Getting bullied by Pink Shorts

During my previous excursions with the snooker boys, I have been tragically absent from any proceedings beyond day two. My usual routine is to get bladdered on the first night while I feel lively, stumble out twenty four hours later feeling wobbly, then my body has some kind of breakdown and I’m in bed by half eleven with a cup of tea made by the pathetic miniature kettle on the hotel table and John Sopel examining a bank bailout on Newsnight.

That could never happen in Magaluf for varying reasons. One, I would lose a ton of LAD points (more on that later). Two, we are in a non-stop party place where the clubs stay open until 6am and there is little else to do except drink horrid vodka that makes you wince with every gulp, attempting to initiate sexual proceedings with anything that moves, before booking a trip to the clinic on the flight home. Three, the telly costs four Euros per day so a brew and a spot of late night politics were out of the question.

First we had to negotiate a Ryanair flight. All I could think as I sat in the cabin drowning in yellow, blue and poor people, was that if the worst happens, my last living sight could be a long metallic tube staffed by the most gormless flight attendants you could ever wish to meet, while various Reebok-clad sewer-dwellers panic like some wag on The Only Way Is Essex who has mislaid her makeup kit. When the perma-tanned stewardess at the front of the plane started demonstrating the safety procedures, I remember thinking I’ve seen livelier looking pillar boxes.

Ryanair flights are cheap and nasty. They remind me of those old women at supermarket checkouts with a tartan trolley and a bag full of pennies to play the lottery with. Yet when the menu came round, I wondered whether we were in the Ritz hotel. The woman beside me purchased a small cardboard box of dried fruit for five Euros, while water fetched three Euros per bottle. I wouldn’t mind if the service was top notch and every sinew of effort was being spent on making my flight a pleasurable experience. But a downpour at Stanstead forced us to run across the tarmac and scramble on the plane like captured POWs being hauled aboard a ship, although the menacing row of machine guns were replaced by an unsmiling simpleton wishing us a pleasant journey.

There was a mad scramble for seats as Ryanair neglects to hand out individual seat numbers. They just fling as many pasty-faced Brits into the aircraft as possible, meaning that large groups of people have to split up and shout to each other during the flight, which makes for an extremely friendly ambience, something like a prison block after lights out. As the plane landed, and the thunk of a tyre on runway gave way to a set of screeching breaks, celebratory music was played over the sound system, a wonderfully cheap gimmick. You can’t imagine Qatar Airways doing the same, perhaps inviting their cabin crew to cheerlead a “We didn’t die in a great ball of fire” routine as the pilot strides out from the cockpit and bows before his grateful customers.

The flight parked so far away from the terminal that a troupe of buses had to ferry us back. Brilliantly, in a near-empty airport and with zero traffic, the driver got lost.

“That’s the third time we’ve gone past that refuelling tank” the ageing bloke beside me said, in a resigned ‘typical bloody foreigners’ sort of voice. We wanted a full seven nights out, so were desperate to get to our hotel and head out straight away because the clock was ticking. Therefore, in duty-free, we purchased a fair bundle of vodka so the drinking could begin in earnest. It was in the taxi, with a bottle of Sprite and vodka in hand, that thoughts turned to the LAD Bible. The idea is that certain escapades earn you points and the person with the most points would win a pot of cash. A snog was worth one point, so was throwing up. “Well, Chris is guaranteed seven points” said Zack, knowing that my stomach is a tender beast at the best of times.

At the other end of the scale, a two-bagger (a girl so ugly you need two brown bags at hand – one for you and one for her in case yours slips off) was worth a cool ten points. I fully realise that this is gratuitous stuff. Sexist and misogynist, oh yes. Reducing women to points in a competition truly should be the lowest of the low. I was therefore somewhat cheered when we found a group of girls operating a similar system, which means that even if our game was a sexist’s charter, it was being adopted by both sides of the divide.

At the hotel we changed and showered in a matter of minutes to get down ‘n’ funky with the Magaluf lasses. To set the template for the coming week, we had barely walked out of the hotel when a blonde kid chased us down the road, telling us to visit the venue opposite our hotel which had a massive sign describing it as a ‘Local British pub’, playing host to ‘Top British DJs’, despite it being 11pm and empty. I chance life and limb on a Ryanair flight, travelling hundreds of miles to experience a new culture, and the first thing I see is a local British pub. Terrific.

