It’s Friday night, I’m on the train back to Wolverhampton (the wrong train – I missed the one I was meant to get). There’s a woman reading ’50 shades of grey’ next to me. Wonder what she’s thinking……
Anyway, just over half way through ‘couchvember’. It’s been an amazing, intense experience so far. I continue to be amazed by the incredible acts of human kindness I continue to be showed, but have to admit I am pretty bloody knackered. I’m very grateful for the 2 days of Mum and Dad care coming over this weekend – my only 2 days off during the month as I have to be home for my uncle’s 60th.
I’ve been especially tired this week in large part due to the ridiculous night I had on Monday. Still haven’t totally recovered. As of Sunday I actually had no couches booked for this week, but an ‘emergency couch request’ to the London ‘emergency hosting group’ saw me pick up a couple of hosts for the week in the form of couchsurfing ‘veterans’ Jean Marc and John. Both had a ridiculous number of references (the vouching system on which the whole CS experience hinges) having both hosted over 500 people! And not a single negative reference between them. Things were looking good, with the only slight concern being that according to JMs profile, he was the self proclaimed ‘King of Shots’. Wasn’t sure if that was an entirely positive proposition for the Monday and Tuesday ‘school’ nights I had lined up with him.
JM actually only lives about 200 metres from where I used to in Putney. Of all the couchsurfer’s he has hosted, I was the first from Putney. Not an entirely unexpected fact, but I think it had peaked his interest. I arrived Monday evening after attending the Royal Geographical Society lecture on London’s hidden rivers (where I learned that ‘guerilla sewage tours’ were possible. Definitely going into the potential Dromomaniacs activities!). I was greeted by JM and another couple of couchsurfer’s who were also staying – Canadian girls Patricia and Tricia. Easy to remember at least. Although slightly confusing when trying to remember who was who. The immediate thing that struck me was that this appeared to be only a 1 bed and 1 couch flat. Where the hell would everyone be sleeping? Decided not to air this observation and just go with the flow.
As has become common so far, my arrival was greeted with dinner being served up for me. Honestly I never expected that when setting off on this challenge. Don’t know if it really is standard or I’ve just been incredibly lucky. Can only presume its the latter. But still – its incredibly kind!
The 4 of us settled down to a lovely bacon, avocado and sundered tomato salad. Conversation was relaxed, easy and largely civilised. Some good red wine was going down well. I told them about my challenge and adventure, JM spoke of his hosting of up to 14 people at a time (where the HELL did they all sleep I was thinking), Patricia told of her dreams to move from barmaid to aeronautical engineer and Tricia told of her studies in Western Ireland. Then the fun and games started.
The combo of salad and red wine is enough to get one a little tipsy, if not totally hammered. At least tipsy enough for me to think it was appropriate to start singing the national anthem Elvis Pressley style when asked to do so. Asked to do so? Yes, naturally JM has a rule that everyone must sing their national anthem upon taking their first visit the the bathroom. And why wouldn’t you? What possessed me to try to sing God Save the Queen in the style of ‘Hound Dog’ though is beyond me. Try it. It doesn’t work. I think there may even be some video footage lurking around JM’s phone. Hope it never sees the light of day.
Obviously unimpressed by the prospect of some more Elvis impersonations unless some radical action was taken, it was decided that the evening’s entertainment needed to be taken up a notch. 10.30pm and the girls were dispatched to the nearest off license. 10 minutes later and they were back. Armed with a huge bottle of sambuca. O dear. Things were looking dangerous.
Now, I absolutely bloody hate sambuca. It makes me wretch every time I try it. That aniseed taste is just vile. However before I could say ‘this stuff is literally my worst nightmare’ or at least cop out with ‘I’ve got work in the morning’, 4 very large shots were set out. It now seemed rude to reject the hospitality. It was clear this wasn’t heading for a quiet Monday night.
Numerous shots later and conversation had migrated from the standard ‘what do you do?’ chat towards, well sexual experiences of course! Why is it that drunken chat always ends up that way? The girls were volunteering their lesbian stories left right and centre. I was embellishing some rubbish. Shit, what was going on here? Especially with the impending bed situation. Was I heading towards some couchsurfing orgy?
