WITH 20 odd people to count in and count out on our Jolly Boys' outing to Brighton it was quite an achievement that there was only one missing person by the time the dust had settled on Friday night's antics.
But he wasn't missing for too long. At 8.45am as the Wonderful One and I were taking in the fresh sea air (and an essential nicotine hit) a taxi turned up outside the Lagoon containing a beaming figure waving like the Queen to her adoring citizens. Twas the Baker Boy, looking pleased as punch with his evening's exploits in Brighton.
We're still none the wiser to where he actually stayed the previous night, but I am leaning towards one of the wooden shacks that line the beach between Hove and the famous Brighton pier.
Once the mass of human flotsam had gathered in one place it was a pleasant (but rather long) walk along the seafront into town for most of us. Some - namely Shutts, Danny Boy and Jarhead - opted for the easier option and comandeered a bus for the journey. The rest of us made it to the pier where we went for a stroll and admired the fairground rides from afar (they looked pretty bloody frightening to me, if the truth be told).
We did, though, have an impromptu game of footie at one of the stalls where the object was to kick a ball through one of the many holes in the facing wall - and this is how we ended up with Wilson.
Triumphantly, I managed to succeed with one of my kicks, much to the chagrin of more "seasoned" soccer players like Rosey and Stu. I almost did a lap of honour, shirt over my head, I was so delighted to score and the whole event was recorded on video... you can see it on YouTube now via the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T27RCQJiMIA
This is how we managed to acquire Wilson, a fluffy football named after the inanimate object Tom Hanks befriended in Castaway. He soon became a valued member of the crew.
After that there was a bit of umming and aahing before we decided the best course of action was to visit the pub. And it was at a little drinking hostelry called the Druids Head that the kitty began again and the great and the good came together.
Last on the seen, and looking like he had been pulled through a number of bushes backwards, was the Prince. He seemed more pale than normal for a nocturnal, blood-sucking member of the undead. Perhaps that is why he started his day, a little after 2pm, with a drink that looked remarkably like blood.
His excuse for his appearance was even better than the real reason ie that he had had drunk around a gallon of alcohol throughout the previous 24 hours or so. "I forgot to bring my hairdryer," he opined, even though his hair looked no different than any other day of the week.
After a few pints and a spot of lunch four of us brave souls headed for the great Withdean Stadium, along with Wilson, to see the League One bootfest between Brighton and Tranmere.
First surprise came when I sauntered up to the turnstiles with cash in hand. "Sorry, Love, you can't pay at the gate, you need a ticket."
"A ticket? You're joking!" I said, hardly able to contain my surprise. The fact that a little over 3,000 people were likely to turn up for the game made this confusing, to say the least.
This led to 20 minutes fevered activity as Stu rang ticketline and ordered four tickets to be faxed through to the Withdean post haste. As we waited we had a kickabout with Wilson.
Eventually we got into the ground. The Brighton fans, in full flow, were singing their remarkably original little ditty "Seaaaaa... Gullllllls, Seaaaaa... Gulls!" And then the action started... or didn't.
We all had bets on when the first goal would be scored... ironic really, as the 90 minutes petered out into a predictable 0-0 stalemate.
Not that we stayed the full 90 minutes. It was cold, and the clouds were gathering, so we decided to leave early to "avoid the crowds" (yeh, right). As I sneaked through the gate a female security guard made a grab for me. "You can't leave!" she shouted.
"What do you mean I can't leave?" I responded.
"Well you won't be allowed to come back in."
"I don't want to come back in... it's utter sh** and it cost me £24," I responded.
"Oh, sorry love," was her sympathetic response.
SO, after a quick game of pool in a local boozer, it was back to the ranch for the partying to begin again. Scooby, the builder and Pete joined us after travelling up in a camper van in which they were to spend the night.
A couple of Baileys with ice helped to settle the stomach then we piled into taxis to go to the exotic-sounding Portland Rock Bar. The owner had told us to be there by eight to avoid disappointment. After all, a popular Who tribute band were playing that night.
As it was our extended crew got in without a problem, having to pay the outrageous £8 door fee. A couple of rough looking locals surrounded the stage, possibly explaining why the taxi driver had warned us: "I hope you have stab vests."
There were also four women in the corner who, it has to be said, looked like they were on a care-in-the-community outing. Still, it didn't stop our own Wayne Sleep, the Fabulous Baker Boy, jigging around the dancefloor with them to tunes like Who Are You? and Pinball Wizard.
As soon as they played 5.15 I was on the dancefloor, doing my best impressions of Pete Townshend full of windmill guitars and the like. It was only when I got home I realised I had probably strained my intercostal muscles and have been wincing with every movement since.
After the Who extravaganza, which ended on the perfect note with Won't Get Fooled Again, the majority of us filed back to the hotel in taxis to join in the Karaoke.
First up was Shutts, and to see the tallest man in the world rapping along to Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers do, was a sight to behold. He had been nominated by Rosey but soon got his own back.
After I had performed a rather tuneless, shouty version of Senses Working Overtime by XTC, Rosey was called to the stage and asked to perform Joe Le Taxi - in French! Fair play, the boy gave it his best though I doubt he will be climbing up the French pop charts any time soon.
As the night went on Scooby tried to enlist everyone into a Queen singalong, and the Fab BB grabbed the microphone for Elton John's I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues. There was a worrying moment in the middle when his legs seemed to buckle and he ended up sitting on the DJ's lights - an incident that earned him a stern glare from the man in charge.
Meanwhile, Jarhead was desperately trying to fight his way to the door past an imoveable object - Shutts - in order to avoid performing one of his Elvis favourites, Suspicious Minds. He managed to get out of the ordeal, but only by the skin of his teeth.
In the end it all wrapped up and we teetered off to bed, a good time had by all.
Before we departed we had a little kick around outside the hotel, and Shutts managed to slice Wilson over a garden fence behind a locked gate. Never to be seen again. Poor old Wilson.