The reps were the most irritating feature of the holiday, although the prostitutes gave them a run for their money. This isn’t prostitution Amsterdam-style, all legal, bathed in red light and erotic – it’s tacky. Young black women (they are all black, unless you would call the trashy white girl gyrating against her chosen man in a bar a whore, which most of us did) approach you out of nowhere. They are like flying ants, rising from the nearest drain or car park, making kissing sounds to attract your attention like a half-hearted plunger. Some go further, moving in for the kill with a touch to the arm, stomach or crotch.

“Sucky sucky ten Euro” they purr, ignoring frequent requests to piss off. Turning the corner into the square containing my hotel one night, I saw a fat kid hastily zipping up his shorts. He then ran down the street in pursuit of his chosen belle, shouting “How can you say a thirty second hand job is worth ten Euros? I want sucky sucky”. His chubby legs carried him to the nearest fast food restaurant (about four paces away) before his dreams of sucky sucky vanished and he ordered a kebab, with a shrug that said “You win some, you lose some”.

Yet the reps are more annoying because they know they are legal and it gives them a sense of invincibility. All it takes to scare the prostitutes away is for someone to make a ‘nee-nor’ sound and flash a blue light. Watch them run away as fast as their high heels and mini-skirts will allow them to. On the other hand, the reps won’t take no for an answer, turning into shepherds herding young men and women into their bar.

Repetitive cries of “I’ll give you two jugs of cocktails, two for one on all your drinks and a free shot, all for six Euros” tumbled from every rep on the strip in a cavalcade of desperate voices. There’s this weird contract between punters and reps. The girls are always extremely flirty towards the lads and they always seemed to pick on Ryan, by far the shortest member of our group (a fact we never, ever mention) maybe because he looked the most gullible.

Jamie – who we all know better as Lui due to his uncanny resemblance to Lui Chang, a Chinese snooker player – was always excruciating in these moments, trying it on with the female reps, somehow thinking they might leave their purely commission-based jobs to have it off with the ugliest player on the professional snooker tour.

The night before leaving, someone mentioned travel insurance and I had a panic attack because it hadn’t even crossed my mind. Thankfully, Tesco offers a quick service over the net for the traveller in a hurry. Medical expenses up to £2 million were covered, which I was hopeful might cover any naughty digressions. Russ on the other hand decided to keep his spare money for the drinking.

Lo and behold, he woke up after the first night to find his phone missing. Not just any phone but a £400 iPhone and one which Russ admitted felt like “a limb”. Being the best of friends, with Russell’s emotions and well-being at heart, we only asked him to text us his whereabouts should he ever get lost every fifteen minutes or so. He was the only person without insurance, the poor fella, another thing we mentioned on the hour, every hour, lest he forget. Merciless.

The Red Lion seemed to become our regular haunt, mainly because after four nights it was the only place that any of us had managed to hook up. As is tradition, my first night was pretty massive and I remember dancing for ages with a rather attractive girl, while the rest of the group snickered and pointed. Next thing I know I’m waking up in my hotel room, alone and dehydrated. I entered the toilet and a monstrous smell greeted my nostrils. Sick covered the floor and the toilet was a mess. “Shitting heck Jamie” I remember tutting, going next door to use their toilet until Jamie did the honourable thing and cleared up his mess. Turned out I had a kebab (for the first time in my life – I must have been pissed) and it was me. It smelt like a chicken korma too. Don’t ask.

We had all tried to look our best for Magaluf. Personally, I undertook so many trips to the gym that I felt I had to explain to the receptionist why I didn’t look like a dead cert for the next front cover of Men’s Fitness magazine. Russ tried his hardest, bless him, but the tedium of employment got the better of him. Ryan, Sam and Zack went shopping on numerous occasions, hand-picking the garments which they thought would have the biggest pulling power. Dean’s a skinny rake anyway, so his preparations amounted to packing the evening before our trip. Ergo Jamie.

