Invariably, the first assignment given out is a recount of the summer holidays. It's tradition. Much like presents at Christmas, cakes on your birthday, hangovers on a Sunday and howling like a rabid banshee at 6.30am on a Monday morning when the alarm goes off. So with that in mind...
WHAT I GOT UP DURING MY SIX WEEKS
PISS UP HOLIDAY.
By Johnny Red Pants (aged A LOT)
Oh, I had it all planned. I didn't want to fritter my summer away in random pubs, chipping away at my liver function with a casual disregard. I didn't want to regress to my teenage years, where I would stay in bed until noon and then spend the rest of the day in my pyjamas until it was time to go to the pub. Not this year. This year, I would get up at the crack (snigger) of dawn, take myself to the gym and then spend the rest of the day doing good deeds, thus investing in a sizeable portion of positive karmic payback. This all started rather marvellously until I did my knee in. And then my hip. And then my ankle. There was only one thing for it: go to the pub, where I had a rather great time. I still did good deeds: I would take my own glass to the bar once I'd finished, thus saving the glass-collectors legs and I probably single-handedly saved the pub from going under, as most of them seem to be doing. Well done me.
Towards the end of the holidays, it started to get a bit hum-drum, so I thought I'd have myself a little adventure. Initially I was going to go abroad, but a quick look at the prices, inflated about ten fold because of the school holidays, and I decided to think again. Instead, I looked at staying in the UK. Brighton in other words. After a quick mooch about the internet, I booked myself into a B&B that apparently boasted a 'DELUXE GARDEN VIEW ROOM' in the rather ostentatiously named, 'Old Palace Guest House.'
After dumping my case, I surveyed the room. I got the 'old' bit, but palatial it was not. Nor could the word 'deluxe' be applied in the truest sense of the word. Unless they're going for irony, in which case they're bang on the money, honey. Also, the garden view left something to be desired. A snatched glance through the window revealed a peculiar cement basement garden, approximately six square feet, that played host to a yellow table and a well used ashtray. It was the worker's smoking area. But you know what, it was clean enough (there was the reassuring smell of bleach wafting through, anyway) and the location was groovy, baby. The Brighton wheel was in spitting distance - not that I would spit, being a kind, socially conscious sort of bloke. Cheap and cheerful would best describe it. It was a change of scenery, so hip, hip and an almighty hurrah. En-suite, wi-fi, a flat screen telly and the bed was comfy. Pleasing. Day one was spent kicking back, reading and watching the world go by. I sat and observed the patrons of Brighton while listening to snatches of conversation as they passed me by. I love that kind of thing. Or I did until a family plonked themselves down at the table next to me and I got stared at by their baby who had the face of a wizened old hamster. Endearing at first. Terrifying thereafter. But amusing throughout.
Day two saw me take advantage of the breakfast part of the B&B experience. I'm not sure what was strangest: the breakfast itself or the conversation that surrounded it.
I pootled downstairs just before nine feeling rather fresh and smelling rather fragrant, even if I do say so myself. All but one table was occupied, so I sat my rump in the nearest available chair and thumbed through my book. The atmosphere was slightly muted, save for the odd grunt that I think was supposed to masquerade as a morning salutation. Next to me was the galley kitchen, approximately a metre and a bit wide and probably about three metres long. I counted nine people in there. Almost an orgy. I was bought a pot of (rather delicious, actually) coffee and was asked by the Lithuanian girl who served it if I wanted, 'Foolish breast fast.' Thick tits and make em snappy? What was she on about? In the end, I just did the age-old British thing of agreeing with a curious smile, not wanting to offend. Turns out she wanted to know if I wanted a FULL BREAKFAST.
