“Well, I stopped at the services so we could get some snacks and coffee. The back door of my Range Rover opened and loads of empty beer cans fell out, followed by Rob.”
Steely the Tinkers’ Friend always likes to start his version of this tale in the following way. We were on our way to Bournemouth for Jonno’s stag weekend, two days that would drastically change two people’s lives and therefore live long in the memory of everybody involved.
First of all, let me just say that technically, Jonno’s stag weekend wasn’t a stag weekend in the truest sense. That’s to say, there wouldn’t be a wedding after it, because the wedding had been called off a month earlier. The bride and groom to be were no longer even an item. However, Jonno, being the fine upstanding chap that he is, decided that the hotel had been booked and the participants very willing, so thought, what the heck. Why should a major emotional trauma get in the way of a good piss up?
Now, don’t get me wrong. These days, I’m not so good at this sort of thing. In fact, on my last stag do for DaveJohnDave, my brother-in-law, I was back in my room at 12.30 with a bottle of mineral water and asleep by 1am.
But at the time of Jonno’s stag weekend, I was at the peak of my stag do powers. Steely picked me up at lunchtime and I climbed into the car to join Steve John and The Sexton. I had helpfully supplied a crate of beer (known as ‘a slab’ round these parts), whilst the others had supplied lager and cider. By the time we arrived in Bournemouth, the slabs had all but disappeared, with half of the empty cans left in the service station car park.
We arrived at the hotel reception in a relaxed frame of mind. The receptionist met us with a beaming smile.
“Are you with the Eckley party?” she enquired.
“Yarp,” replied The Sexton, swaying like a palm tree in the wind.
She kept the smile.
“I’ll book you in one at a time, then,” she explained, before turning to Steely.
“Thrift,” said Steely, quick as a flash.
Steely was a little less relaxed than the rest of us, having driven all the way from the South West, which meant he had the presence of mind to claim the rather plushy single room that Mark Thrift had booked as his own. The receptionist handed Steely the key. Steely went to his car to collect his toolkit and started work on Thrifty’s room.
The rest of us were sharing. My roommate, as usual, was The Sexton. We’d shared a few rooms on trips together before, but by the Sunday morning at the breakfast table, he was explaining that having to listen to me snoring and farting all night in the single bed next to him, culminating in him waking up in the morning to be confronted by my bare arse sticking out of the sheets, made him absolutely sure homosexuality was not a route he was likely to take.
All the stags had arrived by 7pm and sat down to dinner at 7.30. All except Thrifty, who had been seen arriving but had not made it to the dining table.
It transpired that he was at reception, complaining loudly about the quality of his room. The door handle to the bathroom had come off in his hand. He’d hung his jacket on the back of the door, but the hook had fallen off. The wardrobe was locked and the key was missing. When he’d gone for a shower, the shower curtain had come loose and wrapped itself around him. After getting out of the shower, he had dried himself and tried to put the towel back on the rail. Guess what.
What was nearly the final straw for him was when the receptionist questioned as to whether he was Mr Thrift.
The final straw was at 4am, blind drunk, closing the curtains and having the pole land on his head.
Dinner was a raucous, entertaining affair, the food being served by some rather attractive and exotic waitresses, who patiently put up with the usual stag do comments. The hotel manager was equally tolerant during our stay. He hardly flinched when discovering me on Thrifty’s shoulders hanging a pair of The Sexton’s pants on the enormous chandelier.
The other guests were similarly kind. The Sexton and I spent an entertaining afternoon sitting in a hot tub and sauna, in conversation with a young lady and sharing a bottle of Jameson’s whisky before the big night out. Her husband didn’t complain once, even though it was the first day of their honeymoon. She was very informed about rugby, though.
By Saturday dinner time, our last meal together, everything had become rather surreal. In a bizarre moment of genius/madness, the group had unanimously made me the beer kitty holder. At the time, this was like giving a toddler a rocket launcher, but it meant that for a while everybody had to drink at the same pace as me. Therefore, the day’s pub crawl could be compared to one of those films where a group of men have to get across the desert, dropping by the way as the story progresses: ‘Leave me, save yourselves.’
Alcohol fuelled inspiration hit me at the table. I decided that since the stag weekend was going so well, it deserved a wedding reception. We had the groom, we had the best man, and all we needed was a bride.
One particular waitress had been very friendly and a good sport. Nobody could quite pronounce her name, but she was from South America, was dark haired, attractive and about Jonno’s age. Having asked the permission of the manager, we persuaded the waitress to be our bride. A napkin was placed on her head and she was given the flowers from the table centrepiece as a bouquet.
We then had the speeches and toasts. Thrifty (Bride’s father) followed by Steve John and finally Jonno himself, thanking everybody and extolling the beauty of his new bride. She laughed and blushed and even tolerated the stolen congratulatory kisses, before we all disappeared into the Bournemouth night to discover another level of Nirvana on planet vodka.
Next day, we had to get back to take part in the dragon boat races at the docks, since nearly all of the stag party were crew members. We’d been undefeated champions 3 years in a row, but this weekend could be our downfall. Steely briefed us as he drove.
“Right, when we get there, on your best behaviour. Don’t look like you’ve been drinking, act normally and don’t swear, got it?”
Upon our arrival, Steely had to attend a captain’s meeting, where the organisers expressed their concerns.
“Last year, there were reports that one entire crew appeared to be drunk,” the chair of the dragon boat explained solemnly. He looked directly at Steely.
“Have your crew been drinking?”
Steely only shook his head slowly, as if saddened that the chair could even suggest such a thing.
Around the corner, 15 men stood around the back of Jonno’s land rover consuming 3 crates of cheap French lager whilst rubbing chocolate into the back of Thrifty’s pants, removed from his temporarily stolen holdall.
Steely returned to collect us and told us about the meeting.
“Just remember what I said.”
We did. But Steely failed to brief Nick, the unreconstructed, boozy New Zealander who hadn’t been on the stag do but was part of our crew.
As we sat at the jetty waiting to go out for our first race, lots of smiling children and families waved at us. Nick suddenly decided to stand up, rocking the narrow vessel side to side.
“Fuck me! Look at the tits on that!” he shouted, pointing directly at a large chested woman standing with her two children and waving at us.
“Great, that’s my sister you ****,” said a voice at the back of the boat.
Steely held his head in his hands. We were tired, drunk, out of control and about to compete against a young RAF dragon boat crew.
We broke the course record.
Which would be a good way to end the story. But not the best way.
A couple of weeks later, after staring for hours at the fuzzy digital photo I had taken of him and the waitress, Jonno made a decision. He returned to Bournemouth, to the hotel and sought her out. She remembered him, of course she remembered him. Yes, Ok, I will go for a drink with you. Meal? Sure…
A year later, Jonno married Artemis, who came from Venezuela. They now have 2 children.
I don’t see either of them that often, but when I do, Artemis always gives me a smile and the same comment.
“Is all your fault,” she says…