I mention this because none of us looked like Pink Shorts. On the second day, we decided to waste time around the pool in order to acclimatise with the weather and our fellow bikini-wearing guests. Yet as we topped up our tan and played volleyball in the pool, Pink Shorts was sorted, surrounded by a posse of women, all admiring his tanned, toned body and rippling six pack. I looked down at the blub I’d failed to shift and cried.

“Boys” said Ryan one afternoon, as another buff man-mountain found himself surrounded by a phalanx of eligible young women, “We need to go somewhere the boys are ugly next time”.

“Only so you fit in” Sam acidly replied.

Things got worse too. We were getting bullied. We bought a volleyball in the misplaced hope it might aid communication with the masses, especially as we weren’t keen on Sam’s advice, which was to take up smoking: “Asking for a lighter is the best conversation starter”. By day three, the boorish men on stag dos and young Pedros with jarringly muscular abdomens were kicking our ball over the fence and generally sending us back to year seven P.E. We were grown men and we were being bullied on holiday. We were making The Inbetweeners look like the height of cool.

Even the girls staying in the apartments opposite would sooner have been staying next to an incinerator than the seven of us. It didn’t help that they were the sourest, most miserable people in Spain. When they first arrived, all leggy, hat-wearing and gorgeous, we practically wet ourselves. Zack was so excited he went to do his hair again. Minutes later, our friendly advances had been rebuffed and every time we met in the hallway there was an awkward silence. “Why can’t we be normal?” someone sighed. Hilariously, Ryan managed to sneak next door one morning, trying to get some sympathy for his pathetic points tally. They were a collective shoulder to cry on and seemed to be warming to him. Come the afternoon, when sobered up, the door was shut and it was The Cold War all over again.

All of this is not to suggest we weren’t enjoying ourselves. On the contrary, when out and about, we forgot about our dire hotel experiences and got ‘on it’, doing all the things you’re supposed to do on a lad’s holiday. On the second night, I lost most of the group and headed back to our presumptive headquarters, The Red Lion.  There, a plump Spanish girl stuck her tongue down my throat. Even though my taste buds were screaming for release (the garlic!) my hormones were telling me otherwise. Plus she was a fat girl, which meant I had already bagged two points.

I gestured that we should leave The Red Lion and, you know, undergo a guided tour of my hotel bedroom. She whispered “Uno momento” and rushed over to her mates, where she spent the next couple of minutes looking frantically to me and back. She returned and from her expression I could tell she had to stay. Instead of saying anything, she pulled my head down with the force of an arm-wrestling champion (my neck still hurts) and gave me another garlic tongue lashing. It was like snogging a chicken kiev. “I want more than two points from this” I thought, so I asked again. She scurried off and returned with little more than an open mouth, like a particularly dozy goldfish. I just walked out. A gentleman, I know.

Famously, holiday resorts that cater for booze-laden tourists encourage displays of manliness, none more so than with games like The Boxer, which can be located in every bar and club. Basically, you have to punch a leather ball as hard as you can and register a score between 0 and 999. Every man and his dog thinks they have what it takes to score big after a crate of WKD, so naturally, we all had a go in Baywatch, a beach-themed bar.

As mentioned earlier, Dean’s a skinny so-and-so with barely a muscle to his name. He tenses his biceps in the classic ‘lad’ pose and there is no discernible difference. However, for some unknown reason, he had a killer punch in the boxing game. While his competitors were crashing and burning with scores under 800 (not to mention a multitude of bruised hands and fingers), Dean smashed his way to a scarcely believable 854. Drugs tests were jealously demanded. He beat all in his path, an all-conquering hero. Until some nutter came along and almost broke the machine with a new high score of 914. Dean looked away, disheartened. “Show off” I heard him mutter, even though he started revving his arms and posing like Usain Bolt after registering 854. 

Halfway through our holiday, there were three contenders for the LAD Bible title. Zack had opened his account on the first night with a crop-haired girl he had met in a park on the walk home. If this sounds like something which would normally land you in front of a judge, that’s nothing to the piss-taking he had to endure. Because her hair was of such a mannish quality, we christened her Frodo. Cue much joking about “destroying the ring”. Turned out she was on the same floor, so the next week was punctuated with muffled whispers of “here comes the Fellowship” and avoidance of the communal lift in case Frodo had returned from the Shire.

