An excerpt from

Clubs, Drugs and Canapés

Nick Valentine

1. My granddad once had a nervous breakdown and ended up in Shenley Psychiatric Hospital which was once discourteously known as a ‘colony for mental defectives.’ On my first trip to see him he kept telling me to ‘hang in there.’ The doctor told me later that my grandfather thinks I’m the patient and he’s the visitor.

2. Not a minute’s sleep last night, so I’m in Bar Italia in Soho sipping my third double espresso, desperately trying to survive the day. I’m taking a slash every two minutes and my internal organs won’t stop arguing. It’s called ‘a gram of regret’ for good reason. Unfortunately, I cannot really see myself having an early night tonight as I can’t bear to miss out on anything. London’s the most amazing city on planet earth and I’m smack bang in the heart of it, though this morning I think I exited through its arse.

3. A new flat-share in Dean Street in Soho opposite the Coach and Horses with an old girlfriend who’s just kicked out her new boyfriend. We seem to be the only tenants in the block who don’t work from home. It’s very bijou, totally kitsch and has a communal roof terrace in to the bargain. It’s also stumbling distance from Time Out magazine and within a 100 metre radius you can, if you so desire, check out a West End show, eat Chinese, French, Indian, Lebanese, vegetarian, catch the latest art-house movie, down a peppered vodka shot, get a tattoo, get a shave, rock, rave, tango, salsa, get stoned, get spanked, get laid, get even, pick-up your local paper and a pint of skimmed and still confess the lot by tea-time.

4. A film premiere bash at County Hall is a great excuse to nose around Ken Livingstone’s former office. It’s a convoluted maze but a sharp left and a quick right and I’ve ended up in front of the feted showbiz hymen that is the velvet rope. This restraining instrument of social apartheid is there to keep the P’s from the VIP’s. To a serious partygoer like my dear self, it has the same allure as the last jump at Aintree to a thoroughbred. After a punishing amount of deferential banter, the penguin suited obstacle, whose sole job all evening is to be as obnoxiously rude or sickeningly sycophant as your IP status dictates, has finally lifted the rope. I’m in. Ten swaggering steps later the champagne on offer has turned to warm wine and everyone around me looks a little bit on the P side. Yes, it’s quickly dawned on me... I was already in VIP and have just blagged my way out of the area.

5. Much to my fellow DJ’s annoyance I’ve been given the orgy room while my two compadres have been shown to the dance floor and reception area respectively. Couples and single girls are slowly starting to trickle in. Nine double beds have been pushed together to create a giant, satin clad, bonking arena. It’s certainly given me a focal point. I’ve decided to kick off proceedings and create the right mood with Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor. It’s all terribly civilised. A touch too civilised perhaps as a slim, busty brunette in her early 20s and her partner, a shaven headed guy of indeterminable age with a bodybuilder’s physique have rather interrupted the seductive tempo I’m trying to set with a fine display of fellatio, thereby declaring the sexual Olympics officially open. Within minutes everyone is at it. The assembled players have formed a heaving carnal scrum on the 25-yard-line and both sides appear to be pressing for the conversion. Couples, trios, foursomes, fivesomes... are going head to toe, toe to toe, head to head and a few other imaginative competitive manoeuvres I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before. Hats off to the guy who’s just performed an impressive triple jump. Some participants are going for the sprint, others the long distance, but everyone’s pushing for gold with a select few exceptions who are happy to settle for brass.

6. It’s the first weekend at Cuckoo and the real test of what’s to come as, as of tonight, the drinks are no longer complimentary, though if you buy a magnum or so of champagne at your table you are rewarded for your extravagance with a couple of sparkling flares attached to your bottle, which in turn is attached to a punter-proof waitress who will deliver it to you held aloft like the pissed Pied Piper of party town. No one’s going to miss your show of financial flushness, though they may question the size of your penis.

7. ‘Cabin crew to your seats immediately.’
The words I dread to hear, then suddenly...
We’ve just fallen out of the sky like a lead balloon dropped into a spin dryer. Suffice to say the cabin crew have not made it to their seats. They appear to be plastered to the roof of the plane. My arms and legs are shaking uncontrollably. The woman in the seat in front of me is crying hysterically.
‘We’re going to die. We’re going to die.’
She is totally inconsolable. I’m holding hands with the girl in the seat next to me. We have not said a word to each other up to this point. The guy next to her has peed himself. I’ve just clocked Eddie, Cuckoo’s bar manager who told me just before take-off that he actually enjoys a bit of turbulence. He is as white as a sheet. My palms are sweating. My stomach’s curdling. I’m having to force myself to breath. Another massive shudder. More screams from behind me.
‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’
I’m utterly convinced we are going to crash. Random thoughts from my past flash into my brain. My first family holiday, my last day at school. I’m imagining the headlines, assuming that club-land is going to be missing a hell of a lot of people in the next few minutes. A final whispered request to my guardian angel.
‘Stick the kettle on mum I’ll be with you shortly.’
Then it’s all over as abruptly as it started. The plane has steadied itself. There’s absolute silence along the whole length of the aisle, bar a few scattered whimpers. It feels like the collective shock onboard has frozen us in time. I’m in a zombie like trance for the final twenty minutes of the journey, waiting for my heart’s BPM to drop a few decimal points. We land to a hugely relieved chorus of celebratory cheers. The pilot has coyly come out of the cockpit. He looks pretty shaken up too. He tells me it’s his worst experience in 30 years of flying. I tell him it’s my worst experience in 49 years of living.

8. The annual staple catch up that is... The London Club and Bar Awards 2012. I swear there are quite a few people here that I only ever see at this event. Tommy Mack, party promoter and merry maniac is one of them. He’s a walking talking tornado and we’ve all been put on hurricane alert. Tonight I’ve nabbed the Up All Night Award (shared with half of London). A fellow guest congratulates me and asks exactly what the award is for. I jokingly tell him that it honours heavy drug consumption and then ask what club he works for.
‘I don’t, I’m a journalist for the BBC.’