A disclaimer: it is not my fault that I’m writing this. Blame my old mate Dum Dum, who sent me a DM on Twitter on New Year’s Eve, reminding me to “stay off the fish fingers”. All will become clear.
A second disclaimer: this particular anecdote involves me imbibing not only industrious quantities of alcohol, but also ridiculous amount of Class A narcotics. I’m not proud of this, and I write this not to boast, but because there’s a fairly funny story here. Please don’t think it’s a good idea to do something similar, or that taking drugs immediately makes you Peter Ustinov – or, worse, me – with a smoking jacket packed full of brilliant anecdotes: you might end up dead instead of having a funny story to relate. I got lucky, that’s all.
A third disclaimer: both Dum Dum and I (and I assume the other protagonist in this story too) are changed men these days. We’d never indulge in the sort of behaviour you’re about to read about these days.
We’re both too old for a start.
Plus, Dum Dum is married with a kid and so has responsibilities which prevent him from engaging in this sort of thing.
And me? Well, since I moved to London I no longer have the same sort of connections I had back in Cardiff, and so can no longer gain access to the sort of stuff mentioned herein. But my history tells me that whilst I might preach about how bad drugs are, I haven’t actually learned a sodding thing, and given the chance, I probably would.
The last time I hooked up with Dum Dum was at a friend’s wedding. We were sat at the same table, me next to his wife, who I had only met once before, at their wedding a year or so earlier. I didn’t think that she knew much of Dum Dum’s clubbing past, so I decided not to mention any of that, as I didn’t want to cause any tension. Dum Dum, however, had other ideas, asking me to ‘tell that story about that time when….’ almost as soon as our arses hit the chairs (because I’m Peter Ustinov…you got that, right?).
And now he’s sending me DMs mentioning it, so I figure Dum Dum wants this story to be out there, and I’m happy to oblige, so here we go.
Last warning: if ever there was a cautionary tale about how drugs can properly fuck you up – for a night at the very least, I have no idea what long term damage they may have done to my…um…my….er…memory (!) – then this is it.
One New Year’s Eve, I decided I was going to have a post-pub house party. My flat-mate at the time had gone away to party it up elsewhere, so I had no concerns about disturbing, or even inviting, him. (He would have been essential company had he not had other plans.)
Dum Dum had always wanted to DJ at a house party, so he turned up in the afternoon with his decks, which we set up in one corner of the living room; we placed a standard lamp close to the decks so he could see what he was doing without having the big light on. We also decided that we wanted people to be up and dancing, so to generate a bit more dancefloor space, he helped me move the TV set out of the living room and into my flatmate’s bedroom, well out of the way.
And then we hit the pub.
The pub, back in those days, was the sadly-no-longer and much missed (I imagine: I miss it and I don’t live in Cardiff anymore) Tut’n’Shive on City Road.
The Tut was a truly glorious if grubby pub, spread over four levels: the ground floor, where the bar lived; the second level, a couple of tables and a juke box; third level which housed a massive screen for those who wanted to watch sport, and then a fourth floor which had three pool tables. Perfect.
We commandeered a table on the third level – the table of choice, the table everyone who drank there regularly wanted, the table of Kings. If you ever drank in the Tut, you know which table I mean.
And we drank and drank and then drank some more. Although something in my head tells me that Dum Dum didn’t drink that much because he wanted to DJ with a clear head.
That night I bumped into a girl I had known for many years, and drunkenly – politely – chatting to her she challenged me (because I must have been that drunk and slurry): “Oh, Jez, I bet you can’t even remember where you know me from, can you?”
My brother will attest that I’m pretty good at remembering “stuff” (I’m in charge of it in my family), so I was delighted to be able to respond: “Of course! We were at college at the same time, knew who each other was but didn’t really know each other, you were on [my girlfriend at the time]’s course, and then you and your boyfriend/husband/whatever he is used to come into the video shop I ran in Canton….”
“Oh shit, you do remember!” she said. (Ask me what her name was now and I have no clue, of course.)
Eventually, it came to chucking out time, time to head back to my flat to continue the night’s festivities. Whereupon we hit the first snag of the night: other than the gang we were drinking with – about six people – we hadn’t actually got round to inviting anybody. Knew-Her-From-College-Girl and her partner had wisely vacated the place, and so we just made loud noises to anyone left in the pub that they would be welcome back at mine.
