Random nights are the best…

Be warned that the following story is rather long.  Very long in fact.   But if you have a spare 15minutes, fancy reading it in chunks, want to procrastinate at work or simply want to read about my favourite weekend ever then read on.  And dispel your doubt, it actually happened…

There are two things I particularly hate in life, one is being cold and the other is waiting.  It’s Monday 7th December and I’ve been stood outside for about two hours now trying to get a lift from a service station just outside Manchester back to my house in Preston.  The only thing that could make the situation more annoying is if I couldn’t smoke and seeing as I don’t have enough money to buy fags and my hands are too cold to roll you’d probably guess I’m in a pretty bad mood at this point.  You’d be wrong.

As a student you get used to not having a lot of money but I am particularly bad at managing my own.  I can live for days off £10 but as soon as I get a bit of money I spend it, putting me back in that old familiar skint boat.  I suppose that’s why I jumped at Dan’s suggestion we hitchhike to Manchester for a friend’s 21st birthday.  It would save me a few pounds on the train and I couldn’t not go or Chloe would kill me, regardless of the fact I had £15 in my wallet and nothing in my bank pre-travel.

Dan is one of my housemates, there are seven of us, and by far the most random person I know.  I’ve often spoken to him before about how I should write a book on what we get up to on our nights out but never bothered because I’m lazy when it comes to carrying out half thought through ideas.  This weekend changed that, and whilst I’d like to talk about previous nights out I’m going to try and use this weekend as a starting point.

We were given a lift to the motorway by two close friends from University.  Seeing as Dan is part time at the time of writing and I’m on a year out we didn’t really have a lot to do for the next few days and in our hyperactive hungover state thought we’d follow through with the previous day’s hyperactive hungover idea (at this point I would like to point out I realise if I hadn’t been out the previous two nights I could have afforded the train but that wouldn’t have been a very interesting place to start a book).

Having been laughed out of the house and hardly filled with confidence by our chauffeurs Katie and Chloe (different Chloe) we walked the last half mile to our chosen spot half expecting to be taking the same walk back an hour or two later.  However we were to get our first taste of luck in what was to become an extraordinarily lucky weekend.

Half an hour to 45minutes later we got our lift; a 24 year old bloke called Alex had taken pity on us.  We hadn’t even noticed his car or heard it pull up behind us but we certainly heard his shouting and a brisk jog later we were warming up in his Mini Cooper – much more comfortable than the train.  He was on his way back home to Manchester after a few meetings that afternoon in Preston and having hitchhiked himself while travelling in New Zealand was more than happy to pick us up and take us to Manchester, where we assumed buses would take us the last couple of miles to Chloe’s.

What we were not counting on however was that having got to Manchester we would get to within half a mile of the house because he happened to be going through the area.  “You’re mental” one of his mates told him on the phone in the car (not for Alex driving and talking on his mobile, hands free loudspeaker let us hear the whole thing), legend was how we described him in the pub as we toasted him privately with a pint whilst trying to find out the World Cup draw before we walked the last half mile.  Well watered, fed and happy with the draw (USA, Slovenia and Algeria if you’ve been living on the moon) we marched on towards Chloe’s, happy to be there on time.

“I can’t believe you made it, and on time, you’re never on time!”  This was actually one of the first things Chloe said to me on arrival, and the look of happiness on her face made the effort worthwhile.  She didn’t even seem annoyed that I’d called her at 6am that morning to ask where she lived.

“That’s a bit unfair,” I said, “I was always on time when you gave me lifts.”

Apparently that doesn’t count.

Now there is something very satisfying about getting to someone’s house for a 21st birthday, walking into the warm out of the cold, meeting several gorgeous girls (one of whom irons your shirts), and getting changed whilst drinks get brought to you so you spend less money later, especially if you spent no money getting there. And just to complete a very weird few hours in came Chloe’s friend asking if we knew a girl at our university.  We did as it happens, she is one of my best mates, and obviously so did she, the girl in question being her best friend.  Small world.

What's not to like about this party?

I’d like to tell you about the subsequent night but after the vodka ran out at the house Dan went and bought two litres that got seen away in less than an hour, absinthe was thrust upon me on the walk to the venue and everything else was a bit of a blur.  That said Chloe had rented the downstairs of a nice bar and I remember being vastly outnumbered by exceedingly pretty girls, watching a dance-off between birthday girl and her mum and having a bit of disagreement with a bouncer that ended with a torn shirt and grazed eye.  Reason for altercation?  He wouldn’t let us look for one of Chloe’s presents – a dildo, just like him.  I’ll just point out quickly I don’t get in a lot of fights and it was the bouncer who started it.

Yeah, like I'd fight that bouncer

So a kebab and a kip later we were up and about, hyperactive and hungover again and just generally annoying Chloe.  She’d had a great night, we’d had a great night, and the only bad feeling was from Dan who was annoyed at spending £75 as opposed to my £15 because he’d buy every good looking girl at the bar a drink when he went for one.  He slept on the sofa all the same.

