Before I begin, I can only attempt to placate friends that weren’t invited. The (possibly erroneous) assumption, that only those who were coming to the wedding could be invited to the stag night, whittled down numbers somewhat; not as much as both of my ushers dropping out at the last moment, mind you. If they do that on the wedding day then I shall find them, dress them in the suit that will be hired for them, and flay it off them with heavy bull-whips. But we (K. and I) still hope to have a party after the wedding, and you are of course all invited to that.
I must also mention that addedentry and Hat have already beaten me to it with a summary of the weekend’s events. But of course, neither of them have proper day-jobs, so I can’t say I envy them their punctuality. Kidding! I secretly wish I had a fake day-job too.
Anyway, it was by coincidence that my stag weekend took place not far from the rather Oxonidistant location of the upcoming wedding. Where the Brecon Beacons back up onto the Wye Valley, more or less directly west of Cheltenham and the mouth of the Severn, the small village of Govilon sits roughly between Abergavenny and Blaenavon. And Hopyard Cottages sit to one side of Govilon, a side that both Hat and Silk seemed incapable of reaching. The half-crying, half-guffawing hysteria in Silk’s voice when he rang us from a few miles away was eventually explained by Hat trying to perform a corrective three-point turn, whereupon the knob came off in his hand.
The cottages are in an idyllic setting close to a river, surrounded by rolling fields and—though you’d never know—right by the A465. The biggest cottage, which we rented out, had a Swiss-chalet feel that reminded me of the place I stayed in with work in Chamonix. Ducks, chickens, a rooster (the nemesis of Hat’s fabled good night’s sleep) and rabbits frolicked in the gardens, and the outhouse that contains tables for pool, snooker, table-tennis and table football felt like it had dropped fully formed out of trips my families made in the 80s, down to each game only costing twenty pence. It was as much luck as anything else that led rgl to choose it, but I’m awfully glad he did.
After drinking as heavily as we reasonably could on the Friday night, and being made thoroughly welcome in the Lion Inn, we still managed to leave the house before midday on Saturday, for what sounds like a punishing 10-mile hike to Blaenavon and back, over the Blorenge. In the end, though, it turned out to be a fun hike, that the hard-core might call easy. There were sheep and horses, with their respective babies, and a lot of post-mining landscaping in evidence.
Blaenavon is hardly the new Hay-on-Wye that some have suggested, but it was still a welcome rest, with a workingman’s pub in the centre serving beer and letting us read the papers, and a handful of bookshops trying hard not to be rubbish. The only book that attracted me turned out to be in a Book Club edition—I’m still glad I bought it but, true capitalism aside, it wasn’t worth what I paid for it—and all the bookshops felt out of place. The chipshop was doing a roaring trade, though. And on the way back Silk nearly fell down a quarry edge, only to find after making his simian way across that the public footpath he’d been using was closed owing to the subsidence that gave the rest of us the willies.
In the evening we played an excellent Thoughtplay written by Hat. Loosely based on Withnail & I, it took the form of a murder mystery with a number of ground rules and goals, and methods of killing and bartering. Like the one Hat managed to get the whole of a 200-person conference to take part in, it was a whirlwind of silly, funny nonsense; unlike that one, we all more or less understood what was going on. Right up to the point where… everyone soaked me with water pistols. Ah. So, it’s a stag night after all, then, chaps?
Another late night’s drinking led, sadly, to another early morning, as we were required to leave by midday. But it was still a peaceful, genial waking-up, with Radio 3 and toast and tea: I had tired of brewing coffee in one saucepan and filtering it through a sieve packed with filter papers into another saucepan. All in all, a knockabout, but hardly laddish, weekend of slightly Boy’s Own physical and mental exertions culminating in long periods of sitting round enjoying each other’s company while getting nicely pissed. I don’t think I could’ve hoped for a more suitable stag night for me: thank you, everyone who planned it, attended it and played along with it.
Incidentally, while in role-play character, addedentry looked just like the young Alan Bennett.