Title image from Geograph.
If you read my previous real life tale, Tea Time, then you’ll know that spontaneity was something of a normalcy amongst my friends and I. Nothing quite hit the spot like venturing to a random place at the last minute in the search of shits and giggles.
Expressly because of our love for off-the-cuff adventures, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest one Friday night when I was in my early twenties (I forget the exact year – I’m guessing it was in 2006 when I was twenty-two years old, but that’s guesswork) and my friends contacted me via a phone call. I was sitting at my parents’ house watching some crap on TV that I really wasn’t paying that much attention to.
“Paul, what are you up to,” Munch asked. Or was it Tony? I forget that too.
“Nothing. I’m at home”.
“Fancy coming to Sheffield with us?”
My brain immediately screamed “YES”, but there were a couple of problems preventing me from physically screaming that answer. Being broke bar ten quid was the main problem.
“Are you going on a mooch,” I asked.
“No. We’re going to park up somewhere and go out on the piss because we’ve never been out around there before. I’m not drinking so I can drive us all back”.
Ah, man! Well that definitely ruled me out.
“Sorry mate, but I’ve literally only a tenner to my name. I won’t be able to afford a night out”.
“Don’t worry about that. I’m sure we can get you a couple of drinks between us and then you’ll only need to pay entry into whatever club we end up in”.
I really don’t like people subbing me. Being in debt to friends or family is a bad feeling and one I’ve worked hard to avoid ever since winding up in a predicament where I owed my cousin Nick a few hundred quid for about a couple of years. The problem here is that they were going somewhere new and it’d kill me if I wasn’t there for the experience. That overrode any hang-ups I had about owing money.
“Screw it! Yeah, I’ll come”.
“Nice one. Get ready and we’ll be there to pick you up in about twenty minutes”.
The metaphorical horses weren’t spared as I quickly got myself into more appropriate attire and sorted my hair out (I used to take my hair so seriously. I literally do nothing with it anymore). Satisfied I looked at least semi decent for a night out, I headed out of the house and to the end of the road where I always waited for Munch to pick me up. My parents live on a cul-de-sac so turning in a car can be a nightmare. I was collected by Munch and there were others with us, but I’m struggling to remember who. Tony was definitely one and I’ve a feeling Potter too, but I may have to ask Munch about that (Munch has since confirmed he thinks my cousin Nick (Cleggy) and Sully were the other two and Potter wasn’t with us).
Anyway, off we popped. Over the hills and far away…literally. Sheffield was a drive over an unlit country road called Snake Pass from where we were; a drive we frequently went on. We had been to Sheffield on one of our world famous mooches, but never to actually go drinking in bars and clubs. We were all pretty excited. Even Munch who wouldn’t be drinking (again).
We arrived in Sheffield and found a place to park having discovered where the hub of the night time activity likely was after a drive around. A generic bar was where we went to first just to get a drink down our necks. Tony assisted me in this particular bar as he got me a drink in. It wasn’t long before we left as we’d never intended to stay in that particular place.
Our hunt for another venue to go for a drink eventually led somewhere that brought me out in a frown. One of the places we tended to go drinking a lot in Ashton was Molly Malone’s; a bar I really didn’t much care for. I found it to be a really dingy bar where the music upstairs was naff and the music downstairs was headache inducing. The problem was that all other people present liked Molly’s so they simply had to see what the score was in Sheffield’s variant.
Much to my pleasure, Molly’s in Sheffield was nothing like the one in Ashton. The music was better, you didn’t stick to the floor and you weren’t drowning in your own sweat (or other people’s) after ten minutes. This Molly’s was what the Molly’s in Ashton wished it was! I bought my first drink of the night in this particular bar, but only the one as somebody else bought me another.
My research regarding Molly Malone’s in Sheffield is wielding no results so I’m now actually second guessing myself as to whether the entire last couple of paragraphs even happened. I swear we went in some bar with the same name as a place in Ashton and I was certain it was called Molly Malone’s. Maybe I’ll need to speak to Munch again…
After Molly’s we decided that we’d find a club to go in. I don’t know if we stumbled upon it by accident or if it had been suggested to us by one of the locals, but we wound up at a club called Kingdom. We had no idea what to expect, but from the outside it looked pretty huge.
I have since come to learn that Kingdom eventually became known as Embrace (ah, the title of the post becomes clear I hear you say) and closed down for good in 2014. Yet another club going the way of the dinosaur!
My worry was how much it would cost to get in given as I was on a shoestring. Whilst queuing, a miracle happened. There was a woman in front of me who suddenly turned around to look at me. I wondered what she wanted when she broke out in a smile.
“Do you want this,” she asked; holding out a small piece of card.
“What is it,” I inquired.
“It’s for free entry and three bottles of <enter drink here>. I’ve already got one so I don’t need it”.
That made my face go like this…
Well, it made me want to do a face like that, but I kept it internal as not to make myself look a complete freak. Obviously I accepted the gesture. What skint person in their right mind wouldn’t? So what was already turning out to be a good night just got even better.
The sheer scale of Kingdom on the inside was breath-taking. The only club I had ever been in that was perhaps bigger was Syndicate in Blackpool which was about the size of a small moon (that too closed down eventually just like Kingdom/Embrace). Several years later I would discover a club in Prague that had five floors, again with varying music, but at that point in time, Kingdom was the second largest club I’d ever been to. Kingdom had a number of different rooms playing all different styles of music and we tried each one to see which suited us best. For me that would have been the room playing house music, but as I was the only one really into it that meant there was a power of veto against me.
That didn’t matter. The reason it didn’t matter is because we ended up in a room that can only be described as playing cheese. No; the cheesy music wasn’t what was up my street. It was the drop dead gorgeous Asian girl dancing away to it with her friends that was up my street. You know when you see a person and they’re so attractive that the memory of them just stays with you forever? This Asian girl was one of those. All of us were agog at how stunning she was. However, our voyeurism didn’t appear to go down well with the group of Asian men who had obviously taken a fancy to her too and their death stares made that kind of apparent. Not fancying getting into a brawl in a city none of us really knew, we took that as our cue to move into one of the other rooms.
As I recall we didn’t stay too much longer, which was just as well as I’d worked through my three bottles of <enter name here> (something is telling me it was VK, but once again I really can’t remember for certain. I’m not doing well at remembering shit here at all). We’d had such a good laugh up to that point that kicking the arse out of it further seemed pointless; plus Munch didn’t want to be too tired for the drive home.
So we left Kingdom and returned to the car. There was time enough whilst driving through Sheffield for Tony to flirt with a couple of ladies in the back of a taxi at some traffic lights and they responded with giggles and blown kisses. Tony responded further by mimicking Richie in the Bottom episode “Hole”; holding his hands apart and mouthing “that big” in reference to his manhood naturally. We couldn’t hear the laughter from the girls, but it was quite clear they were in stitches before the traffic lights changed to green and we were off.
We were back home in roughly an hour. The night had worn on to the point where nowhere in Ashton was letting people in so we all decided to call it a night and head home. It still amazes me to the day that I took only a tenner to Sheffield and came back pissed with change in my pocket when on a normal night out I would spend at least four times that amount even in those days when drinks were a damn sight cheaper.
It guts me that we never returned to Sheffield as it seemed like a great place for a night out and certainly deserved a second stab with a hotel stay so we could remain out until closing. I shudder to think what it might be like now given that I’m old and think young adults have generally destroyed the nightlife scene with their aesthetic obsessions. Perhaps the memory is better left as it is and Sheffield can be preserved as a result.