Thanks to the legend that is Wendy – Chloe’s mum – we got a lift fairly close to the motorway, a sandwich each, a pair of pears, a couple of bananas and some crisps.  Not bad going but we had a decision to make, did we try and get back to Preston or go somewhere else?  We had jokingly said to the girls that we’d give them a call if we ended up in Leeds as they were there for the night for Chloe’s sister’s 21st.  From now on all references to Chloe, unless otherwise stated are this Chloe from university and not Chloe who I knew from home and had just celebrated her birthday with.

We found out that two of our housemates, Chris and Toddy, were also going with the girls and that Becca (Chloe’s sister) was having a house party with a DJ.  It had to be Leeds then – if we could get there.

The walk to the motorway was horrendous, we thought from signs that we were maybe a mile away but after walking a mile we still seemed no closer.  We tried asking someone how far away it was:

“Sorry mate I don’t know, I just got out of prison.”  Now whilst myself and Dan both privately wondered if the lad was under the impression the motorway had moved whilst he was inside or if he was just an idiot we simply said:

“Fair enough mate.”  Well that’s what I said; Dan asked him if he wanted to come on our hitchhiking adventure with us.  Thankfully he said no.  Dan can be a bit of an idiot sometimes, but it is endearing.

For those of you wondering why I was going to Leeds now with no money it is because Dan had said he would lend me some until I did have money and we both really fancied seeing how far we could get, how much fun we could have and if we could get as lucky as the day before.  Luckier it turned out.

As I said we were about a mile to the motorway and still walking.  We were holding our sign out to traffic which read “Leeds Please” but no joy was to be had until we saw a car pulled up a few yards up the road.  A Frenchman whose name sadly escapes me had seen our sign and whilst not going to Leeds kindly offered us a lift to the service station because we had more chance of getting a lift from there.  He didn’t seem bothered about giving us a lift with his little boy in the front but to each their own, I certainly wouldn’t have stopped if I had a child in the front.

Now out of the many lessons I was taught as a child two stick very clearly in the forefront of my mind; don’t get in a strangers car (too late for that now), and don’t take sweets off strangers (which I remembered as I accepted a chocolate off Monsieur Frenchman).  Not that either mattered in this case.  Being the kind hearted man he is, he told us as he dropped us at the services that it was a few miles out of his way but he wanted to help.  Two hitched lifts, two class acts, Frenchy even had the grace to admit his nation are a bunch of cheaters who should have offered to replay the Ireland playoff game after the Henry handball.  If only Thierry had his class.

Scarcely believing our luck we went into the service station to get some tobacco for me (Dan sensibly doesn’t smoke).  I’d not even reached the counter before someone spotted my sign:

“Where you off to lad?”

“Leeds mate” I replied in my most manly voice in an attempt to win favour.  I hardly thought the question was warranted as my sign said Leeds but this man looked promising for a lift, now was probably not the time to be pedantic.

“Well I’m not going to Leeds, but I can drop you just outside if you want?”

Needless to say I accepted on behalf of the pair of us, “that would be great thanks.  I’m with my mate as well though,” I said pointing at Dan, “is there room for two?”

“Nae bother, it’ll be a squeeze though, there’s three of us.  They’re getting burgers now, I’ll meet you lads outside.”

“The luck continues,” Dan whispered quietly to me.  He had no idea.

It certainly was a squeeze and so much so I actually pitied Dan, which, as anyone who knows him will tell you, is a very rare thing indeed. It wasn’t that Dan was behind the driver and had the least legroom in a cramped van (poor bloke is several inches taller than me as well) or that the driver had his window open and the freezing air blew into Dan’s face for the next 35miles.  No, the reason I pitied him is because he is a non-smoking Geordie and we were getting in a van full of Mackem smokers.  Myself and the guy next to me spent the whole journey smoking roll up fags whilst Dan sat in discomfort after his first attempt at conversation went something like this:

“Are you lads from Newcastle then?”

“Don’t say the N-word to us!”

Awkward laughs from myself and Dan.  And if you know anyone from the North-East ask them about the Geordie-Mackem relationship.  It was pretty much his worst nightmare at the start of the trip I imagine, although his opinion might have changed by the end…

You see Lenny (the driver) had the kindness to take us to within two miles of Leeds and away from the motorway itself.  Dan and I were delighted with the result and we had been told all about the amazing nights you can have in Leeds and the surrounding areas during the trip.  They were good blokes and it made me feel a bit guilty about my original impression; which was to not get in the van with them, I just had a bad gut feeling about it, which turned out to be wrong.  As we got out of the van they all got out themselves to help us with our bags and shake our hands, which is when Lenny did the last thing I expected.

“Here you go lads,” he said holding out a £20 note.

“No, thanks but you’ve taken us to Leeds, we couldn’t possibly,” I said, scarcely believing that with not a penny to my name I was turning down money.

