Memories are strange things.
They are neither truth nor fact and are all, invariably, tainted by what came before and after. In House of Card’s Frank Underwood’s memories must be very different to the reality (often mistakenly mixing necessity with cold blooded murder). Memories are also, it would seem, Facebook’s new favourite thing to plague you with -presumably they got bored of pokes, games involving farming and videos of cats. A week ago my memory was of me looking slightly pissed in a bar in York about 9 years ago. A lot has changed since then; I now cut my hair regularly (and fret about its gradual disappearance), I don’t wear silk shirts nor do I drink particularly heavily any more. I also don’t go out clubbing. A friend of mine commented on the picture “Those were the days!” and I started to wonder, were they?
I started going clubbing when I was 16, part of a group of lads who, in the absence of any sort of ID relied on being moderately tall and wearing a black shirt to avoid tell tale sweat patches. It was a strange period of excitement, standing outside Club XS (in Scarborough) for the best part of 2 hours in the Yorkshire drizzle, as countless slightly older people pushed in front, waiting excitedly to get inside to get inside to, we thought, some sort of sexy Narnia.
Invariably we’d only ever get in 50% of the time on account of looking 13, but also reciting over and over again your fake date of birth as you approach a bouncer is somewhat suspicious. I struggled with lying about my age for a while – unable to ascertain both how old I needed to be to get into a place and also how old I should pretend to be to get by socially. I stuck resiliently at 16 for the next 4 years including, in a disaster of epic proportions being ejected from the Alexandra Bowls Centre (you read that right), after playing pool on an afternoon because I, and my now pissed off looking friends were under age. Apparently the Bowls Centre had higher standards than any nightclub in Scarborough in the early noughties.
Club XS though was the pinnacle of what my 16 year old mind could imagine. Sure it was grimey, you stuck to the floor like it covered in sticky white glue (it actually might have been something else), it only served three drinks, all of which were luminous and glowed in the dark as if they’d been freshly delivered from Chernoybl. The downstairs played rock music for people who were too cool to be upstairs and the upstairs played everything else (including Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen at 1am) for those who though there were other colours but black to wear on a night out . We danced, threw up, waved at people we’d seen often hours earlier at college, and then walked home, taxi money spent, the 4 miles back, eating a cheesy garlic bread and lamenting that we weren’t cool enough to pull girls.
The walk home was often more memorable than the night out.
Two particular nights stick in the mind. One where we walked home along a disused railway track (like the unseen, night-time, drunken part of The Railway Children that was sadly cut from the film and later stage adaptation) where Steve, who usually handled his drink far better than me declared that he needed to sit down and promptly sat on a bench, a bench which turned out to be a big bush of nettles. The second was when I was walking home in the rain with Chris some years later (and him a now beefed up member of the armed forces). I made a joke about someone on the other side of the road who looked like they were on drugs. Turns out they were, and after punching me in the face over a walk, then apologised, insisted “that you’re not who I thought you were”, asked us “don’t call the police” and then sprinted off down a passageway, leaving me dazed and military-trained Chris sheepish.
My days of clubbing were fun for a while – I decided that dancing like a dick was far preferable to being made to look like a dick through countless rejections from girls. We developed a range of dance moves from fishing to the now near legendary fried breakfast that would perplex out fellow clubbers. For a bit I was a clubbing battering ram – friends would send me to dance on the dance floor first, using my inability to dance to create a large open expanse devoid of any other life but perfectly suitable to accommodate a badminton team or a night out of theatre studying uni friends avoiding writing essays. Smoke was thick in the air – you’d wake up the following morning and sniff your room to be met my the unmistakable stench of dis-guarded clothes forever infused with marlboroughs and the slight whiff of body odour and despair.
But was is good? I’m not entirely sure. For a while I loved the excitement, the thrill of being a little out of control (but still within very strict guidelines). To go out with hopes, dreams and come home sodden and damp with the bitterness covered by the emergence of a monster hangover created by lager and black sambuca. It was an experience, that I can say for sure, good or bad is hard to define.
It all ended when I was 26 and I became tired of the reality of the whole experience. Waiting to get in now filled me with anger at the inadequacy of the queuing system, comedy dance moves stopped being cool and ironic and were scorned and mocked, the music had moved from being fun to a mix of tracks torn from “Now that’s what I call shit volume 9” and “Things without a tune volume 5” and the smell, now devoid of the uniformity of cigarettes, was simply stale BO and vomit filled with the pieces of a thousand shattered dreams.
It’s all, of course, just a part of growing up, once you get settled your desire to dance around people who you share so little in common with disappears. You move on, tastes change, occasionally you look back and think “those were the days”, a tingle of nostalgic excitement accompanying the idea of doing it all again. But then, without the shrouding effects of a hangover, or teenage lust and excitement, it all seems just a little bit shit and you shudder at the memory, turn on Netflix and disappear into House Of Cards.
I wonder if Frank ever went clubbing?