Friday 26th June

The first part of The Booze Cruise full account

This is how it went.

I, Finbar and Ben were to meet at Mark's house to watch the World Cup match: England versus Columbia. Mike was invited, but he'd already agreed to stay at John's that night to make things run more smoothly the next morning.

The next morning was the beginning of the canal holiday, the start of the excursion. I and Ben were happy to stay at Mark's the night, because we weren't sure how events were planned for the next day and it would be easier just to follow Mark. When Mark rang Finbar to ask if he was coming to watch the match, Finbar replied: Okay, but I can't stay the night.

Mark was confused. Why would you stay the night?

Because that's what you said. Ben and Bob are staying the night.

No they're not!

I'm told Finbar smirked. Well, they think they are. I'm coming over later to watch the football.

At this point, Mark panicked. He hadn't planned on accommodating two people and their luggage for the night. When the Hell had he given everyone that idea? So he rang me. Hello, Robert. I'm told you think you're staying the night.

Uh, yeah. Why? Aren't I?

You weren't going to. But Finbar said that you and Ben think you are.

Oh, I said smiling. Sorry. I thought that was the plan. If there's a problem I'll just stay here. Why are we going to your house, then?

To watch the football!

Just to watch the football, I laughed. Shit.

Oh, God, Mark moaned. Ben thinks he's staying as well. What am I going to do? What if he's already on his way?

Well, if it's a problem I'll stay here.

No, it's alright. You can stay here after the football.

What about Ben?

I don't think I'll have room.

I laughed again. You'd better ring him now. Call me back.

Mark thought for a moment. Yeah, okay. Maybe he hasn't left. See you later.

Mark rang Ben's place but Ben was gone. I rang Mark about ten minutes later to find this out. I offered to stay at my own place, but Mark was resigned to the idea now. He said it was fine if I and Ben both just stayed at his place. I'll find some room on my floor somewhere, I suppose, he sighed, as if we were really putting him out. I knew he was only joking.

I sat about watching my mum pack a load of my clothes while all this was going on, pretending to care which clothes went into the bag and which didn't. She knew that if she didn't do it I wouldn't, instead just slobbing the whole week in what I had. The whole packing process took about forty minutes. It had taken longer to ready my photographic equipment: a compact, black camera bag and not-so-compact tripod bag, both filled with important equipment and finished with a beige trim that had my mates frowning in disgust every time they had the displeasure of seeing it.

Within about an hour of talking to Mark on the 'phone I arrived at his place. I entered his new conservatory to find Ben and Finbar sitting on a sofa on one side, enjoying the football, Mark's parents in the other corner. Mark's mum observed my entrance with a wry smile and a comment: Oh, God. Another one. Go on, then, sit down.

After I was offered a drink, Mark's mum retreated to the other room. Bloody football. I'm off to watch the gardening programme. I bet that's exciting.

In between the tense bits of the football match, conversation would occasionally develop.

Where's Mike, then?

Staying at John's, someone replied. Someone else laughed. They knew that Mike would be missing the football match.

Then Ben said something about getting something from his bag. A minute later he returned with some documents in an A4 plastic sleeve.

What's this? Mark asked as Ben handed it to him.

The schedule.

Oh my God, Mark muttered, impressed at the detail and thought that had gone into its making. After a few minutes reading, Mark asked: What's a PPP?

That stands for poo poo point. That was Finbar's idea. It's where we get a pump out for the toilets.

Finbar screwed up his reddened face in embarrassment. Yeah, I think that name was my idea, he laughed with a grin.

The match finished with England beating Colombia. By then it was dark, and Finbar kept making it clear he thought he should leave. But Fantasy World Cup came on TV and he stayed for a bit longer, even though he wanted to get home and get a good sleep. It didn't help that it had started raining outside.

Finbar, stay and watch Fantasy World Cup, one of us moaned. It finishes at half-eleven.

No, I want to sleep. We have to be up early. Suddenly his face lightened. But it is raining. I'll watch a bit more of this. Maybe the rain will stop.

Yeah, that's the idea, we encouraged.

But halfway through Fantasy World Cup the rain still hadn't stopped, and Finbar did not want to miss too much sleep. It would take him long enough to get home.

Oh, he groaned. I better go now.

Nah, Finbar. Stay until this finishes.

No, I'm gonna go now. I'll see you tomorrow at the station.

Everyone sighed, frowning. Alright. Bye, Finbar.

The second he left, the rain got heavier than I've known it for a long time. Or maybe it just seemed that way because we were in a conservatory, sitting under a glass roof that was being visibly pounded.

I, Mark and Ben finished watching Fantasy World Cup, then headed up to Mark's room where we made a couple of temporary beds on the floor next to Mark's. Ben got the portable sponge bed. I had to sleep on a blanket over a hard floor. It didn't matter for a long while, because we were awake for hours, talking and joking. For some reason, we were still awake at two in the morning doing our best to remember and sing Disney film music. This all started thanks to Mark suddenly saying, Cor, blimey, Mary Poppins! I think it began out of a conversation about how bad Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent was.

Either way, we weren't silent until half two in the morning, straining to recall the words to such hits as 'Spoon Full Of Sugar', 'Under The Sea', and 'Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go'. When silence did prevail, Mark and Ben quickly fell asleep. I was not so fortunate. Once again the discomfort of a hard floor combined with a natural tendency for insomnia and resulted in a night completely devoid of sleep. I tried for hours to fall asleep while it was still dark, giving up only when it was light enough that the damned birds started singing. Eventually I resorted to reading a large text book on the floor, left there by Finbar at some earlier date. It was about psychology and the mind. My current situation led me to reading the sleep deprivation chapters, and how humans seem to be able to go without REM sleep without fatal effect. It hardly seemed consolation at this time in the morning.

Technically, it was now Saturday.