Jamie, who now also went by the name Radek Stepanek (the ugliest pro tennis player), struck gold on the middle night with a double. The first came about because he was talking to every girl on the strip like he was the host of The Generation Game. “Where are you from?” he said, badgering every girl he came across. One girl said she was from Brighton and we got a little excited.

“Oh my god, so are we!”

She gave us a suspicious glance, probably because men with thick Irish accents said the same thing, thinking of it as a way in. In a moment of inspiration, I thought of a foolproof way of persuading her.

“That’s where the 49A goes isn’t it?” I enquired and her face lit up like a beacon. That was possibly the only time in history that an intricate knowledge of Brighton & Hove bus services comes in handy with the ladies.

Jamie hooked up with a half-Spanish girl and I was forced to play second fiddle with her mate, Annie, who it soon became clear would rather back flip off the top floor of her hotel than contribute towards my points tally. We headed down to the beach and adopted a deckchair as Jamie soon left in the darkness, girl in tow.

“You don’t fancy me do you?” I asked Annie, not particularly minding the answer. She knew she needed me, in case things went wrong and I needed to get hold of Jamie. But equally she didn’t like me in the slightest. She stared at me for a couple of seconds, kissed me on the lips (a point!) and then glanced nervously in the direction her mate and mine left for the umpteenth time. Upon their return, both were insufferably giggly and all over each other so I returned to the hotel for nap time (nap times mysteriously became more common after our poolside traumas). Come 8am, Jamie entered the apartment with another girl and they used the bed beside me as if I wasn’t there. Understandably, she seemed a bit freaked out.

“What about your friend?”

“Don’t worry, he’s probably passed out” Jamie said, at once humiliating me and my lightweight tendencies, and condemning me to listen to a full ten minutes of squelching, groans and the breaking of bedsprings.

Sam was also in the running, if only for the best post-coital sentence in the history of man. As Ryan woke up and poked his head through the bedroom door, with a cheeky “wakey wakey”, Sam was still clutching someone.

“You scored me so many points last night” he said, through a smarmy grin.

“Fuck off” she barked.

“Russ, send me a text saying how many points you’ve got” Zack cruelly said.

While it’s true that every night presented a fresh set of challenges and renewal of our Magaluf vows, the persistent drinking, a diet of barely passable hotel food and the outrageously hot weather meant that our immune systems were taking a battering. By day five, every one of us had a ‘warm’. The same symptoms in Britain would have constituted a ‘cold’ but as we were in the eye of a heat wave, with temperatures pushing 39 degrees, it seemed a little incongruous to call it a ‘cold’. Dean was sneezing, Zack and I were coughing, and we all felt like someone was jumping on our chests while we slept. “I’ve got such a bad warm” Ryan moaned, beleaguered, as he coughed up his liver.

On the first night we were warned about the local vodka, called Rushkinoff. Vile stuff by all accounts. Apparently, it makes you lose your voice. Naturally sceptic of this fishwives’ tale, we hit the Rushkinoff hard all week until a conversation in our room sounded like Billy Connolly having an argument with a faulty Dyson. It’s fair to say that Magaluf had ruined us.

There was still time to meet some real characters, among them Denzel, a big black guy who seemed to be making his way through the female citizens of Mallorca at an extraordinary rate. If asked for his notches on the bedpost, it would have been quicker to point out the girls he hadn’t bedded. Zack met him first, exiting a hotel.

“I just nicked 300 Euros out of their safe” Denzel bragged, with barely a hint of emotion. The following day, a mere twenty-four hours later, he confessed to Jamie that his criminality had failed to pay off.

“I lost all the money while I was on the strip and then I set off a fire extinguisher at my hotel so I owe them 150 Euros” he plaintively admitted. Karma’s a strange beast.

Back at the hotel, I bumped in to a couple standing outside a room on my floor. He was wearing nothing but a towel and was cosying up to her again. After noticing me, he halted all festivities and stared unblinkingly at me. As I drew level he bellowed in a brash Yorkshire accent “My name is Nathan and I am the king of self-fellatio!”

