At the time, it was a given - an unspoken right of passage that you could accept or decline. I (being of weak spine and strong need to be liked) accepted.
There were two choices for lunch: the cafeteria at college or the ‘King Arthur’ which was just a short trot down the road. More often than not a Cornish pasty and a pint of John Smiths was infinitely more appealing than the half way decent food (it was a catering collage after all) served on premises and a glass of luke warm tap water.
And so we come to the fateful date of January 28th 1978, my 17th birthday. After Conrad Lashley’s juicy economics lecture we all (including Mr. Lashley) walked the few minutes from the college steps toward to The Arthur. “Wotcha havin’ Shaz”? Now this was a tricky question because there’s only an hour for lunch and the point was defiantly to get a bit pissed. So I chose something that I could drink quickly and would not fill me up “Gin and Orange, thanks” I said. Now the ‘orange’ bit is a concentrate that normally you add water to – to make ‘orange squash’ for kids. However, its pre H2O thick and sticky predecessor is just plain nasty, which is why of course you add the gin!
This brings us back nicely to the unspoken right of passage – which was to drink as many drinks as the birthday age you were turning. Ugh, damn bloody silent agreements, what the fuck was I thinking?! In my best recollection before the hour was up I had swallowed (a not unimpressive) 12 beverages.Upon re-entering collage to attend afternoon lectures I headed not as scheduled to the Accounting classroom but directly for the toilets.
As I wretched, cried and vomited the only thing I could think about was that which had occupied my mind for months. “Get Michael” I cried to my girlfriends in attendance, “Get Michael, I only want Michael”. My god what blatant drunken disloyalty, verbally dismissing- no wait commanding those who so graciously ditched ‘Accounting’ to aid their intoxicated friend. And bless their cotton socks they found him and delivered ‘His Tastiness’ into the ladies loo where he found me. I sat on the floor propping open the lime green stall door, holding the bowl and reeking of gin. In this half crumpled prostration I confessed (as one does) all my desires for him, that my shy sober self had been storing away for months. A class act all the way.
As all knights in shining armor do, he took command of the situation and declared he would make sure that I got home safety by taking me there himself. Oh glorious divine beloved intervention what more could a girl want for her birthday?! I have no recollection of the actual journey home on the number 15 bus to Roundhay Park, but I do recall feeling those first tingly sensations of excitement that I hadn’t been totally rejected under the most hideous of self created circumstances.
I was delivered to my mother like a broken package from the post office to 17 Lidgett Park Road. She was surprised I was home so early and given my state (which amused her no end) extremely grateful I had had an escort. As the limp baton (namely me) was passed between one caretaker to the next, my mother knowingly ran a bath explaining “there’s not much water in there because I don’t want you to drown”. A good call on her end but alas, her specially purchased Dougal Swiss Roll birthday cake went untouched for days.
As my first drunkenness downgraded itself into plain old ‘feeling ill’ and finally (the next day) hangover, my right of passage was officially complete. It even had a happy ending as Michael Waterfall became my first boyfriend of two years, until that fantasy abruptly ended when I let my inexperienced and naive heart be broken after he got another girl pregnant, but that’s a whole other story.