Saturday was my big sisters birthday. She is 5 years my senior. A table had been booked for family and close friends in a Greek restaurant in the town centre. As I'm not a big drinker I would normally drive however I thought I'd get a cab and live a little.
After being transported at well over the speed limit in a 15 year old Mercedes taxi that was pumping out the latest dance floor sounds in order to disguise the fact that a ball joint on the front suspension needed changing, I arrived at the venue. It is a small friendly sort of place and most of the guests were already there. I exchanged hugs, kisses, friendly remarks with my family and my Sisters friends all of whom still imagine that I'm a cute 12 year old boy I think!
The meal was lovely and then afterwards a belly dancer gave a performance along with some short lessons for those who had consumed enough alcohol. There was a short traditional plate breaking session also. At around midnight as the more elderly members of the party started to order cabs my Nephew, Niece, Daughter and respective partners suggested that I join them for a drink at a bar in town. Stupidly I agreed. We arrived at what was known as "Chicago Rock Cafe" when last I was in town circa 5 years ago only now it was renamed "Running horses" for no apparent reason. We paid to get in and then waited for around 20 minutes to get served. At the risk of sounding old I have to say that the volume of the music was perhaps bordering illegal and certainly made conversation impossible.
After about an hour or so of people watching, I concluded that this was a ridiculous way of socialising, nobody could hold a conversation and people were literally stood around watching each other! Bizzare! There was perhaps one security guard to every ten patrons giving me both a feeling of security but also making me wonder why security needed to be so tight! What sort of place had this become? I remember it five years ago as a pub/club that was furnished with comfy brown leather sofas, low tables, a mixture of music at a reasonable level, now everyone seemed to be stood up and the only track that I recognised was "pokerface" albeit it was remixed.
So we made our way into the bitterly cold evening and took the short walk to the taxi rank, this is when things got really odd. Normally I would telephone a taxi from wherever I was, most of the time I would drive or occasionally I would have arranged a member of staff to chauffeur me and paid them overtime and given them use of a vehicle for the weekend. So, I can honestly say, this was the first time I had ever been to a taxi rank. The taxi rank in question turned out to be a sordid little shop with vinyl seating and no heating and a ticket booth behind which sat a large dirty looking chap who handed out tickets and occasionally spoke through a microphone to cab drivers. Some party goers were already seated and were exhibiting different levels of consciousness depending on the level of alcohol/drugs that were in their bodies. The look of alarm on my face must have been apparent and set my daughter of laughing, "look at Dads face" she exclaimed and the rest of my party all laughed I remember remarking that it was like walking into the bar in the Star Wars movie. My Nephews girlfriend came to my side and linked my arm "Come on we'll go an wait outside" she said.
Outside was no better really, I lit a small cigar as a comfort as I was now well outside my comfort zone. There was a large framed girl outside dressed in what I assumed to be a fancy dress fairy costume, she was with a second girl and a boy, all were around 19 - 20 years old. The girl in the pink fairy costume was holding her nose and there was evidence of blood on her dress. Amid the incessant swearing and use of words that had been modified for no apparent reason (such as wiv = with, ma=my, smacked up = high) I managed to work out that a boy who she had walked past on the way to the taxi rank had punched her in the face for no reason!
Within a few minutes my taxi had arrived. Thankfully my Daughter lives close by to me so we shared a taxi and I was able to rest knowing that she was safe.
I cannot believe that young people subject themselves to that each weekend. It was only around 5 years ago when I stopped going to town centre venues and although it was sometimes a bit raucous it was never on the scale of what I witnessed on Saturday night. Why don't our youngsters sign up for the armed forces instead? I'm sure a career in the army would provide an equal level of danger but you would have the benefit of being paid too!