“Don’t be daft, I’ve got loads of money, go and have some beers on us tonight boys.”  And he positively thrust the note into my hand.

I don’t really remember what I said at that point I was that surprised but rest assured it was a very grateful acceptance.

We’d reached Leeds, met three top blokes who’d given us £20, in addition to the lifts we’d already had and as you can imagine our spirits were pretty high.  And we just started laughing, laughing at the sheer stupidity of our plan and the almost idiotic brilliance with which it had worked.  At which point we decided that we should stop at the next pub we saw.

Now I like to go out every night I can afford to go out.  I love bars where you can meet people and fail to chat up girls and I’m a massive fan of clubs where you inevitably have a great time but don’t remember half the great stories from the night.  Pubs, however are my favourite, and particularly local pubs where everyone knows everyone.

If I’d known at this point that I was going to write about the weekend I would have tried to remember the name of this pub so that you could visit it yourself if you were ever in the area, but I didn’t so I haven’t.  It was about 100m from where we got dropped off and about two miles from the city centre.  And it was such a local pub that the locals, of which there were about ten, were all sat in a big circle near the bar, chatting and bantering as they do every day in this place.  Naturally they all stopped and stared at Dan and I when we walked in, I don’t think they are used to non-regulars venturing their way.

“Sorry, are we allowed in?” I asked, perhaps somewhat stupidly as we walked to the bar and through the middle of a fairly intimidating circle of silence.

“Sorry guys, you can’t come in here,” the barmaid answered.

“What I can’t get a pint?”

“Oh my god, sorry,” she replied as she laughed and turned around with embarrassment.  “I thought you were here to sell something.”

Apparently our hitchhiker look with our cardboard signs and big bags had given the impression that we were either there for charity or we were tramps. Neither is a flattering look but her mistake did the job of gaining us acceptance with the regulars as they all fell about laughing.

“Two pints of Kronenburg please, we only want a drink!”

“Well you’ve come to the most expensive place in Leeds lads,” piped up one of the regulars who was sat next to who turned out to be the landlord.

He wasn’t wrong but over that pint, and then another one, we got chatting to the regulars and recounted our story so far, and they loved it.  It was exactly the type of pub I’d have hoped to stumble on and if it wasn’t for the fact I’d already called Chloe to see if we could come to her sister’s 21st (we could) I’d have been more than happy to stay there all night.

“Get a taxi to Headingly for your party” one of the guys suggested, apparently oblivious to the fact that we’d hitchhiked to save money.

“We might just walk,” Dan replied.

“No, it’s too far to walk.”

He was wrong about that, as the next day we walked back from Headingly to Leeds in no time at all but he was only trying to help.

“You’ll get laid in no time in Headingly boys,” another piped up.  “Unless you’re gay that is…”

“What do you mean if they’re gay?  Why do you think they’ve come together?”  I still to this day do not know if he actually thought we were gay or not but he probably liked us the least of the lot of them.  Incidentally we did not get laid, but we aren’t gay either, just goes to show.

When I came back from having a fag, which was kindly given to me by the barmaid when she saw my pathetic attempt at rolling one with numb hands, I found Dan having a dance-off with the most drunk of the guys.  This did not surprise me in the slightest and just like that Dan was one of them.

“Here you go lad, Barry’s just turned up in the car park with his missus.  When he comes in say ‘alrwight Bawy, are you a woofer?”  One of the guys said in what may have been an attempt to see Dan’s head kicked in, because in walked a pretty huge bloke with a woman who turned out to be his Thai bride.

“Alwight Bawy, are you a woofer?” Was naturally the first thing Dan said, albeit it with a slightly nervous look on his face.  Luckily he took it well as  the guys fell about laughing and if ever Dan is in the pub on Christmas Eve Barry is buying him drinks.  The lesson there is clearly to take the piss out of the biggest guy in the pub and cross your fingers.

After about an hour and a quick charge of the phone we were gone, wished luck by our new friends and walking the last two miles into Leeds with optimism and giddiness abound.  It didn’t take long and before we knew it Dan had worked out where we were.

“I’ve been here, that’s Zan’s halls.”  Zan is the best mate of one of our housemates, Elliot, and Dan had been there on a night out a few months before.  “Shall we go and say hi?”

“May as well, we can ask him how to get to Headingly,” I said.

“Hello Mr Gregson, we’re outside your halls,” Dan said, now into his phone.  “No really… yes, just coming up to the gates… look out your window… yeah that’s us, can we come in to warm up for half an hour?”

And so in a twist that warmed us up nicely after our walk we went into Zan’s halls and met his mates, who I think thought very little of us to be honest.  Not that we cared.  Half an hour to charge the phone some more, and get directions and we were gone.

Sadly we decided to get a bus at this point.  It is the only money we spent on travel all weekend, and the irony of that £1.70 each ticket cost is that we ended up in the wrong place and had to walk a similar distance anyway.  Not to worry we were still in Headingly in no time, Chloe had texted me the address of the house and when we stopped at Sainsbury’s to get a crate, a bowl of pasta (we were starving by now), some vodka and more tobacco we expected to be at the party in just a few minutes.  Well stocked up on the essentials and raring to go naturally we now got lost.