It’s 5am, I’m alone, the man has more tattoos than brain cells. What on earth am I supposed to do? Well, if you’re me, you say “Good for you” and hope that will suffice. He eventually let it go and allowed me a safe passage back to my room.

With the competition heating up, it was time for someone to pull something drastic out of the bag. And from his bag, Zack pulled a belter. A bonus three points was available for anyone who managed to record something. The morning after the night before, Zack treated us to a muffled sex tape. This was made a hundred times more cringeworthy because he had adopted a husky voice, which had a ring of Barry White about it. “Oh baby, you’re gonna make me cum” we heard him groan, in the cheesiest porn star voice imaginable. I was picturing a grainy 1970s showreel, a spectacular moustache and a blonde damsel with fake hair up to the ceiling.

But then real life interrupted and a shrill female voice shouted:

“THAT BETTER BE A FUCKING TORCH!”

The recording stopped abruptly and we looked at Zack for a moment before applauding his chutzpah, even if his ego was already large enough to warrant an extra seat on the return flight.

Ryan wasn’t having much luck, exemplified by his vest, which for no reason other than to spite him, turned from pink to white whenever in contact with heat. His already sunburnt body was thereafter juxtaposed with a half-pink, half-white sleeveless shirt which made him look like a horizontal stick of Brighton rock.

On the last night, he promised to go all out in pursuit of points, for he was propping up the table. In BCM, the best nightclub I have ever been in – the thumping, filthy electro house made me pogo relentlessly, whether intoxicated or not – he was making headway with a very pretty girl. They retired to the bar for chat and liquor. A few minutes later we were adopting rictus grins and shaking our heads in disbelief. Ryan was cradling the girl’s head in his lap. We couldn’t believe it – nothing all holiday, and then he gets a public blowy in one of the world’s best nightclubs!

Again, reality spoilt the party and the champagne was put on ice. Turns out she was off her trolley and she was choosing that moment to empty her stomach all over Ryan’s shorts. Ryan’s reaction was priceless. Instead of walking away and cursing his luck, night ruined, he brushed off the incident (and the vodka soup) and said “Better not kiss her for a while… get a few drinks down her”. That, for future reference, is desperation in all its glory.

Magaluf 2012. Been there, done it, got the sick-stained shorts.

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All the things you do on a stag do

My mate Tim is getting married, the poor sod. I’m not suggesting he is an unfortunate soul for getting hitched. I mean that he must participate in the gruesome tradition of a stag do. I’ve never been on a stag do before, so when he suggested I pop along to the post-go-karting piss-up, I was always going to oblige.

Tim is a reasonably quiet figure. He’s on the same course as me at university and I barely knew who he was until he started fetching the same train as me. During classes, he takes an oath of silence from beginning to end unless he is specifically called upon. So it was with a degree of shock that I met him at Eastbourne station wearing a ‘Game Over’ t-shirt and a miniature pink penis in a shot glass around his neck. Apparently his fiancée had ordered him to visit a strip club and the pink beaded necklace was her gift from the hen party.

Simon, the best man, let me in on the plan. “I’ve rang ahead and asked them to take him on stage, whip him, put cream over him and everything” he said, with buoyant enthusiasm.

“But Tim can barely speak in front of twelve classmates he has known for three years, how is he going to react to a ritual humiliation in a strip club?” I asked. “Ahh” said Simon, noticing the flaw in his immaculate plan but coming up with a solution in seconds: “We need to get him really pissed”.

The next three hours were an exercise in forcing Tim to drink as much as possible. When we arrived in Wetherspoon’s in Brighton, we ordered cocktails, shots and Jägerbombs, forcing most of them down his neck. This is when all the stories started coming out. Previously, I thought Tim to be a studious individual, a very decent chap but the kind of bloke whose definition of ‘wild’ is a night camping in the Forrest of Dean. Now I bared witness to a series of horrific photographs involving Tim, a set of balloons, women’s lingerie and little else. I could never look at him the same way again.

As each shot went down, Tim looked more and more ill until he hot-footed it to the bathroom and puked in the sink. He exited, wiped his sleeve around his mouth and basically suggested we all ‘man up’ and continue drinking. As we left Spoons, Tim said “I feel bad because I didn’t clear up my mess” which must have left a nasty shock for the next person who wanted to wash their hands.