Trading standards could have a right gay old time if they got wind of the erroneous offerings of this establishment. There was nothing FULL about it: ONE cherry tomato. HALF - yes, HALF - a grilled mushroom. And not a big fuck-off field mushroom, we're talking a NORMAL mushroom. A spoonful of beans. One egg. One rasher of bacon. One slice of toast. Still, what they gave me tasted pretty good and I told myself that my arteries are perhaps all the better for it. To be honest, it was enough. I'm just a greedy guts. A woman on the next table kept looking at me and smiling. It transpired that she was Irish, about 70 and of questionable mental health. This is her first time to Brighton. And do you know what her verdict is? 'Lovely, but where are the potatoes?' I wasn't quite sure that I'd heard her right, so I verbally begged her pardon and she repeated her concern about the lack of the potatoes. 'Chips, yes. Chips everywhere. Chips, chips, feckin' chips. Chips up to me tits. But I don't want chips. I want mash. Boiled. Baked. But no. All you've got is chips. Pissing chips.' I wasn't quite sure what to say, so I smiled and found myself grateful that my breakfast was rather meagre - I inhaled it, rose to my feet and swept out of the room like some rotund enigma in a bright yellow T-shirt.
Later that day, I walked 20,000 steps according to my pedometer. I donned my iPod and set off with the wind in my hair and a song in my heart. First to the marina and back,then to Hove and back again. Then I went to the pier and had a couple of quid on the OXO bandit. My Mam always warned me of the perils of fruit machines. There will only ever be one winner, she warned. And it won't ever be you. Oh, ye of little faith, mother. I put in a pound and as my credit ran out, it looked as though her prophecy was correct. But then, with a cursory flick of my thumb and a steely gaze fixed on the screen, the universe conspired in my favour. I won my pound back. Triumph! Much excite and bum sweat. I was going to spend my winnings on an ice cream, but the DIRTY, EVIL, ROBBING bastards on the sea front wanted £4.99 for three scoops. No way hosepipe, etc.
In life, there are winners (hurrah!) and losers (boo!) And on day three, I fell squarely into the former category. So much so, I almost felt the need to race up the town hall steps fisting the air whilst Eye of the Tiger provided a somewhat dated but entirely appropriate sonic backdrop. The key word in that last sentence is 'almost'. I chose not to as: a) I am clumsy and would've suffered a calamity resulting in the swift transfer from winner (hurrah!) to loser (boo!); b) I wasn't sure where the town hall was and whether it has steps; c) I couldn't be bothered. Besides I was planning on going out that evening and needed to preen.
Let me tell you all about it. You see, all week I sensed that I win would something on the bandit. The prior day's break-even win of a single British pound only served to whet my appetite. As I mooched back towards my non-deluxe deluxe room (with non-garden garden view), I had the overwhelming feeling of unfinished business. Sitting idly on my bedside table was a collection of silver coins totalling about £1.30. I swiped them into my pocket and decided to do battle with my nemesis: the OXO machine sitting to the left as you enter the amusements on the pier. I laughed a wicked, evil laugh as I fed it my coins. Thirteen attempts later, it appeared that I was a loser (boo). Rejecting this outright, I fingered my wallet for more money. I deposited another pound into the chrome coin hole. I hit autoplay (which means, in OCD terms, that I don't have to press the rather scruffy buttons - playing these machines often gives you the same sensation as stroking a dog with a filthy coat. You don't know know where people put their hands, do you?)
Wheels spun. Lights flashed. Combinations briefly presented themselves and then spun into a different combination. I watched pensively as my credit shrank, spin by spin. And then three Xs landed in a pound-winning flash. With a single quid in the bank, I was still 30p down. But not for long: within two spins, I had two Xs and a 0 but rather than spin again, I was offered a nudge. Three of them in fact, which was rather generous as I only needed two in order to double my winnings. With two spins left, it looked as though I would leave with a modest return. But no. The wheels spun and in an instant I was looking at the jackpot combination: BAR-BAR-BAR. The bank raced to £7.00. But it wasn't over. The machine's buttons simultaneously flashed. It offered me the chance to hold the combination. I did and I won again. After another spin, I squealed (a big, butch squeak, okay?) as the machine made a chugging noise and pumped my winnings at me. I was going to spend my winnings on a thumb ring, but the only design I liked looked like it might turn my thumb green and that would make me a loser (boo!) which I am not. I am a winner (hurrah!) So I had a cake instead. Double hurrah!
Then I went to the pub, got a bit tiddly and lived happily ever after until September came around and I sulked.