“I stood in the street, drunk and bleeding.” It was a time when you could fight, and swear, and love, and lust.
When you could drink you weight in whatever your bank balance could guy. You could wake up at midday and spend it in the company of friends. There were no consequences, no rules, and no worries.
I sat opposite Henry, the 20-year-old Dorset native. He moved to London earlier this year in pursuit of a Wall Street lifestyle, and the six-figure salary that goes with it. Although, like most, his best years will always be that microcosm of saviour faire society that is the campus lifestyle.
“The best nights always turned out to be a bit crazy. I must have started drinking with my friend. Then we moved back to my room, after substituting dinner for a bottle of cheap vodka and a six pack each. That I guess was our first mistake.” It’s no secret that university binge drinking is a problem that faces this country, up to 69% of UK University students admit to engaging in at least one binge drinking session per week. I tell from the inclination of Harry’s voice, the flush of his cheeks and the short gasps of excited breath he took between each sentence, that this was where is story was heading.
“We drank and drank; at the age I could seem to stomach any amount of alcohol. I complained about my course, talked about girls.” I smile washed over his face, as he mentioned the opposite sex, a pursuit that he may have not left behind at university.
I wondered why Harry so readily drank so much back then, and why now, he recalled these times of alcoholic indulgence with such romance. It was a form of peacocking; the same reason a silver back gorilla beats his chest, much like the reason why necknomination videos went viral. It was the most acceptable form of bragging. Maybe young men feel a need to assert their masculinity in a world so stripped back of traditional gender norms, that assertion it seems surfaces through drinking. Now alcohol is just as available to teens as it is a person in their late 40’s.
The centre for disease control states that 62% of 17-18 year olds have experience binge drinking, and this number does not seem to be making any rapid fluctuations downwards. I didn’t interrupt Harry however to indulge my queries, he was already in full flow, like any old bard is when recounting a sordid tale of his youthful exuberance.
“We had finished that big bottle of vodka and all that beer by the time we decided to go out to a club. Needless to say the both of us could barely stand, but he was here for one night, and nothing would stop us from going out.”
A wash of pride and menace washed over Harry’s face. He took another big gulp of his cocktail (it was happy hour after all) and opened his mouth wide as if to gasp for the air around him. He settled back into his chair and continued.
“We arrived in this club. Straight to the bar, two double vodka and redbulls each, chased with a shot of goldschalger. I always like doing shots of goldschalger – it’s the sprit that has little bits of gold in it that are meant to scratch the back your throat and make the alcohol go straight into the blood stream, probably a load of bullshit, but I always though it made me look pretty sophisticated to any female onlookers.
We order another round of the same, this time doing the shot first and then taking the two drinks to sip on as we walked around the club, searching for some girls who looked like they would be up for making some bad decisions.
My friend ended up picking a fight with five guys. For some reason he elbowed one of them on the dance floor, the guy of course, punched my friend in face. Now I’m not really a big fan of violence, but if I see one of my friends in trouble, I’m the first to jump in. But you got to remember that by this point in the night was more than drunk, I was uncontrollable.
And instead of pull my friend away, I thought it was a good idea to throw both glasses of vodka redbull I was holding at the guy who just punched my friend. I missed of course and both glasses smashed on the floor. On top of that my friend got punched again and this time fell to the ground and landed in all this broken glass, cutting his hands open, and then bleeding all over me. Harry laughed
“I then did what can only be described as ‘the windmill fighting technique’, which resulted in my getting punched too.”
“I got chucked out like 5 minutes later, and I stood in the street, drunk and bleeding. I guess I just got a taxi home ” Harry laughed; it was obvious that he looked back on what would seem to anyone else as a worrying story with fondness. For him uni seemed to be a time where you could binge drink to the point of uncontrollable inebriation. Where getting in a fight in a club was a badge of honour to flaunt in the morning. He graduated just last year, but already he looked back on these days of carefree intoxication with a dangerously consuming nostalgia.
Maybe to the ordinary person that would seem a little odd, but I sort of understood him, anyone that had gone to university would. It was like an old sailor recounting his days at sea with wistful romance. Today, going to university seems the norm, it’s the place where you make the mistakes, hopefully the ones you learn form. It’s where our shanty tales are made.
Reporting by Andrew Gale