Drunkeness was also manifesting itself in the physical form. For some reason I decided it would be an ideal time to teach the group my foxtrotting skills which had been carefully honed during ballroom dancing classes in Aberdeen. (Yes, yes. It was cold and dark up there with nothing much to do). I think the ‘Strictly’ judges may have been pretty unimpressed with what was more a ‘foxwalk’, but at the time my new friends appeared to be eager to learn a new skill. Obviously impressed by my massively sexy dance moves, Patricia and Tricia took that as their cue to jump on me simultaneously and ravish me in a fit of sexual passion…..
Sadly, although that may have happened in my dreams, the reality didn’t quite play out that way (must be that ’50 shades of grey’ next to me transmitting subliminal messages). After finishing the ‘foxwalk’ we headed back to the table for some more sambuca and chat. Obviously the only topic to bring up with ‘experimental’ Canadian girls in this situation is……’tar sands’. Yes, in my drunken wisdom I thought it would be an excellent idea to pose whether energy independence for North America was worth the potential environmental destruction. A heated debate followed, all sexual tension diffused, my head began to spin and I ended up passing out alone on the blow up mattress JM had kindly provided me. At least the (lack of) beds riddle had been solved. (As well as ‘King of Shots’ JM should also declare himself ‘King of blow up mattresses’. He literally seems to have hundreds of them)
Sadly Monday night’s shenanigans have made me a bit of a walking zombie for the rest of the week. Tuesday day will unlikely go down in history as one of my most productive days at work. What should have been an awesome Tuesday night was sadly hampered by my feeble state. JM took me to play ping pong (the table tennis variety, not the Thai version) with some of his friends at a really cool table tennis bar (Bounce) near Chancery lane. I seriously admire his powers of recovery. He seemed totally fine, able to drink more beers and put in a major shift of table tennis! On the another hand, I was seriously struggling – nursing a coke and becoming increasingly irritated with my table tennis skills. Annoyingly they weren’t nearly as good as I remembered them! I put on a ‘happy’ face, but inside I was really hoping for a different outcome when it was proposed to go for a 4th hour of table tennis at 10.30pm! Still, it was great of him to invite me along to play – sorry if I was a little quiet and withdrawn that night JM!
Mounting fatigue was further enhanced by Tuesday night being one of those nights where you just can’t sleep no matter how physically tired you actually are. (Pa)?Tricia fiddling around on her laptop all night on the adjacent blow up mattress didn’t seem to be helping either. Nor her comment when I left at 8am the following morning of ‘God – why are you leaving so early? Do the trains even run at 8am?’. Grrrr… I definitely would not recommend couchsurfing as a productive approach to start a working week!
Wednesday and Thursday were spent with Derek in Surbiton – ‘the capital of suburbia’ (don’t know if they are particularly proud of that label). Fortunately staying with Derek proved to be a much more chilled out affair which was exactly what I needed. He is a school teacher so no ridiculous weeknight shot fests could take place. Instead we spent time chatting and watching Question Time together. I actually found myself getting strangely into the Corby by-election!
The chats we had were interesting – consisting of a combination of funny stories from his 7 years of couchsurfing, political theory (of which he obviously knew much more than me) and some reflections on some of my ‘values’ associated with Dromomaniacs. Regarding the first of this trilogy, the story which sticks most in my mind was of how one of his female couchsurfer’s had randomly appeared in his room naked one night and proclaimed ‘I always sleep with my host’. Suffice to say I didn’t repeat the offer (fyi John had politely declined the girl’s advances).
We also got engaged in a pretty long debate about one of Dromomaniacs’ key values – ‘open mindedness’. I got a surprisingly strong push back from Derek who told me that there were a group of couchsurfers who refused to host anyone who described themselves as ‘open minded’ because they often turned out to be sexual deviants. That’s definitely not what I’m going for with Dromomaniacs. So food for though as to whether I change that value. To be honest, it’s a bit annoying that it has that reputation as I think ‘open mindedness’ in its true meaning really is a key value for any Dromomaniac…..Anyone got any thoughts?
So that brings us up to the present. Got these 2 days of rest now and then ‘back on the couch’ from Sunday night with a Kiwi bloke in South London. Let’s see if he can match last Monday’s entertainment…..