In no particular order of uselessness we asked a drunk guy who gave us the wrong directions after checking a map on his iphone; a homeless woman who was relighting the butt of her cigarette; two taxi drivers who’d never heard of it and a bunch of chavs who had but didn’t know where.  Eventually it turned out to be me who was most useless.  As we were eventually pointed in the right general direction I remembered I had Google maps on my phone.  Dan still refuses to talk about this realisation as it makes him angry given how tired and cold we were at this point.

“Hello mate where are you?”  It was Toddy on the phone, already at the party with Chris, Katie and Chloe.

“There soon mate, there soon.  What number is it again?”

“32 I think, I’ll just check, walking to the front of the house now.”

“Hello mate, that’s us at the end of the drive.”

“Haha what the fuck mate?”

Needless to say neither Chris nor Toddy could believe we had made it as they, like us and every lift we got, couldn’t remember the last time they’d seen a hitchhiker.

“I can’t believe you made it mate.”  Chris said to me with a laugh (see I told you he couldn’t believe it).

“Are you impressed?”

“Yes, I’ll admit I am impressed.”

Chris and I have a bit of a love hate relationship.  When we get on, we get on very well but every so often we annoy each other so much we want to rip each other’s throats out.  Happily we had just got out of that rocky patch and Chris went about telling everyone at the party this as for the next few weeks we were to be mates again, until we piss each other off and want to rip each other’s throats out that is.  I wouldn’t change it.  The compliments received were pleasant too as usually we would rather pull out our own teeth than boost each other’s ego.

“Do you wish you’d come with us?”

“Yes, definately will if I can next time.”

“And what about you Toddy?”

“Definately mate.”

“Shall we go and find the girls Dan?” I said.

“May as well.”

Cue more disbelieving reactions from Katie and Chloe to add to Chris and Toddy’s.  We had spoken to them to say that we were in Leeds but I think given the tallness of our story there was still a bit of doubt in everyone’s minds.  Big hugs and comments off the pair such as “you’re so jammy” and “I can’t believe you made it” and yet more “What the fuck mate?” comments flowed for the next few minutes until kindly Becca, Chloe’s sister and the birthday girl, offered us a shower so that we could relax and get drunk again.

And what a shower!   In a Jacuzzi bath with a TV on the wall, this isn’t a student bathroom.  And every room apparently with its own shower as well.  This isn’t a student house.  And yet it was students living in the lap of luxury that was to be the scene of our second 21st of the weekend.  Lucky shits, we get our internet cut off every other day back in Preston.

Showered and refreshed I went downstairs to drink and eat my pasta and generally have another great night.  The problem of course was that my mates had got there a few hours before it had started in order to help set up and were therefore pretty drunk already and I ended up sharing most of my pasta, leaving me still hungry.

“Can we go back to Sainsbury’s Dan? I need more food.”

“Eating’s cheating,” I heard someone say.  In general I agree with this statement but when your stomach hurts because it’s that empty then you need something to at least line the walls.

“OK, but can we stop by the pub so I can have a pint with my mate?”

I was hardly surprised to hear that Dan knew someone in the area.  He’d been trying to get hold of his mate who lived nearby for the past two hours and it was actually as we came into view of the party that he realised his mate lived just down the road.

“Sure, did you get hold of him?”

“Yeah he’s in a pub called ‘Taps’”

Taps turned out to be right next to Sainsbury’s so we picked up a sandwich and some coke to mix with the vodka.  All far too straightforward…

“Y’alright truth?”  It was some chav and I did not fancy getting into a conversation.  To be honest I didn’t even know that’s what he said until I worked it out later.  He spoke like the prick he was.

“I said y’alright truth?”

“Do I like truth?”  I replied in a simpleton manner, still unable to work out what the hell he was saying.

“I said, y’alright?”

“Yeah mate, you?”  I said, finally realising what the hell he was asking.

“Yeah man.  You been on the mindbenders?”  Clearly the lad thought I was on pills, better he thought that than thought I was insulting him by not understanding.  On the other hand, I wasn’t on pills and what if he asked me for some?

“Na mate,” I said, in what I hoped was my best northern chav voice.  “Just smashed, I’m fucked.”  I wasn’t actually, I’d had one beer so far at the party but he didn’t know that.  He looked the type that knew how to fight, rob and get in trouble, working out I was sober was surely beyond him.

“Fair play man,” he said holding out his hand to shake, clearly thinking I wasn’t worth fighting.  “Have a good night.”

“You too.”

Now you might think I was being harsh and judging a book by its cover but I think Dan could tell you I was right.  As if to prove that point one of his mates was kicking off.  I thought it might have been with Dan at that point.  I was at the till and couldn’t see what was happening behind me.

