Friday, 25 March 2016

Regular As Clockwork

For as long as I can remember, I've loved a party. From the 6th birthday bash at McDonald's during which hordes of hyper kiddies were invited behind the scenes to see where the wafer-thin patties were flipped and were permitted to peer into the freezers, to the Crook Log Leisure Centre under-18's discos full of tanked-up teens necking furiously - parties have always been my favourite pastime.

What is it that makes me so particular about partying? Well for a start, they are bloody good fun. But it's more than that : a decent knees-up has three stages....the build-up, the night itself, and then the gossip-fuelled post-mortem, whereby I'll dine out for weeks (sometimes years) on the flashbacks and anecdotes of a memorable night, basking in the afterglow of a successful shindig.

At the age of 40 my love of all things fun has not diminished - quite the contrary. At 18 the nights and possibilities seem endless, it's impossible to imagine that the raucous rampaging will ever stop. By 40, you're more aware that the opportunities for wild nights of dancing with abandon upon a sticky bar are somewhat limited.

Therefore, when they do present themselves I grab them with both gnarly hands. It's not that I myself am not up for the, no, no! As a childless woman I can do pretty much as I please - my parents are not yet peeing themselves and drinking their meals through straws, so I'm currently carefree. The majority of my party-loving pals, are, however, time-poor parents.

Partying and parenting, I've discovered, do not go hand in hand. Of course there are some things kids and clubs have in common : both keep you up all night and leave you feeling jet-lagged and jaded by the morning. But only one will make you smile for years to come, providing lasting memories that will carry you right through to old age....unlucky, parents!

Ok, ok so the fruit of one's loins may fill you with pride, but I reckon when they are crowded round your deathbed waiting for their slice of your wedge, it'll be the flickering images of dancing, laughing and raving on a beach in Ibiza or Thailand as a vivacious twenty-something that'll be playing out behind your papery eyelids as you take your last breath, not the endless pooey nappies or the heated rows with hormonal teenagers.

One by one, my clubbing comrades succumbed to motherhood, and I had a silent memorial service for each of the fallen ravers, our social scene taking a hit every time one of my previously party-loving pals dropped off the radar to raise another little ruffian. What had previously been a big enough group to fill the entire tube carriage as we teetered and tottered on skyscraper heels on our way to a club, gradually diminished until it was just a handful of the hardcore hailing a cab. These days, it's mostly just me and my fella.

Except, that is, for one event that never fails to fill the dancefloor with an army of forty-something thrill-seekers - Clockwork Orange : a bi-annual London clubbing extravaganza, with a cheeky jaunt to Ibiza thrown in every July for good measure. Thank Christ for that! I was in serious danger of being THAT wrinkly old bird bustin' moves on a dancefloor full of fluffy chicks, that sad creature refusing to let go of her misspent youth, who the cool kids nod towards with a mixture of pity and admiration, that woman over THIRTY who would still dare to dance.

But amongst my fellow Clockworkers I fit right in - for one, we're all old birds (or blokes) and we all share one common goal : to immerse ourselves in some proper old school house tunes, dance til our high heels are ground down to stumps and our faces ache from beaming (or in some cases, gurning).

At our age, we've no time for trouble-makers, competitive flirting and bitching, or general posing and pouting. For us, it's all about the love of the music and the genuine desire for each and every fellow raver to have the best night ever. It's taken weeks, months, even years, to get some of these old faces back on the party circuit, so we all appreciate the effort everyone has made and respect each other accordingly. From baby-sitters to hotels, shoe-horning into skinnies and carefully filling the cracks that have mysteriously appeared in faces since those early raving days, getting a load of like-minded ageing cheesy-quavers in one place takes a LOT of preparation. And that's just the DJs.

Once a weekly occurrence in our twenties and just part of our regular social routine, clubbing til 6am as a responsible adult is now a major event. The wardrobe of suitable dancing attire is likely replaced with suits, sensible shoes sitting where sparkly stilettos used to reside.

So the pre-Clockwork foreplay is a long and languid affair - there's the hair, the nails, the outfit, carefully selected to strike the right balance between slinky and slutty, eager to show a hint of leg rather than the whole joint of mutton. We may be looking fierce at forty, but we are also wise enough to know that resembling the fairy off the top of a Christmas tree is not a good look, and besides, glitter emphasizes crows' feet....even if we do prefer to refer to them as laughter lines.

