WELL the big stag weekend is all over and I have spent the last two days trying to work out how my ribs feel like they have been crushed in some kind of Victorian torture device. Every move seems to bring about a grimace as pain shoots up my side. For a while I imagined that some giant animal of Shutts-esque proportions had administered a bearhug to me in the manner of Giant Haystacks, the famous television wrestler from eons ago.
Then, like a thunderbolt, it hit me. It must have been the windmill guitar actions I performed while doing my best Pete Townshend impressions during the gig by rocking cover band Who's Who in the 'world famous' Portland Rock Bar. But more of that later...
It began on Friday morning with a leisurely breakfast at Servinis before the 11.55 trip to London Paddington. I was decked out in my newly purchased pork pie hat and Who target t-shirt as I met up with Smashy, Danny Boy, Paps, the wonderful Withers of WoS and the Prince of Darkness for a no-holds-barred fry up.
From there we went on to Cardiff Central Station, via a quick trip to the off-licence where the usual suspects bought their body weight in booze to help ease the journey. Jar Head and Shutts were there to meet us and very soon we had taken over carriage B on the inter-city train.
We were barely out of the station before bottle tops were being removed with great gusto, the Prince determined to have a hair of the dog before the buzz from his previous night's vigil in the Soda Bar had worn off.
By the time we reached Newport some of the gathering had engaged in conversation with a young couple heading for London. For their part, they were celebrating the chance to get away with a couple of bottles of wine. But the Prince, having already knocked back his body weight in Peroni, was already in the full flight. By the time my long-serving schoolmate Haydn had joined us the Prince was already helping himself to the couples wine. When we pulled into Paddington he had in front of him an impressive array of finished bottles - the little table in front of him resembling a closing down sale at Threshers.
A quick trip across town then to Farringdon on the underground, where at every stop the Prince managed to stumble over, obviously forgetting the lesson he should have learnt from the previous one.
We were running late and it was a quick dash to the Brighton train where we met up with Phil, my old mucker from the Sunday Mirror.
Little to report on the journey to Brighton apart from the points failure that kept us sitting tantalisingly from our destination for about 30 minutes. The little Bowling Ball and myself were almost climbing the walls by then, desperate to satiate our need for tobacco.
So it was on to the character-filled hotel known as the Blue Lagoon at Hove, with a main bar, a sports bar equipped with pool tables and lots of cheap booze. We split the assembled crowd into three rooms and got down to the serious business of drinking while waiting for some of the stragglers to arrive.
The kitchen designer from my Ashes trip soon turned up with Watford Pete, our deaf mate. Cue more booze. Then Becks and Rosey joined us and we headed into town, stopping off at a boozer called Old Orleans where I was lifted shoulder high by a couple of random blokes in fancy dress superhero costumes for the others to take pictures. By now the Prince of Darkness' brain was in freefall and he couldn't get a camera to work until five minutes later by which time I had been returned to terra ferma.
Shutts, ever the eating machine, was getting rather itchy feet by now and insisting on walking around the corner to book us in for a meal. We ended up in Donatello's Italian where we enjoyed a good meal accompanied by around 10 bottles of wine. Yes, it was getting messy.
Watford Pete suddenly announced, with a glazed expression, he was going home. Back to Watford? The Kitchen Designer and I burst into action, helping his now useless legs negotiate the stairs and taking him out for some air.
A little while later, after an excursion to the toilet, he managed to fall flat on his face. The kindly restaurant staff helped him into a chair and emerged with an ice pack. We had our first casualty of the trip and the Kitchen Designer kindly offered to make sure he got back to the hotel safely.
Meanwhile, Stu had arrived from London having knocked back a couple of Scrumpy Jacks on the train. After a few glasses of wine he was well into the swing.
In the dying embers of the night we split up, some of us returning for a night cap in the hotel bar while others - including the plastered Prince - heading out for late night action on the town.
Stu was among them and apparently inquired of the startled hostess on returning to the Lagoon in the early hours: "Do I have a mini bar in my room?"
"Where do you think you are, the bloody Hilton?" she replied, before kindly providing him with a couple of bottles of San Miguel.
Meanwhile, Watford Pete, having been guided to the bedroom, had fallen flat on the floor, mistaking the two single beds at his end of the room as a double and falling face down between them. When I got to bed he was snoring so loudly that the next day the Kitchen Designer and Haydn bought a supply of ear plugs.
Don't miss part two of this exciting tale of a Jolly Boys weekend tomorrow.