Simon was phoning ahead to check that everything was still running smoothly for the upcoming event but Tim was having none of it. “I know you’re plotting something” he said, wagging his finger impatiently, obviously under the impression that he was on a guided tour of Venice canals, not a night of laddish high jinks. What did he expect? A few drinks in a cheap pub and a quiet taxi home?

We arrived at Grace’s, a gentleman’s club in the centre of Brighton. The bouncer on the door kept us on the street for as long as possible, probably to embarrass us in front of passing revellers. “Does the stag get in free?” we enquired hopefully as we had paid for his drinks all night, but the bouncer just gave us a look which suggested any further questioning would result in a visit to A&E.

We ascended the blue neon-lit staircase and paid our entry at the door. The place was reasonably small, with a single pole in the middle, a bar stretching most of the venue and around twenty girls of varying shapes and sizes trying to look as appealing as possible, dolled up with eyelashes long enough to poke you in the stomach from the opposite side of the room.

There were five of us and we were the first people in all evening. Perhaps that’s why we had to stay outside – someone had to let the girls know that some new pray was coming in so they could tart themselves up. Before that they were probably playing Scrabble. As the only male patrons inside we felt the judging eyes of a score of beautiful women wondering how cheap we were.

Possibly for the first time in my life, I wondered whether the atmosphere would be improved by some more men. In most nightclubs and bars, women are heavily outnumbered but here, we were the only men in town and that made it a little awkward. Wave after wave of strippers rocked up and began chatting like a long lost friend.

One of the girls, Kimberly, remarked upon my Killers t-shirt. “Oh I love The Killers”, she said, batting her eyelids and perching herself on the edge of my chair. “Yeah, what’s your favourite song” I enquired, expecting her to give me a rundown of her top ten tracks with a few wildcard b-sides thrown in. “Oh, it’s the, erm, that one with the video with the blonde girl” she spluttered incoherently, as if I was going to say “You just expressed an interest in a rock band so I will definitely hand over £20 for you to dance naked now”. She was a devastatingly beautiful version of those kids who go around wearing Nirvana t-shirts yet look blank when you mention Kurt Cobain. It’s a good job I didn’t wear my t-shirt with ‘Animal’ written on it, or Kimberly would have confessed her love of otters in the hope it would land her twenty quid.

Quite rightly, most of the attention was on Tim, whose ‘Game Over’ t-shirt was now supplemented with signatures from many of the girls. Tim kept trying to put the attention back on me because (and I quote) “He’s the only single one”. This suggests that I am going to walk arm-in-arm out of Grace’s with Holly or Kimberly or Pearl and take them on a whirlwind romance, falling madly in love. These girls take their kit off for a five minute dance; they’re not interested in the vagaries of monogamy. If they were purely interested in single guys, it would probably diminish their potential customer base by three quarters.

After much deliberating we went for a private dance. Last time I visited a strip club I didn’t get one because I was penniless. So this was a whole new world for me. We were all directed to adjacent seats with nothing to separate us, as five girls snatched our drinks and placed them on the table behind us. I sat down with my hands in my lap, presuming the girls would be performing at a distance, like at NASA when you see them launch a spaceship. But no. My girl split my legs a fair distance apart and pushed my hands to either side, like I was competing in a sit-down version of sumo wrestling.

The music began and as they gyrated and swung from left to right, they were getting close enough to whisper in my ear. I didn’t know where to look. Richard, Tim’s brother, got told off for looking sideways: “Watch me then!” cried his purchase, sounding mortally offended. Eventually the music stopped and we handed over our money like kids at the tuck shop desperate for a sugar rush.

The fifth member of the stag do was a very naughty boy. By all accounts he had been given strict instructions to not have a private dance. His girlfriend was fully aware that such occasions often end in a sleazy bar but she didn’t want him up close and personal with another girl. I won’t tell you his name in case he gets found out but it begins with “Jo” and ends in “sh”.

