A recent tweet invited people to describe the most drunk they’d ever been in six words. This is sort of a response to that, except that I’m going to use many more words and this story didn’t happen to me. However, the subject cannot (and would not) tell this story themselves, for reasons that will become clear.
Some time late in ’95 or ’96, no idea which, I got an invitation from a friend, Sarah, to go and visit her for the weekend in Glasgow. She also invited a mutual friend, Clair, from Newcastle. Clair didn’t fancy driving from Newcastle to Glasgow by herself and was between boyfriends, so she in turn invited her new housemate, Phil.
I say Phil, but this was more than 20 years ago, I only met the guy this once and I’m terrible with names at the best of times, so quite possibly he wasn’t called Phil at all. Also, I should possibly change his name, but there’s a good chance I already have.
On their journey Northwards Phil and Claire got to find out things. She, for example, discovered that he was a staunch Catholic and he discovered that Sarah, and most of her circle of friends, were lesbians. This revelation came as they sailed over the Scottish border and he genuinely asked Clair to stop the car, so that he could get out and walk back to Newcastle, rather than having to spend a weekend with the sinful.
Clair refused and the pair of them turned up at the Glasgow flat, where Phil spent the afternoon avoiding talking to anyone or touching anything, in case lesbianism was contagious. Around 5 we piled into the kitchen for a communal effort at cooking dinner, and also started drinking.
Over the next 4 hours more people drifted in, and more beer was sunk down. A decision was made that we needed to hit the town. Between the start of cooking and the decision to go out Phil had been drinking with the determination of a papist who suspects that if sapphism is the disease then alcohol is the cure, and offered only token resistance to being bundled into a taxi (still armed with a tinnie tincture).
Thus myself, Phil, Clair and around half-a-dozen ladies-who-munch arrived in central Glasgow and democratically decided to hit the gay bars.
Where Phil had the time of his life. He danced, he chatted, he flirted, he loved it. He was the absolute life and soul of several other people’s parties.
Around midnight me and one of the girls decided that we needed pizza rather than more drink, so headed off. We agreed to take Phil with us, as he was by now very, very drunk and in serious danger of doing someone he was going to regret. A walk, a wait in the pizza shop and another taxi ride later we realised it would also have been a good idea to take a key to the flat.
As it was a ground floor flat we skirted around it to see if any windows had been left ajar, without any success. Phil, however, reckoned that he could make one ajar. He gripped the bottom of the portion of Sarah’s bedroom window, which opened outwards, and give it a sudden, full-strength, tug. CRACK! A hairline fracture split the pane from top to bottom, but the window remained shut. We resigned ourselves to having to wait outside for the main party to return. Fortunately, because of our time in the pizza shop and that spent being drunkenly inept cat-burglars, it was only about a half-hour wait. We got into the warmth of the flat, shared pizza, drank more and, at some point, passed out.
The next morning, during the inevitable hungover tidy-up, somebody mentioned the broken window.
“Did a window get broken last night?” asked Phil.
“Yes,” he was told, “you broke it.”
“Yes, when we were trying to get back in.”
He looked genuinely puzzled. “Did we go out last night?”
We cross-examined him, but he honestly seemed to have no idea that we’d ever left the flat the previous night. He didn’t know that, for one night only, he’d been the most beautiful (and most drunken) butterfly on the Glasgow gay-scene. Perhaps he never knew, because we certainly weren’t going to tell him, but he was Queen for a night.
I wasn’t going to write this story up, but the sudden and tragic death of Dolores O’Riordan brought it up again. I’m not a great listener to music, but I remember that it was Sarah who introduced me to The Cranberries. She was a very dear friend of mine, and thinking about this story and her made me realise that it’s been 20 years since I saw her.
It’s 2018. So many things are shite. But that moment remains frozen in time. Sarah is my best friend. The party never ends. Phil rocks the gay scene. Delores provides the soundtrack.
I can’t revisit that moment, except by sharing it with you.