.
One team was particularly hospitable and when one of them suggested that I joined them I leapt at the chance. They had already begun to plan their "tour", to the Isle of Mann at whit weekend. Hockey tours are an orgy of beer with vague lip service paid to the game itself, some teams do take the hockey seriously but they are on the whole to be either pitied, or despised, or both. I'd heard about touring but never been so I put my name down at once.
We arrived in the Isle of Mann via the IOM Steam Packet, a rustbucket that sailed out of Liverpool and took eight days to sail the 300 yards to Ramsey. We were in equal measure sea sick and nauseated from the amount of beer consumed, hoarse from singing and missing half of our equipment that had already left the ship in the hands of other disoriented teams. The sea front at Ramsey is wall to wall hotels, in the "Engish style", trumped up five storey bed & breakfast establishments run by people who were deemed too hostile to work in the prison service. The Balmoral, Carlton, SeaView, Loch Lomond, the Grand, shoulder to shoulder like slices in a toast rack in a regency curve around the bay as far as the eye can see. And in each one a hockey team, two or three in some of the larger hotels.
It really is quite a big and well organised tournament. Their are literally hundreds of pitches dotted around the island and a shuttle service of buses to pick up teams from the seafront and transport them to and from games. One particular aspect of the IOM that makes it ideal for a hockey festival is that there are no licensing hours, There will be somewhere on the island, if you are willing to look, that will serve you a beer 24/7.
I can't remember the name of where we stayed, I don't think I could at the time, it was the one between the pink hotel and the concrete bush shelter by the fish and chip shop. It was as dark and unhospitable inside as the proprieter could make it within the confines of the geneva convention. There was a bar though, and a runny egg in the morning, on a slice a toast, so we were content. My room was a monastic cell somewhere up in the gods, with a sink in the corner, and a single rattly sash window, there was a bathroom down the hall with just a bath in it and one loo that the entire landing had to share, I felt quite at home.
On the Saturady night there was (is still as far as I know) a "Ball" held in the Casino for all of the players. It's obviously not a "Ball" at all, just a focul point for everyone to go and get drunk as a group, generally socialise, dance, do their party trick and try desperately to pull. You will remember that I am a tour virgin at this time, and that position had responsibilities on our team. I was charged with going to the bar for the team drinks, alternately wearing trousers, undercrackers and nekked from the waist down, being made to drink more than my fair share of fines, running whatever errand any of my team mates could dream up....you get the idea.
By this time in my fruitless career admiring girls from afar I had already worked out for myself a universal truth - the more attractive I thought I was to the opposite sex, (that is the more I had drunk) the less attractive I actually was in identical inverse measure. I like to dance but after a few beers it can resemble a washing machine on spin cycle, I've looked in the mirror in the gents lav in night clubs, and observed the hollow eyed, sweaty , floppy haired moron staring back at me and asked it "why, why, are we not sexy?........my precious". Eventually I worked it out for myself.
Imagine my surprise then when I realized that, out of the 2000 people in the room that the girl at the bar was smiling at me. Not at someone behind me, but me! I smiled back and she said something, I've no idea what, and I tried to offer some explanation as to why I was standing at the bar in my underwear. She followed me back to the table and actually helped to carry the drinks, where one of my older team mates helpfully removed my underpants while I was struggling to put down the tray. My team made the most of the opportunity to embarrass me. I was covered in lager, and generally and enthusiastically harangued, condoms appeared from everywhere and some one who'd been watching too much Blue Peter made a hole in beer mat and pushed it over the end of my willy. Bastards, I thought, but when I looked over my shoulder she was still there, and still smiling.
I begged for my pants back, at least my underwear, but they wouldn't. I really wanted to dance but I could hardly ask her like that and I was trying to tell her so over the melee. She went away and I was absolutely gutted. I sat down on the sodden floor and did my best to finish off a jug of lager before any of my team mates could get their selfish, sodding hands on it. But, I had underestimated the lass, she came back, to more hoots and laughter with a ladies woollen sweater, which I thought was terribly nice, but really quite stupid in the circumstances. Then she knelt down next to me and whispered in my ear....
....which is why we ended up on the dance floor, stuck together for hours, her in jeans and a T shirt, me in a T shirt and my legs and bum in an upside down woolly sweater with the v-neck discreetly pointed to the back.
She really was quite lovely, Bear in mind that my sole criteria for finding a girl attractive at that time was whether she showed the slightest interest in me, but she really was, pretty and fun. She was from Liverpool and I remembered that my brother had reliably informed me about a club in Liverpool called the Grafton where 5 generations of Liverpudlians have been conceived in the queue, so I was very optimistic.
Eventually they threw us all into the street. We kissed, awkwardly because I was holding my woolly jumper up with one hand. I thought that was wonderful and I was already hoping that we might meet again during the weekend although I didn't expect to be that lucky - when she asked me where my hotel was. Eventually the penny dropped and we literally sprinted down the road. I don't know why she ran but I wanted to get there before she sobered up and changed her mind, or maybe found her marbles in her hand bag.
I went to bed a tour virgin, and a virgin in every other sense.....I woke up, alone, exactly the same.
It was a pretty good hangover, right over the eye. The sun was creeping across the walls through the curtains, I was stiff, sore all over in fact and I was sure I'd missed my runny egg. There was a vile taste in my mouth and a horrible smell in the room. I lay there for a while and contemplated as best I could between the grinding pebbles in my head. I knew that we hadn't, I had remembered lying on the bed, kissing, getting incredibly turned on and getting naked in fits and starts and bursts of giggles, and kissing and murmuring and then....I knew we hadn't, I'd simply fallen asleep. A triumph of lager over lust.
Eventually the pain in my head and the taste in mouth drove me to make some effort to get to the daily ration of aspirin and toothpaste, And what the hell was that smell? I gingerly, incrementally lifted my head off the pillow and looked down. There, coiled on my chest, between my nipples, was a perfectly executed Mr Whippy poo. (For those of you who do not know Mr Whippy, he is the brand of ice cream completely devoid of any dairy that comes out of a machine in a swirl - sometimes we have a chocolate bar in it, but I've never fancied a "99" for some reason).
I lay back. Perhaps there was a cat in the room, the cat crept in, crapped, and crept out again. But that was silly, a cat wouldn't do that, it was just too much effort, and they are generally much neater. A seagull, nope, wrong diet....I'd done it myself perhaps, but I couldn't imagine what physical contortion I would have needed to perform....unless of course I'd done it in mid air and managed to land before my little brown friend. Like Sherlock Holmes, having eliminated the impossible, the solution no matter however improbable was that....
....she must have been rather upset. I mean I've heard the phrase "don't get mad, get even", but this seemed a little, well, OTT.
You rememeber perhaps that the toilet was at the end of the hall, and this certainly wasn't something I wanted to deposit in the sink. I lay for an age wondering how to disengage myself from my little present. In the end, I slid tortuously from the side of the bed and limbo danced to the window, it was a sash, and I turned sideways (with my head bursting with the effort) and managed to lift. I faced the window, and took a deep (and unwise breath) and stood, suddenly and lurched forward towards the window. The little turd shot out, street bound, from 5 floors up. I covered an hysterical urge to shout "gard a looo!!" after it.
When I left the hotel later, I left in a suspicious, embarrassed kind of way, I didn't meet anyone in the eye, and I didn't look down at the pavement.