Monday, December 13, 2004

i feel like a pig shat in my head

Northern radical housing co-ops have apocalyptically large parties. Imagine Waco but with everyone having a really really good time. They generally go on for two days, though the record for me is leaving Equinox Co-op on the Tuesday after a party that started on the Saturday.

Last week it was the turn of Cornerstone. Unfortunately, for the Sunday of the Cornerstone party we played the Withnail & I drinking game. I'm not proud of this, but I think it warrants some kind of documenting, if only to serve as a warning to others.

The theory is that you watch Withnail & I and any time either of the two main characters take a drink, you match it. There is the vexed question of what to drink in place of the lighter fluid. After some discussion on a participants email list - including one person saying 'a replacement for lighter fluid? You bunch of pussies' - we got the strongest alcohol intended for human consumption that you can buy in the UK, a 90% Irish poteen.

For several weeks the email list was a way of drawing a veil of comedic bravado over our unease at the scale of the challenge we faced. We taunted and dared each other shamelessly.

One typical exchange:

I'm betting Mal a pint he doesn't even get as far as the car journey OUT to the countryside without passing out

to which Mal replied:

No, no, no....the car journey out is when my trousers come down, the altercation in the tea-shop - maybe - where I vomit, but I'm going for the end credits on this one.

I just spoke to Sensible Tim - he said not only are you all a bunch of soft-livered Northern poo-hole pirates who couldn't hold a couple of alco-pops without soiling yourselves, he also reckoned most of you feckless cheaters would be trying to substitute your ale for water coloured with tea-bags and trying to pour the remains of pints into plant-pots; and that he'd drink you to hell and back and still be standing to piss on you. His words, mind, not mine.

You see where this was heading don't you; straight into the sort of bloody minded competitiveness in which nobody can be said to really win.

Of course, if you are to attempt a feat of endurance like the Withnail game, you should really get in training and be in robust physical health. As opposed to being a bunch of munters who've been up all night on home made absinthe and then persuaded a pub to open twenty minutes early in order to carry on. Those who partook of the 'warm up drinking' unsurprisingly found it a handicap to their performance in the game.

Incidentally, the game also involves drinking even more than some of the online listings say. The bottle swigged from at Uncle Monty's isn't sherry, it's Haig whisky (the sherry's poured from a decanter). It's the same bottle that Withnail drinks in the car and at the cottage, with the clear implication he nicked it from Monty's. An excellent touch that I'd not spotted in dozens of viewings. In previous viewings I'd been watching the actors rather than the bottles.

What we didn't realise was that it isn't a game in the traditional sense that a group of people compete and some finish. It is in fact a springboard into oblivion.

The only people who were still conscious at the end of the film were people who had cheated (spookily enough Mal's guess at plant pots was entirely accurate, as was the suspicion that he'd pass out around the journey to the countryside). And none of the finishers can remember being the ones who finished.

If we participants go by what we personally remember, we had a really great time. Unfortunately, there were numerous sober onlookers who describe a scene of primal punk-festival scale pointless aggression, like rabid dogs and angry toddlers on crack.

From speaking to everyone, Ben compiled this list of events as we understand them:

Until 3.30, several contestants engage in some 'warm up drinking'. Mal phones up Merrick to jib out, but permission is denied.

3.30 - the game begins. The contestants are: Ben, Nicola, Andy, Merrick, Mal, Jacky, Hayley, Malc, Tabs, Nat and Sasha.

We drink sherry and a bowl of coffee.

After several minutes without a drink there are complaints that the challenge is 'too easy' and a 'push over'.

Withnail drinks lighter fuel. We drink poteen closely followed by a double gin and some cider with ice.

Sacha vomits down her top but is drinking again within seconds.

Several participants stand on one leg to prove that they can.

Mal passes out. No-one notices as he does so sitting up and is slyly wearing shades.

Mal slumps forward. People notice and he is woken up and forced to have another drink.

Mal vomits into a bucket for about fifteen minutes. He passes out again and is buried in bottles, clothes and other debris.

We are about 30 minutes into the film.

Mal's Nottingham compatriots are offered the chance to take over from him with a huge headstart of sobriety. True to the Nottinghamshire blackleg spirit that broke
the miners strike, they all refuse. Notts are out of the game, provoking inordinate taunting including lengthy and lurid allegations of sexual impropriety with Ian McGregor.

Sasha bites Ben and then Andy. Four days later both victims still bear clearly defined teeth marks.

Several people attempt to stand up to prove that they can. Within seconds they all fall on top of Mal.

Sasha repeatedly kicks Mal in the soles of his bare feet with her boots. When told to stop by a sober onlooker she slurs 'it's alright, it's Mal'.

We run out of spirits and Annwen is sent to buy more.

Ben drunkenly boasts that no-one has noticed him cheating, thus defeating the purpose of cheating.

Nat bites Susan's leg and refuses to apologise or move away. An argument ensues. Susan leaves to find some arnica as she is in some pain.

Various arguments break out regarding the film and what we should be drinking. Sober onlookers will later describe the mood as 'dark', 'ugly' and 'aggressive'.

Andy headbutts Yvonna three times, once by accident, twice on purpose. He is later caught by Cath urinating in the sink.

Merrick breaks a glass on the unconscious Mal's leg. Bizarrely neither of them sustains any cuts.

Annwen fastforwards the film for the good of us all. None of us notice.

Merrick accidental hits rewind instead of pause. While he is pouring drinks Annwen points this out to him and is met with a barrage of abuse. When she tells him to fuck off Merrick says 'alright, I will fuck off', picks up as much booze as he can carry and storms out of the room. On the way he spills a full bottle of wine over Tabs who is lying on the floor. He makes it as far as the bottom of the stairs (two metres away) where he passes out.

The game descends into chaos. Several participants pass out. Withnail and I are trying to order cake and fine wine in the Penrith tea rooms.

We carry on drinking haphazardly but no-one really knows what is going on.

The camberwell carrot makes its appearance in the film. We light our pre-rolled one and pass it round. Malc smokes nearly all of it.

Five minutes later Malc looks up and demands to know who has smoked it all as he didn't get any.

The film ends with a victory photograph of those still conscious. They are: Tabs, Jacky, Ben, Nicola and Malc (conscious but horizontal).

Over the next 8 or 9 hours:

Andy re-appears and Hayley wrestles him to the floor, damaging his wrist and ribs in the process. It is four days before Andy finds breathing to be no longer painful.

An ambulance is called for Carlo who has been used as a pot plant and passed drinks throughout the film by Nicola and Malc.

Malc falls head over heels down the stairs.

Christine (a new resident) comes home to find three people having sex in her bed.

Merrick, who is still lying on Andy's bed with vomit in his hair - believed to be his own - growls 'fuck off' to everyone who goes to see if he's alright.

Ben, who is lying on the sofa with Yvonna, tells her that it is 'almost certain' that no-one would notice if they had sex there.

Nat wakes up on the floor and says 'hey, I thought we were meant to be doing the Withnail challenge'.

'Yeah' says Jacky, 'what happened to that?'


scarletharlot69 said...


does this mean that my own misdemeanors at the Cornerstone Party are forgiven?

oh well!

cheers for the second shot of absinthe anyway.

love and liberation and moderation

Bluebell xx

Paul said...

Sorry. Wrong post...