Not only did he join us for the group dance, but ten minutes later while we were chilling out on the comfortable chairs, he exited the curtained room once more with two dancers, pushing his glasses back up his nose, looking bewildered and dazed. “Another girl started talking to me and I liked her but I didn’t want to upset my first girl” he stammered. “So I just had them both” he continued, in a manner which suggested £40 was well worth it.

Every fifteen minutes the girls have to leave to allow another group to come over and I was approached by a petite redhead, who I seemed to hit it off with. After two minutes of excellent conversation, I dropped the bombshell. “I haven’t got any money left, sorry, I won’t be able to buy a dance”.

“Ahh, you’re so sweet” she said, and we continued our chat as if we were waiting at the bar in a busy restaurant. Turns out she works for American Express but wasn’t very happy in her job and she was mortified every time a colleague or client walked in. Suddenly, while those around me were leaving for dances, I found myself in quite a deep conversation about marriage and children, and when it’s right to have those things. It became one mention of Kant away from a beginner’s philosophy class. Only I could walk into a strip club and turn it into a fucking counselling session.

Still, a good night was had by all, except perhaps the unfortunate person who cleans Wetherspoon’s toilets.

A summer to be proud of

British stiff upper lip, be damned! For a couple of weeks this summer, we shall celebrate and cheer and shout ourselves coarse in the pursuit of little circular pieces of gold. After all the nauseating pre-Olympics balls ups, the beginning of the event itself has seen an outbreak of pride unmatched since, err, a couple of months ago for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

My favourite moment of the Jubilee came on the Thames, where the Queen was praised for standing hours on end in her specially commissioned royal boat, ignoring the drizzle to wave at her loyal subjects. Commentators were foaming at the mouth to heap adulation on her stoic stance against the damp weather. If I stood about doing chuff all at work all day, occasionally waving at a colleague or pointing to a nice bunch of flowers, I would be handed my papers for the dole queue. If I was an elderly head of state, I would be lauded as this nation’s saving sodding grace. I suppose I would class myself as a Republican, in that I am against an unelected head of state that draws phenomenal sums of cash from the taxpayer in return for a few extra tourists and the glory of Pippa Middleton’s arse.

Being anti-monarchy for the Jubilee made me feel like the only girl at the disco that nobody wants to dance with and the same thing applies to the Royal Wedding. Usually normal people went berserk, living out their prince and princess fantasies vicariously. But come on! Prince William? He’s so posh that when he talks he sounds as if he’s got toffee stuck to the roof of his mouth while he curdles milk in the back of his throat.

Then again, I cannot find it within myself to direct revolutionary thoughts at the current monarch. She does well, doesn’t she? No-one can look like they have just caught a whiff of a peculiar smell better than our Queen. Besides, what are we going to replace her with? The only two people who can come within the width of a bendy bus of running the nation’s capital are a slimy, loathsome, self-aggrandising pillock, and the other one. I would take Liz the second’s anodyne Christmas messages over another careerist Westminster bozo any day of the week.

When it came to the Olympic opening ceremony – a glorious, tumultuous, cacophonous riot of song, emotion, spectacle and Mr. Bean – the Queen outperformed her duties further. She became a Bond girl for a five minute skit with Daniel Craig, leading us to believe that she was parachuting into the stadium from an approaching helicopter. This is why I love Britain. What other country could feel confident enough to laugh so heartily at one’s own expense? Underworld’s soundtrack included The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’, despite – or maybe because of – Her Majesty’s presence, which would be like Moscow hosting the games and allowing jailed punks (and prominent anti-Putin provocateurs) Pussy Riot to play.

Self-deprecation is so ingrained in our psyche and no other country could get away with it. French leader Francois Hollande would have to cycle into the Olympic stadium wearing an ill-fitting stripy jumper and a necklace of onions to achieve the same effect. Should Pyongyang ever be awarded the Games, the North Koreans would have to erect thirty foot high puppets that sing “I’m So Wonely”. Should our northern neighbours in Glasgow or Edinburgh be given the honours, Alex Salmond would have to announce the Olympiad officially open, then belch in the International Olympic Committee Chairman’s ear and ask for a can of Tennent’s.

