I think we all know that group of lads who are or were a bunch of tearaways. It’s pretty much a given that boys will wind up connecting with other boys and, together, find themselves in a host of misadventures.
I was no exception to the rule. I met two of my best friends (Andy and Tom) when I was only just out of nappies and they’re still two of my best friends now. I became close with Tom’s brother (Mark.A) too and we’ve been great friends since my teens. Another is my cousin (Neil) so I’ve essentially known him his whole life. I met two more in secondary school; one whose wedding I recently attended (Mark.B), the other whose eldest child is my goddaughter (Liam). My other best friend I met at work about seven years ago (Martin). He isn’t connected with any of the others, but he’s absolutely no less important to me.*
I’ve done well with my friends. Aside from those mentioned above, there are several others I feel a great deal for too. Most are male, though I have some great female friends as well.
I don’t see too much of them these days; comparatively speaking anyway. Ten years ago I wouldn’t go more than a couple of days without seeing at least one of my best mates. Now I can sometimes go months. It isn’t easy and I do miss them. The main reason I think I don’t see them as much is that beer is invariably a factor in our hook-ups. Very little has changed from our young adulthood! Unfortunately, we can’t justify pissing all our money up the wall like we once could.
To say we as a group got into some situations would be an understatement. Chasing the same women, arguments (occasional fights too), house parties where things would get destroyed, drives across the country, holidays, days out, weekends away, long walks, money-making ideas—you name it, we probably did it.
The weird thing about our group after school had finished was that we actually split off for a while. Tom and I went to college together for my first year before I changed course. Andy kind of just disappeared for nearly two years, as did Mark.B. Mark.A was still in school so I only saw him when I visited Tom’s house while Neil, at this point, didn’t know any of the other guys.
We really all came together properly after I’d turned eighteen. Suddenly, nights out were pretty much a guarantee every weekend. Neil and Mark.A became regulars in our group over the course of the next couple of years and our little crew was complete, with various additions coming and going along the way.
There was always drama for better or worse and there were always stories to tell after we’d been somewhere. Off the top of my head, I’ll try to recall a few in succinct bullets:
- Myself, Mark.A, and a couple of other lads fancied a game of football, so we jumped in Mark.A’s car, drove to Blackpool, and played on the beach until the tide came in that evening. Why bother with a nearby field when we could drive for forty-five minutes and play on the beach? Spontaneity was definitely our thing back then;
- Andy and I went out one Monday evening to the local gay bar as we often did. My parents were away on holiday so we went back to my house to carry on drinking and watch some movies. A thunderstorm suddenly drifted in and Andy, quite impulsively, stripped off completely naked and went dancing in the back garden in the rain. Never one to be left out, I joined him. After that, we returned to drinking and watching movies… naked;
- One of the best weekends I ever had was when a load of us went to Stockport to shop for new clothes, went home, got ready, and then met up later in a pub for beers and cigars. I remember sitting there with everyone before our night out began thinking just how lucky I was—and just how happy I was too;
- A hilarious story comes from when I hosted a house party. The night was wearing down and some of us went into the summer house at the bottom of the garden to smoke the weed one of the guests had brought. Andy suddenly started acting weird; claiming there was an earthquake coming and putting all our beer bottles in the middle of the table so they didn’t fall. Then he asked us if there was a door behind him. We said yes. He asked a couple more times and we confirmed over and over. Next thing, Andy launches himself backwards through the summer house door and lands on his back before switching between laughing hysterically and crying. It’s the first and last time I’ve seen somebody trip off weed;
- A and I were full of big ideas. I wanted to be an author and DJ; he wanted to be an actor and screenplay writer. Often I would join him at work, where he had the office to himself, and we would sit there planning new TV shows, movies, short films, etc. He decided on a short film called ‘Don’t Forget to Kill Yourself’. We actually wrote scripts and started filming with me as the lead actor. Filming spanned across a few days in various locations, including Mark’s office. What became of the film I have no idea;
- Sparks flew one night at a house party thrown by a couple of our Turkish friends. Mark.B brought along a girl and it was understood he was into her. After a while, a girl I was into turned up. Inexplicably, Mark disappeared into a bedroom with the girl I was into. Fuelled with jealous ire, I made a pass on the girl he brought along and ended up in the other bedroom with her. As it turned out, Mark and the girl I was into had only gone to talk (I’m still dubious about that to the day) and he was furious that I came downstairs bragging about what I’d done with his. It nearly resulted in a fight that everyone else had to break up;
- At another house party, this one hosted by Mark.B, Neil and I started goading my ex-girlfriend (she was officially my ex at the time, though our story was far from over) and his girlfriend to kiss one another. After some persuasion, they did. However, they wanted to see the blokes doing it too in the name of ‘equality’. It basically led to pretty much everyone in the place kissing one another. It led to a whole lot more than that in many instances too;
- Another house party at my house while my folks were on holiday. Neil and a couple of others went to the local shop for some beer and, while there, encountered a few hoodlums. Neil ended up swinging for one of them before running back to my house when all of the guy’s mates became involved. Unfortunately, they followed him and it resulted in the living room window being smashed by one of the hoodlums. My folks were delighted about that;
- On my second visit to Prague with guys from work, Martin and I went and bought a cigar each from a tobacconist before our night out. In the club later that night, we stood in one of the smaller rooms where a stripper plied her trade on the bar. With a cigar in one hand and a drink in the other, Martin and I looked at one another and clinked our glasses with a knowing nod of the head. It was another of those ‘deathbed memory’ moments;
- Mark.A, Neil, and I decided to go to Blackpool one weekend for a night out. On the weekend in question, a heatwave hit the UK. It was absolutely boiling. The first couple of bars we went in were so humid that we were all considering ending the night early and drinking back at the guesthouse we were staying at. Auspiciously, we decided to go in one last bar. The bar had wicked air conditioning. It saved the night out. From there, we went to club Syndicate where Judge Jules was playing and had one of the best nights ever. At one point, I was walking around drinking a mini bottle of Moët, absolutely loving life.
There is just a small selection of the stories I have to tell of memories of great times with my friends. Liam moved away at quite a young age so the times I’ve seen him since my late teens have been depressingly few, though we still have our stories to tell from the times I’ve gone to stay with him and his family. I’ve probably shared more profound conversations with Liam than any other of my friends. I’ve definitely shared more cans of Fosters and chip shop meat and potato pies with him than anybody else!
In recent times, our shenanigans tend to be limited to special occasions. Most of the above are either married and/or have kids. I’m a dad myself so certain things have to take priority over causing trouble with the lads.
Having said that, I’m sure our trouble causing days aren’t behind us yet and that there’ll be opportunities for us to create some mayhem in the future. After all, it’s what we do best. It’s what we’ve always done best!
*Names changed to protect identities
(Title image from Malia 2007)