As the night draws closer, excitement reaches a peak. Going to work doesn't seem such a chore, as every early alarm signifies one less sleep until the party, and we leap from our beds as fast as our bad backs will allow, the spring in our step coming from nervous energy rather than our new comfy insoles.

On the night itself, it's a mixture of emotions, the first being relief and joy that most of our mates with tickets actually show up. Of course, there are a few casualties struck down by familial responsibilities - little Scarlett has a fever for example, or " I'm tired (yawn), I think I'll stay in with a takeaway and Ant and Dec." Bore off!

Whereas as teenagers the FOMO (fear of missing out) alone would have dragged everyone from their homes come rain, hail or snow, as adults the conditions have to be 'just so' for a night of hands-in-the-air frolicking. Only the most dedicated dancefloor demons will brave the elements to fling down some foot.

The evening's proceedings commence with prinks (pre-drinks) at a pre-agreed watering hole. The regular clientele gawp as a fleet of ageing peacocks strut to the bar for an energising Vodka Red Bull to get the party started. Suitably refreshed, it's off to the club early-doors to secure our spots on the dancefloor - us oldies have decades of dancing experience between us, and we take our raving very seriously. High-fiving all the old Ibiza faces and cheers-ing with cheeky chupitos (shots), we settle in for a night of ecstatic catch-ups, wide-eyed with excitement to see all the old raving crew together once more, reunited for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.


We exchange knowing looks as all our favourite Nineties club classics are expertly mixed by the best old-school DJs in the business for our aural pleasure - from Brandon Block and Alex P to Seb Fontaine, Paul Trouble Anderson, and of course not forgetting the legendary geezers who are responsible for Clockwork Orange's 23-year run: Danny Gould and Andy Manston.

These guys have been bossing the clubbing scene for so long the early pictures of their club nights feature the now-bald Manky with a full head of hair and the silver fox Gouldy without the merest hint of grey. Hats off to the lads whose winning formula of top-quality house music and the friendliest footloose and fancy-free atmosphere has withstood the test of time, drawing clubbers young and old (but mostly old) from all over the country. It's a veritable party pilgrimage.

As the night powers on full-throttle, glitter-cannons fire ticker-tape into the heaving crowd, the bass reverberates in our chests and our feet stomp in time to the music. Everyday worries and fears are left far behind and we are all fresh-faced sweaty teenagers once more, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as we throw some shapes, concentrating on cutting rug as if our lives depend on it. Satisfied with the reaction on the dancefloor, the DJs happily engage with their adoring legion of loyal clubbers, whose lives may have taken different paths in the intervening decades but our one true love, the love of house music, is the glue that bonds us all.

photo credit: Daddy's Got Sweets

Sadly, even the best nights must eventually end, and as the birds start tweeting the crowd reluctantly begins to wind down, ready for the dreaded journey home.

The Walk of Shame is not great at any age, but there's something particularly painful about stumbling about shame-faced on a Sunday morning on public transport as a forty-something in a dress and heels that causes me to clench my teeth a little harder. Sometimes it's easier to hit the after-party than face the grim journey, but we're long enough in the tooth to realise that we're just prolonging the agony.
Like putting a wounded animal to sleep, it's better to get it over with as quickly as possible, hence we scurry home bleary-eyed before we all turn into pumpkins. With the amount of orange attire and dodgy tan-jobs knocking about, that particular transformation is a distinct possibility.

Once safely in the comfort of our own homes, we dissect the evening's events fully, revelling in the glory of another outstanding night. Looking bone-tired, dog-rough and with a monster hangover already kicking in, we'd all agree nevertheless that it was worth it. No-one looks back and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep, after all.

photo credit

As our bloodshot bulging eyes finally flutter closed, memories of the club nights of our youth merge with these fresh memories as we upload them to our internal hard drives, stored away to be recalled and enjoyed time and again, say on a wet Wednesday afternoon at work, during a particularly dreary commute - or until the next Clockwork club night creates fresh ones in six months' time.

And at our age, it'll take us that long to get over it....

photo credit

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