Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Ben.

I boarded a train.

The chap next to me (not happy with buying a McDonald’s burger and fries, bringing it into a semi-packed train, and consuming it) took out the gherkin (a traditional act for some) threw it into the air and tried to catch it in his mouth.

He did not manage to catch all of it in his mouth and some juice/sauce went on his nose. 

Now, I’ve seen many things in my life – sunsets, famous people arguing with bus drivers, the future, various marsupials, the unlikely theft of a barber shop sign, construction cranes falling over train lines, and even a blow-up doll in someone’s hotel room on Valentine’s Day – but never, ever, have I witnessed such a spectacle.

I wondered whether it would be against social protocol to punch him in the balls and then flick his forehead, but decided that my negative wishes for his future well being would suffice.

Still semi-drunk and feeling quite sickly on the back of some heavy duty liquid booze consumption the night before (a cunning training exercise for what was on the horizon…) I passed time, as is my way, by listening to other people’s conversations:

“What’s green and would kill you if it fell from a tree?” Asked one chap with big shoes to his average-height friend.

“A pool table”? Came the response.

“I like it, but I’ll never remember it”, I thought, wrongly.

That is to say I don't like it, and I have remembered it.

“What was the highest mountain in the world before Mount Everest was discovered”?  A mum asked her kid, clad in school uniform (the kid, not the mum), almost as if it was important revision-based information in preparation for an impending test/exam.

“Box Hill”? Said the kid, somewhat mischievously, but in a frustrated tone that suggested she’d been asked many questions on this journey already.

“It was still Mount Everest…it just hadn’t been discovered yet!”, Said the mum, looking pleased with herself.

The kid rolled her eyes, and although I felt her pain, the topic of conversation, highly relevant as it was, intrigued me.

After a pleasant enough journey that managed to pass without me vomiting on the unfortunate sod sat next me who had already been dealing with my excessive alcoholic perspiration, I managed to gather my thoughts, and backpack, as I made my way to Heathrow Terminal 5. The plan was to meet up with 10 of my nearest and dearest, under specific instruction that we were going to climb the mighty Ben Nevis the following day…

In America they call it a ‘Bachelor Party’.
In Australia: ‘Buck’s night’, and in South Africa: ‘Bull’s Night’.

In England we call it a ‘Stag Do’.

Unfortunately for me it was my ‘do’.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it, and, frankly, why would you? Your friends doing their best to pour more booze down your neck than you could physically contain/tolerate, followed by a heavy portion of public humiliation. All in a chaotically demented 80 hour stretch.

But then I thought: “Hang on…
…There was a time when being in the company of all your closest friends whilst they plied you with free booze would’ve been the stuff of dreams”. Plus, as long as there were no ‘four-legged friends’, Tory MP’s, asparagus spears, lycra bodysuits, eggnog dares or Scottish-hats-with-fake-ginger-hair-attached-to-the-back-in-a-comedy-style involved, I felt I could handle making a fool out of myself – after all, I had already been embarrassing myself socially for years unaided.

To do it in an official, accepted capacity, amongst official acceptors might even be fun.

The decision to climb Britain’s highest mountain was popular when first mooted.

Possibly because we were pissed when Joseph Ouseph suggested it.

Everyone found it hilarious.

We were stupid, because then came the reality...

At over 4,500ft it would take us (me) 7 hours of pain and confusion to get up and down.

Fortunately, although expectations were low, camaraderie was high, and the madness of the task ahead seemed to draw us together. There was also a small tavern at the foot of ‘The Ben’, served by a local distillery, and the climactic lure of strong Scottish whiskey was a highly useful temptation to push us onwards to complete the task ahead.

“I wonder if they’d get up to this kind of malarkey on a hen do”? I asked.

“I don’t think I like the idea of hen do’s – they’re rubbish”, said Joe.

“What’s wrong with Hindus”? Said a confused Bill, joining the conversation late.

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