“Oi, you fucking looking at me?  I said are you fucking looking at me?”  Another chav, this one undoubtedly 100% pure inbred scumbag.  I think we actually saw him get kicked out of this Sainsbury’s earlier because he was back to torture the same Chinese bloke who’d kicked him out, only this time he’d brought a few mates, including my new friend.

As I said I couldn’t see what was happening at this point and I was labouring the point at which I had to turn around because I thought there was a fairly good chance he was shouting at Dan.  I just had an instinct that comes with knowing him, an instinct which thankfully turned out to be wrong.  Instead he was shouting at the Chinese man I just mentioned.  The poor guy was trying to shut the shop up, locking the door after each customer so others didn’t come in, which gave this scumbag the chance to confront him.

“Are you fucking looking at me?” He went on,“’ Cos I aint no student, I will fucking kill you.  You hear me, I will fucking kill you.”

As I said, not a very nice bloke.  Now maybe Dan and I should have said something but to be honest there were at least five of them and they did seem quite mental.  Basically they didn’t give a shit.  So instead we left the store, I gave a little smile to the Chinese guy, which I’m sure brought his spirits right back up.  And as we walked past the chavs my new friend ‘Truth’ nodded at me, asked us where we were off to and directed us to Taps.  Incidentally if you’re in your 20s aren’t you a bit old to be a chav?

40 minutes after leaving the party we were back; we’d nearly seen what I’m sure was a race hate crime, had a pint with Dan’s mate and got some food.  In the meantime everyone else had sped miles ahead of us in terms of drunkenness.  Serious catch up was needed and thanks to our copious amounts of beer and vodka and the generosity of some people pouring me gin and rum it didn’t take long.

If you remember Manchester I met a girl whose best mate is one of my best mates?  Well in Leeds I got chatting to a guy who lived with someone at his university (Bournemouth) who I used to borrow ID off back home.  Now Bournemouth is about 250 miles away from Leeds I’d say, and about 50 miles from my house at home.  Small world indeed.

It was another great night.  Partly because it was so unexpected, partly because it was so different, and partly because everyone was smashed.  We drank, we danced, the DJ was pretty good, we sang Christmas songs, we drank some more.  Apart from that Katie, Dan and myself wound Toddy up by getting him to walk for about half an hour through Leeds to find us only to realise that we were actually on the phone to him from Becca’s bedroom.  And we met some more class people, each with their own stories that were worth hearing.

Eventually everyone was passed out, Dan and I had passed on an invitation to go clubbing at about 3am, balking at the £10 entry.  So I was in the living room, Chloe passed out on the couch, her little sister Ailsa on the floor, Dan also out for the count on the floor, Becca passed out on me, me trapped on Toddy and the pair of us just smoking, chatting shit and drinking a lovely cocktail I created which consists of half a glass of vodka mixed with half a glass of gin.  It tasted like aids.

Needless to say I wasn’t so much hyperactive hungover the next day as still absolutely smashed.  A quick shower and Dan, Chris, Toddy and I met everyone else at the most expensive student pub in the world for lunch.  Apparently they’d left us all to sleep because we were comatose.  I wish we’d stayed asleep when I saw it was a burger for £7.

About two hours later, the laziest two hours ever, and me and Dan were feeling pretty sorry for ourselves.  Katie, Chloe, Chris and Toddy had left back to Preston in the car and we were stuck with the awful realisation that we still had to get home.

That could wait for another day.  We walked to ‘Taps’ to watch the football and I immediately regretted that as Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead at Everton to draw 2-2 and then missed an injury time penalty to rectify their wrongs.  God I hate being a Spurs fan sometimes, it is like a constant purgatory.  And now in no mood to hike anywhere we found out where one of my friends lived and stopped by to see Jo.  She was shocked to see us but we had a chat for half an hour and left on our way again, still in no real mood to go anywhere.

“You can stay here of course boys, but I’m going to the library tonight,” were some of the first words Zan said when we trudged back to his.

“O sod the library, I’m watching Match of the Day,” were his words as soon as he heard the theme tune on the TV.

And this was when Zan told us about one of the greatest things ever.  You see he had no food in and we were starving.  If we just went to the casino round the corner and registered then we would have a free all-you-can-eat buffet and £5 bar credit just for signing up.  You didn’t need to spend a thing.  Needless to say that is exactly what we did and as tempting as it was we didn’t gamble a penny.  The casino itself is situated on the docks by the canal and it just doesn’t feel like England.  The area is absolutely lovely and Leeds was by now fast becoming one of my favourite places in the world.  The walk back from Headingly had seen to that and this posh casino in an area that felt more like a Riviera than a northern city was confirming it.

“I feel like James Bond,” said Dan and he wasn’t the only one.

We toasted our good fortune, our great nights so far and then toasted Zan for telling us about this great deal, and, once we had eaten so much we could hardly move, we left.  And we walked around Leeds at 3am looking for somewhere for me to buy some fags.