And so about ten people, including me and Dum Dum, stumbled into my flat via the off licence; he began dropping some choons, I began dropping Class A’s and attempting to be the charming host. Most of the people left after they had polished off the very little booze I had to offer, disinterested (wisely) as they were in the exceedingly dubious pills and powder which were available.
Within an hour, there was just three of us left: Dum Dum, me and a chap who, for legal reasons, I had better change the name of. Let’s call him Matt. I know loads of Matt’s in Cardiff, it could be any one of them. It isn’t any of them (or is it?).
Dum Dum remained on the straight and narrow, and so Matt and I set about the other goodies I had procured.
The night progressed with Matt and I sitting next to each other on the sofa, zonked, not saying much, listening to Dum Dum’s records of choice, knocking back all of the ‘naughty naughty, very naughty’ stuff.
“Jez, Jez!” I was disturbed from a wonky zone by Matt nudging me in the ribs. “Who’s that bloke there?”
My eyes struggled into focus.
“That bloke there….talking to Dum Dum.”
I squinted. There wasn’t anyone talking to Dum Dum.
“Matt, there’s nobody there. It’s the lamp. It’s tall and thin and about the height of a person but it’s definitely just a lamp.”
“Oh….there’s really nobody else there?”
“Oh. Shit. Sorry.”
This should have been a warning.
But no. We decided that we weren’t quite messed up enough, so we carried on.
And then it happened.
Suddenly I shouted “C!” in the direction of where the telly used to live.
Matt looked at me even more disjointedly than he was able to look at anything else.
I furrowed my brow and looked back at him, baffled that he needed to ask.
“C” I repeated.
“The answer’s C.”
“The answer. To the question. On ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?’ It’s C. If they phone a friend then they’re a fucking idiot. It’s C, knobhead!”
“Jez. There’s no telly there. What are you talking about?”
A further pause as I realised that not only was I hallucinating, I was hallucinating about Chris Tarrant.
I slumped back into the sofa.
“S’alright. I thought a lamp was a person a while ago.”
More silence between us, as Dum Dum continued to play some choice bangers (I assume).
“Jez, there’s no telly.”
“I know this one. It’s B!“
“Jez: There. Is. No. Telly.”
Time passed. I know not how much. Suddenly, my throat was dry. I needed a drink.
Although I had told the few party attendees that I had little to offer them, I did have a bottle of Jack Daniels stashed away. One of those with some coke and ice would do the lubractive trick.
“I need a drink,” I
announced slurred as I labouriously clamboured to my feet. “Gonna make myself a Jack and coke. You want one?”
Matt stirred from whatever zone he was in. “Yes. Jack and coke. Yes. Please yes. Um, I mean: yes please.”
I went to the kitchen, and opened the freezer to get some ice. Ice was a good idea.
Some more time passed. I don’t know how much. But long enough for a search party to be sent out for me, for the next thing I knew, Dum Dum was at my elbow.
“Jez mate…what are you doing…?”
Snapped out of my stupor by a voice, I replied: “Making me and my friend Matt a Jack and coke. With ice.”
“Matt’s gone home,” said Dum Dum, “I’m playing records to an empty room, you’ve been in here for ages and you don’t seem to be making a JD and coke at all. I’m not sure what you’re doing….”
The kitchen woozily came into focus. He was right. Whatever I thought I was doing, it definitely wasn’t making a JD and coke.
Rather, what I had done was this: on arriving in the kitchen, I had opened the freezer to retrieve the ice, but instead I had taken a packet of fish fingers out and placed the contents in two lines across the kitchen work surface. And then I had stood, for a really long time, admiring my handiwork, slightly adjusting my breadrumbed buddies every now and again, making sure the lines were straight and that they were the same distance apart.
“Shall we just have some water…?” Dum Dum suggested.
“That’d be nice. Do we have any ice?”
“Shut up Jez.”
Kids: don’t do drugs. They’re not big, nor are they clever.
Now, to an appropriate tune. Sadly, I have no idea what Dum Dum played that night, but it occured to me that:
You might find yourself imagining a standard lamp is an uninvited guest.
Or you might find yourself answering questions on an imaginary game show.
Or you might find yourself arranging breadcrumb-coated fish products in a pleasing pattern.
Or you might find yourself wondering if those are discarded lines from a draft version of this:
Thank God I didn’t see this until several years later, or I might be locked up in an institution by now, hugging my knees and wiping faeces on the wall: