There are many hot topics in the world I could wax lyrical about right now. The conflict in Syria; the conflict between Israel and Palestine; the conflict between whoever else; Brexit…need I go on?
So as all of these deeply serious and political things rage on, I feel I should talk about myself. More pertinently, I think I should talk about various stages of my life and what I did for fun out of the house. Why? Well, quite frankly because the aforementioned stuff gets on my nerves. I’d rather think happy thoughts and recall good memories.
What I’m going to do is break it down into four segments; childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and nowadays. All bases covered really. Enjoy my trip through the years!
Outside was where I practically lived. The grove I lived on was a nice, family-orientated little street so I had loads of friends. Right nearby was countryside and nature so there were loads of places to play with the loads of friends I had.
Honestly; my childhood was amazing! Games of football and cricket were commonplace. We’d go for walks and bike rides all around the place (it always felt much further than it really was). Running races, bike races, snowball fights in the winter; anything went really.
We were an imaginative bunch and would always find new things to do. We even held mini jumble sales on the abandoned railway turned nature trail behind our grove with varying degrees of success. Said trail was always a great place for building dens, climbing trees and playing hide and seek too.
My group of friends and I were little adventurers. We’d have our scuffles like any sizeable bunch of kids do, but we were all fast friends in the main and there was no boy/girl split. We all did it together.
Summers were so long. The summer of 92 always sticks in my mind. It was the summer of the Barcelona Olympics and I was eight years old. I went on a bike ride or walk (can’t remember which) to nearby Park Bridge with my sister Joanne, her friend Kelly and Kelly’s sister Lynsey. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we were all enjoying our mission, when suddenly it turned out we were being followed by a man. I remember us all beating a hasty retreat homewards and I admit to quietly crapping myself (metaphorically). To this day, I don’t know if my sister and Kelly were fibbing or not, but it’s a memory that’s stayed with me ever since.
My secondary school years brought about major changes in me as a person. I was still out a lot of the time, but doing things rather more differently.
Swimming took up a lot of my time. I was pretty damned good in the pool and between the ages of 12 and 17 I must’ve amassed getting on for two-hundred medals in various different competitions both in club and singles. I went three years unbeaten at fifty metres backstroke in the Central Lancashire League through 98, 99 and 00. One race ended in a dead heat, but the rest I won.
The story of my swimming career didn’t end well. Maybe I’ll save that for a future post.
So moving on from the swimming, I still spent a large portion of my spare time outdoors. The games I played weren’t quite as innocent as they’d once been though. Sure, I still played a decent amount of football, but other things began taking precedence once I reached that age.
I’d spend most Friday and Saturday nights hanging around Ashton Markets with my mates Adam, Mike and Dave. Generally we’d hang around waiting for girls to show up and then try our luck at getting a snog. Looking back it was quite pathetic, but what else was a thirteen-fourteen year old going to do? We had some laughs in various different ways, but it wasn’t absent its bad times. One night I got punched in the nose because I didn’t have a lighter!
On that note, I began smoking at fifteen. I’d often go and find crafty places to smoke, which wasn’t difficult. I went several months before I was caught by my parents and that was on a weekend break at Pontins in Brean Sands. Lucky they didn’t catch me in other compromising positions whilst there…
I ventured into the world of relationships during this period also, but I’ll keep those details to myself I think.
Once I left school, I spent a fair amount of time drinking under the bridge near where I lived. This became a regular occurrence and I spent most nights hanging around with the same group and a three litre bottle of Strongbow. I have no idea how I funded my sudden smoking and drinking. I really can’t recall how it came to pass.
My adolescence mainly consisted of breaking the rules and trying to do ‘adult’ things, but the boy still very much existed. We had a game called fugitive where one person would get a sixty second head start to run away before the rest of the group hunted them down. It was a game that got more extreme the older we became and I remember cutting my hands to shreds sliding down an embankment to evade capture before jumping into the river at the bottom. It was a little extreme, but it worked!
Now things start to get a little tasty. For this section, I’m going to run from the ages of eighteen up to twenty-four. There’s a reason for twenty-four being the cut-off that I’ll explain briefly later.
This was the best period of my life. I had the best times I’ve ever had during this period. I did some things…okay, I did a lot of things…alright! I did about a gazillion things I’m not proud of. I don’t regret most of them though because this was a period for me to finally live those lascivious and crazy desires I’d had in my adolescence.
Most weekends were spent out and about drinking in one town or another. The weekends weren’t limited to Saturday and Sunday either. Thursday was student night in Ashton. If I was going out on Saturday and Sunday then I might as well go out Friday too. What’s that? The local gay bar is open until late on a Monday? Oh, go on then!
Five day weekends were very common. I had seven day weekends at my most prolific. I just loved being out with my friends drinking and socialising; often meeting new people along the way. I have friends I met during those heady days that are still friends now. We’ll always spare a thought for those good times we shared.
It wasn’t all out on the tiles, getting blind drunk and fornicating though. I went through a period of going for long walks and jogs with my friend Mike (not the same one as above) and we also had a crack at writing a sitcom series; something I’ve mentioned in previous posts.
I’d say the thing we did the most aside from drinking was pleasure drives, or ‘mooches’ as we called them. We’d often go out either as a group or just a twosome and drive around until the small hours of the morning and end up in places a long way from home a lot of the time. I absolutely loved doing this. It was a brilliant alternative to drinking.
We saw so many different places thanks to that little hobby. We also had many a deep conversation too, especially as the night wore on and we became more tired. I think those were the times our conversations were at their most profound. I started driving at twenty-one and could finally host mooches myself, but I always preferred to be a passenger.
In 2007 at the age of twenty-three, I went on my first and last proper lads’ holiday. We went to Malia and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was nothing more than a week of doing what we always did albeit in hot weather, but it was so different at the same time. Mike and I had our room robbed while we were there; all our money and valuable possessions gone! It still didn’t prevent it from being one of the best experiences of my life.
The term ‘nowadays’ is a little misleading as I’m covering an eight year period in this section. The reason for that is because since the age of twenty-four, I’ve pretty much been in relationships apart from about six months in 2012.
The nights out and wanton sluttery ground to a halt (in the main). I’d go for the occasional booze-up, but it became irregular. No more five day weekends.
Playing out became a rarity in this period if I’m honest. There’d be the occasional day out somewhere or even the odd stay at a hotel, but once you get sucked into that relationship lifestyle you find yourself venturing out into the world less on a hunt for fun. You find things to entertain yourself at home instead because you can’t justify spending a lot of money all the time when there’s a house to run and mouths to feed.
However, one thing did come about during my current relationship. A radio show called Old Skool Nation presented by Mancunian legend Stu Allan inadvertently opened doors to a new bunch of friends and a few of the best nights out I’ve ever had.
I’ve been a big fan of Stu’s since I was thirteen and I’d always wanted to see him live. Finally I got that chance for my thirtieth birthday. Not only did I see him live, but I met a whole bunch of people I’d since become friends with in the OSN Regular Listeners group as well as meeting the man himself. It was an unforgettable experience.
In the months following, I attended a few more nights that Stu played at, but the big one was to come in the November of that year.
You cannot truly call yourself a clubber in the Northwest if you’ve never been to Bowlers. It was something I simply had to put to bed. I did it in style. Not only did I see Stu Allan playing live at Bowlers, but I actually went up on the main stage while he was playing his set. It was incredible! The photo I got with him that night has been my profile picture on Facebook ever since.
Who would have thought that an insatiable love for dance music and the idolisation of one man could culminate in one of the greatest memories I’ll ever have? And it came during the least socially active period of my life so far.
Perhaps my best memories are from when I’ve played out. I’m much more of a ‘stay inner’ nowadays, but I do still occasionally make the time to meet up and go for drinks with friends. It’s a much more sedate affair now. Usually we’ll go out early and come home before twelve bells and we’ll do nothing in that time other than drink and talk.
It isn’t the wild and promiscuous affair of old, but I like it. I don’t think I could hack nights like I used to anymore. When I do go out of a night now (and I very rarely do) it’s for the music more than anything as I have a lot of friends who are DJ’s and play music that I love.
My playing out at the moment is sitting in front of this laptop and typing up a blog post or working on my stories. It may not be a physical outbound venture, but it’s at least one for my mind and that’ll do for me.
How do/did you spend your time out in the big wide world? Do you have any interesting or memorable tales to tell from your ventures? How do you rate mine? Please comment below. I base my worth depending on how much you like my posts…
Catch Stu Allan’s Old Skool Nation live every Friday night on OSN Radio between 8 and 10pm (GMT)
Image one from ashton-under-lyne.com