“You know what would make your weekend boys?”  Zan said as we walked round places he’d never seen before yet were less than half a mile from his flat. “Sometimes there’s a limo that drives round with strippers in.  It stops by people walking round the streets and gives you a free lift to the strip club.”

Well if you’ve any idea of how our luck was going you’ll know full well that what happened about half an hour later was a limo pulled up and took us to the strip club whilst we chatted to two strippers in the back.

I’ll be honest here.  I like strippers but I didn’t care much for them trying to make conversation with us once we got inside the club.  I didn’t have any money for a dance because thankfully (and I never thought I’d say this) Halifax won’t extend my overdraft.  At least it meant I wouldn’t waste money.

“Aaron I think that one likes you,” said Zan after one of them had spend the last five minutes flirting with me.

“No Zan,” I replied, “she just knows that out of the three of us I’m the weakest and most likely to cave in if she puts me under pressure for a dance.”

And out of nowhere: “When I was in Prague we went to a show that was a midget shagging a monkey.” – Dan, obviously.

That was I believe pretty much the cue to leave, after all there’s only so long you can spend in a strip club when you’ve only had a couple of pints and feel quite sober.  So we stayed for one last stage dance, I fell in love with the girl and then we left.

And we walked home feeling pretty pleased with our night’s work, somehow more random than the last two nights and no less fun.  We’d been to a casino, got a free all-you-can-eat buffet, free beer, free limo ride to a strip club, chatted to some strippers, had a beer in there and walked back through the city that I wouldn’t mind transferring university to.  The place is simply awesome.  And I fell asleep in Zan’s front room after having a fag on the windowsill, taking in the night skyline from the 7th floor and wondered what the next day would hold for us.

“What’s the plan then?”  I asked Dan pretty sure I already knew the answer.

“Let’s go home.”

We had planned to stay on the road until Wednesday and get back to Preston in time for another 21st, but to be quite honest we had had such a good time and so much luck so far doing so many tiring things that we were simply knackered.  And besides if we got any further away could we be sure we’d be back for Harry’s 21st on Wednesday?

“OK, I’ll have a quick shower and be off then.”

It was probably about 3pm when we left Zan’s and left him a little note of thanks.  As a proper student he was in lectures unlike my part time friend and yours truly, the idiot.

And about an hour and a half later it was pouring down with rain, getting pretty dark and there hadn’t even been a hint of getting a lift back to either Preston or Manchester (we figured if we could get at least half way we’d know someone there we could stay with).  In fact the only human contact we got was when, instead of saying ‘excuse me,’ an angry short man ran past us on the path and shouted at us:

“You’re taking up the whole bloody path,” he screamed, or something to that effect, blissfully unaware of the fact that if he’d made his presence known we’d have turned around and happily moved out of the way when we saw him.

“Fuck off,” was Dan’s simple and predictable response, and to be fair he made a fair point.  As far as I was concerned the ignorant shit could jump in front of the next lorry, and god knows there were enough not stopping.  I mean it isn’t hard to ask someone to move rather than run past and shout at them is it?

Well eventually we got picked up after moving to a spot where traffic built up and people felt more obliged to make eye contact and then pressured to pick you up.

“Manchester boys?”

“Yes please mate.”

“I’ll take you as far as Halifax and you might get some better luck there?”

Needless to say after nearly two hours we just wanted to get warm so we gratefully accepted.  Now, if like Dan and myself you don’t know where Halifax is I’ll tell you this, it’s not close to Manchester and was probably less helpful than anything.

The guy who picked us up was nice enough, an Asian lad called Shaff I think.  Although he wasn’t too impressed by us hitching I wasn’t too bothered, I mean he picked us up after all, why couldn’t he understand not everyone wants to pay ridiculously overpriced tickets to get a train that will inevitably be either late, full, cancelled or freezing.  Not me, I’ve argued with and been fined by train companies enough thank you.  There is only one way to describe them; rip off merchants.  Or fucking Nazi’s as I learnt to know a couple of guards back home.  I mean you get on a train with several weekly passes in your wallet, go straight to the guard and ask for a weekly pass that costs £75 and he has the nerve to try and charge you for a penalty fair because you were a couple of minutes late to buy it at the station.  No thanks mate, I am clearly not trying to fleece you or I’d have asked for a single ticket to the next station rather than a peak time weekly pass to Waterloo.  I hope if we ever have another major train crash in this country the only people on it are the Nazi guards themselves, all on their way to their Christmas party.

Anyway, I digress.  Shaff turned out to be a bit of a nutter.  First of all he tried to drop us off at the wrong roundabout before realising his mistake.  Now I was quite happy with this as the first place he talked about dropping us off looked pretty dangerous.  The place he actually dropped us off at was worse.

You know those motorway roundabouts where everyone is either filtering on or off the motorway?  At rush hour with peak traffic?  Three lanes to control the flow of traffic?  And traffic lights to stop the place coming to a standstill but ultimately they just make everyone drive faster to try and make the lights?  That was where he decided to drop us off, and in the middle lane at a green light with cars whizzing past either side.  And despite all this, the place was actually in the middle of nowhere.  Cheers Shaff!