There is so much choice when it comes to the sport too. The BBC has anything up to 24 live feeds of the action, meaning it can be difficult to know where to place my eyeballs. I spent half an hour trying to understand the rules of fencing before I gave up and reverted to my previous thoughts about the discipline; it’s basically people wearing beekeeper’s outfits poking each other with a stick. Each point is prefaced with the referee’s call of “En guarde” and “Alles”, which makes it sound like a lame Three Musketeers spin-off.

I ventured over to watch a bit of the dressage, which can also be pithily summed up in a few words: horses dancing. Two commentators were trying their best to inject sense into the broadcast, but it is very difficult when some brutish-looking stallion is skipping across the arena to light applause from the most well-heeled of all Olympic crowds. After all, it takes a certain type of sports enthusiast to turn down tickets to the 100 metres final and elect to watch some sedate horse walking instead.

Every routine is the same. In the gymnastics events, while some of the moves may be similar, you can piece them together in a way of your own choosing. But every horse competing in the dressage had to complete the same moves, in the same order, within the same boundaries, with the same marking criteria. In one section, the horse had to halt, move four paces backwards and then break out into a mild trot. One very naughty horse dared take five reverse steps and instigated a bout of finger-wagging from the commentary team. “That will definitely lose points” she said, when all I could think was “It’s a horse going backwards, just give them a bloody medal you harsh bastards!”

It was all very exciting, however, because the Brits were doing jolly well, winning a silver medal in the eventing (horses jumping over things) and going strong in the dressage. Our horses were daintier and easier on the eye, unlike one of the Canadian’s horses, which started to rear up and nearly unseat the jockey, reaching Olympic levels of Buckaroo. I do genuinely think that adding a unique element to the dressage would make the whole thing less predictable and hence more enjoyable. The thought of seeing a top hat-wearing equine expert leading his horse through the ‘Cha Cha Slide’ makes me long for the day I have a say in the garlanded world of equestrianism.

Furthermore, it is the only sport where age is no barrier. Britain fielded a 51-year-old this time around, while the Japanese squad included a 71-year-old, who has taken part in every Olympics since Tokyo 1964. He later announced a retirement… of his horse, now judged to be too old to compete at another Olympics. If horses could speak, the words “Pot, kettle, black” might get a look in.

Even an event as terminally boring as clay pigeon-shooting can be dressed up as the ultimate sporting achievement as long as the gold medallist has a Union Jack draped across their shoulders. We can fake an interest in any sport in which the medal ceremony sees ‘God Save The Queen’ being blasted out at the end. Take judo. We began poorly in our search for a first medal since 2000. One coach publicly criticised the squad, of whom seven crashed out in the first round. Then a couple of judokas (I am using the technical term here, as is befitting someone who has watched nearly an hour of the sport and thinks he knows it all) won silver and bronze and now the cameras can’t get enough. Another strange sport, judo. All they seem to do is spend five minutes holding each other’s shoulders, playing footsie, and then someone scores an ‘ippon’ or a ‘yuko’ and the crowd go wild, despite many of the onlookers not knowing the difference between a score in judo and a type of sushi.

My favourite event so far, without doubt, is handball. In all respects, handball mimics football or hockey, in that a ball has to find its way into the net with the aid of a team of players. However, instead of clever footwork or a stick, players use their hands, creating one of the more bloodthirsty Olympic sports. To score, a player must crash through the defence, leap in the air and throw the ball past the oncoming keeper. It is devilishly simple (although try telling that to the British team, who lost their first match 44-15 to France) and intricate at the same time. Superficially, it may look like throwing and catching on a puffed-up international stage but it requires serious effort and fortitude. A couple of close matches have bought the crowd to near hysterics.

Add in a succession of gold medals for the home nation from the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and lots of other people who don’t use a bike, and the nation is positively rejoicing. Tell anyone that the Australians are in 14th, with a single gold medal to their name and it is enough to make anyone rise to their feet and salute our great nation. The capital is clean, tidy and buzzing with an Olympic spirit that cannot be dampened by G4S, sponsorship rights or the occasional row of empty seats. Rumour has it that people are freely talking to each other on public transport and London is an unparalleled joy to be in right now.

Unless you’re playing defence for Team GB’s handball team that is.