He meant well to be fair to him and we had got a good eight or so miles closer to Preston but still…  After a fruitless half hour trying to get a lift from there, quite a hard job when cars were stationary for a maximum of 13 seconds before the lights went green again (I counted), we decided to give up and go to the only thing nearby for some dinner – a pub, a nice warm pub that did two plates of fish and chips for £10, happy days.

Sufficiently warmed, watered and fed we decided to try our luck again.  And if you’ve ever felt you never get the luck of the lights you want to try and stand by this roundabout for a lift.  The traffic control was perfect; everyone just breezed through without having to stop for more than a couple of seconds.  This is fantastic news for cars timing the lights, not so much for two guys trying to get a lift.

It seemed fair to say our luck had changed, particularly as we saw a police car pull up just down the road from us.  We had actually checked before we set out that hitchhiking was legal but we still didn’t need the hassle.  It turned out to be nothing to do with us so we gingerly approached the vehicle.

“Hello mate, could you tell us the back route to the service station on the motorway?”  I said after the lone officer pulled the window down.  Far too cheeky to ask for a lift there we’d decided.

“Haha,” he chuckled to himself at our expense, “If you like walking.”

“We’ve nothing better to do,” Dan replied, “and we’re getting no luck here.”

And thus the policeman gave us such simple directions that we thought they must be wrong, but warned it would take an hour.  The directions were indeed wrong but it did take us about an hour.  An hour of the hilliest and coldest walking I can imagine, and Dan with the massive hitchhiking bag still on his back.  Unluckily for him he had the big heavy bag all weekend due to my bad back, I offered to swap him lifetime chronic pain for a heavy bag but he declined.

Half an hour at the service station whilst I refuelled with nicotine and we were on the road again thanks to a gentleman called Roy.  Roy was on his way to Manchester Airport to pick up some girls who’d been in Dublin (he said we weren’t allowed to come with him to see them) and said he’d take us to the next service station, about 25 miles away and just outside Manchester.  It was in fact the same service station we’d met the Mackems at two days previously.

Roy turned out to be a very friendly man and spent the whole journey regaling us with stories about fares he’d picked up, his days trucking and the classic stereotypical political complaining; although I thought this was usually limited to London cabbies.  His character is probably best summed up by mine and Dan’s disappointed reactions when he said: “We’re coming off in a couple of miles but I’ll just tell you one more story before you get out.”  The man was full of them and we would have liked to listen to him all the way to Preston, sadly it was not to be.

He shook our hands, wished us luck both getting home and with university and he was on his way in his warm minibus, and we were standing still in the freezing cold.

There are two things I particularly hate in life, one is being cold and the other is waiting.  It’s Monday 7th December and I’ve been stood outside for about two hours now trying to get a lift from a service station just outside Manchester back to my house in Preston.  The only thing that could make the situation more annoying is if I couldn’t smoke and seeing as I don’t have enough money to buy fags and my hands are too cold to roll you’d probably guess I’m in a pretty bad mood at this point.  You’d be wrong.

You see what I did there?  I tried that clever trick authors do of coming full circle.  Yes in an ironic twist the service station that had been so kind to us two days previously had decided to spit in our faces.  Roy dropped us off at about 10pm, by midnight we’d got so cold that we’d gone into the station to put on more clothes and I’d resorted to approaching people at petrol pumps to ask for a lift despite them driving past with no inclination of stopping for us just half a minute previously.

And yet we weren’t in a bad mood.  We were both still so delighted with how our weekend had turned out that the only thing that could dampen our moods is if one of us got raped.  Honestly I think we both knew at some point we’d be in this situation; not being raped but waiting for hours in the cold.  And admittedly it was the third time we were waiting and you could throw an hour long walk into the mix as well but whatever way you look at it we had an extraordinary amount of luck previously.

“So Dan,” I said for what seemed like the 100th time that day, “we got a lift in a mini, an estate, a van, a standard car, a minibus…  You know what would complete the set?”

“A truck,” he responded for what seemed the 100th time of the day.


Half an hour later I’d called shotgun in Michael’s truck whilst Dan sat on the bed in the cabin.  I could not have been happier having never been in one before.  Michael by the way was another class act.  He’d actually driven past us at the service station before coming back to get us.

“Right, well I’m not going to Preston, but I’ll take you to where the M62 meets the M6 and then at least most people on that road will be.  How does that sound?”

“Perfect, thanks,” I replied.

The thing that made Michael one of our favourites is probably that he was in a truck.  Apart from that it might have been the fact that he went off course despite his truck tracker giving him away just so we could get out at a safe junction. Or maybe it was his genuine interest in both Dan and I and our courses at university.  Or possibly the fact that he had spent £17,000 of his own money so that he can give up driving lorry’s and start his own business, an embroidery business – I kid you not.  Simply put he was a great guy and he honked his horn as he drove off, which put a bit of a downer on the situation.

“I forgot to ask him if I could pull the horn!” Dan exclaimed, whilst looking genuinely gutted at this fact.

A more pressing problem however was that we realised that we were at a junction where in the first 15 minutes of being there just four cars drove past going our way.  Seeing as our success ratio previously was probably somewhere in the region of one in every 300-500 cars picking us up, it looked like a long night.

Obviously that means the 5th car was our lift.  Maybe being in such a quiet place made him take pity on us but this guy (another whose name escapes me) happily picked us up and drove us to Bamber Bridge, which my recently discovered Google map phone application told me was just five miles from our house.  He was another HGV driver but sadly on his way to his shift and not actually in his lorry.  He beeped his truck and pointed it out as we actually drove past it on the motorway.

We were quite happy when this lift turned out to be not very talkative, both being knackered, but when we got to within five miles of Preston shortly before 1am we began to think we might just make the 2am last entry to Squires and get a few pints down our necks.

Sadly this was not to be, we soon realised that we were never going to get a lift so close to Preston and besides there were no cars here either.  So we got our stomp on, determined not to spend any more than that £1.70 we had spent on the wrong bus in Leeds.

Shortly after 2am, and having traipsed through fields and city, up hills and across country we completed the walk.  Finally after seven different lifts we had made it to Leeds and back.

Maybe it was the Christmas cheer we’d felt all weekend from kind hearted strangers but as we waited for our celebratory delivery kebabs to turn up (one and a half each) we put in Love Actually as we hit our Christmas mood ourselves.  And I don’t care what anyone says, that is a great film and Dan made a very astute observation that Hugh Grant would make a better Prime Minister than that pregnant elephant we have in power at the moment.

So, to sum up, I borrowed £55 off Dan and spent £15 I had in my wallet.  So I spent roughly £70 of my own money (Dan rather more due to his silly spending on Friday in Manchester) and the £20 the Mackems gave us, and what did we get for it?  Well an incredible, unforgettable and, I appreciate, unbelievable weekend for starters.  But we got to two 21st birthday parties, each saw mates from home, went to a casino, a strip club, several pubs, managed to eat, drink and smoke and met some amazing and very kind people.  We also managed to get all the way from Preston to Leeds and then back again, via Manchester, saving ourselves about £30 on travel.  If you could have been there I guarantee you’d have loved it, you’d have seen and heard the stories first hand, and then seen and heard more that I either forget or don’t know how to cram into the story.  Rest assured what you’ve read is the best of it but other great things still happened.

The best part of all?  It is 100% true.

Dan is Mr Christmas


About Lanelord

I am an opinionated sports-mad 25year old news junkie who didn’t fancy spending the money to finish a Broadcast Journalism degree. I am interested in all genres of news and tend to have something to say on just about everything. I have worked in the press offices for ITV and Holby City on BBC1 as well as doing more technical jobs such as for the Digital TV Group. Having previously worked selling sports hospitality I have recently been made redundant from my job as a project manager for a global exhibition company. Whilst I work out and find my next role I thought I'd try and give this another go - this time combining the news commentary element with my own creative writing attempts Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/AaronKing11
This entry was posted in Stories and anecdotes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Random nights are the best…

  1. Chloe Jones says:

    Oh how I love you! This is fantastic. And despite knowing, most of, this tale, I still spent my 15mins reading it! You tell anecdotes so well Aaron, especially with your little side-references, comments directly to the reader and sarcastic jibes! It made me giggle, and best of all, I’m happy I’m in it! I too wouldnt believe it was real, had I not witnessed it! Such a great and partly memorable weekend! But thank you for being there for my 21st, it mean the world to me and I will never forget it. Here’s to next year!!
    And remember, in times when you need a reminder, of just how lucky you can be, and that every now and then an angel does sit on your shoulder or someone does smile down at you…. these moments, like that weekend, are the real things we should remember.
    Love always

  2. McDougall says:

    amazing aaron… this story did not suprise me in the slightest

    hope your ok buddy =]


    • lanelord says:

      hello mate, thanks for checking the blog out. best weekend ever lol. keep checking back for more stuff 🙂

      im doing ok thanks, hope you are too xxx

  3. gizzark156 says:

    I tell you what, as heroically fucking long this is, it’s as funny the second time as it was the first. My favourite bit is still ‘I was always on time when you gave me lifts. …Apparently that doesn’t count.’

    • lanelord says:

      haha thanks mate, loving writing atm, i wrote that 6 months ago and until i started this thing last week i hadnt written a word since!

      sorry i keep missing you on fb, catch up soon

  4. TroblMkr says:

    Very creative blog. I love the outlook that you have on life. Check out mine too.


    • lanelord says:

      thanks very much, check back for more every couple of days. trying to incorporate a wide variety of things at the moment

      interesting blog btw, although i should probably start from the beginning! will check it out later

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