There was a time, long long ago, when I was still riding 8 speed and after the choppers without enough points to get their 2nd cat licence at the end of the season had finally realised this and put their road bikes back in the loft, that a weird bunch would be waking up from the summer slumber and dusting off their half-breed bikes, readying themselves for four months of slipping, sliding, running and jumping around muddy, frosty and downright horrible fields - the 'crossers' were a sometimes moody bunch, blinkered to the fun-time-frankies on their dandy fat tyred mounts, loud and brightly dressed - this wasn't what cross was about and they let us mountain bikers know it.
With this in mind, it was rare that I'd be hitting the pillow early on a Saturday night in order to be at my best for the grumblers with their wellies and clipboards come Sunday morning.
My idea of fun was hitting the town, checking out the chicks, showing them my moves and stumbling home with a pocket full of loose change and a chilli sauce smile.
Every now and then we'd break tradition and venture further afield. Usually around Christmas time as this was when we had time off work and enthusiasm for shenanigans. One popular choice for an away day was at one of the South East's premier, upmarket venues. Shoes polished, shirts and trousers ironed and a quick splash of Joop and we were ready to hit the CIRCUS TAVERN in Tilbury. Tilbury reminds me of the town in The Deer Hunter, grey, industrial and unwelcoming, but amid this apocalyptic landscape stands a shining beacon of hope, like a magnet for just legal lads to come and enjoy the spectacles of grown up culture, more often than not involving boobs, but in our case ARRAS (darts).
Professional athletes from around the globe would migrate to a low ceilinged, smoky piss hole to entertain a drunken rabble waiving home made signs in the hope that their unique brand of humour would make it onto national television & be seen by their less fortunate friends that couldn't make it.
Legendary commentator Sid Waddell could be seen in the booth looking for the next opportunity to deliver the next Waddell one liner.....
"There's no one quicker than these two tungsten tossers", that kind of thing.
So, the scene set for a great experience, beer flowing at 10.30am (we could only get tickets for the morning session), we settled in for the long haul. Voices croaking through smoke inhalation and shouting, the athletes produce their magic on the intensely hot stage. We witness greatness, although no sooner as the darts are hitting the board, my attention is wavering and all I long for is the next bout of DA DA DA DA DAAAA DA DA DA DA DAAAA DA DA DA DA DAAAAAAA OI OI OI, as another leg draws to a close.
The game won and the punters more than well oiled, the lights come on and its time to head home, oblivious to who actually won, we make out way out into the bright sunshine and look through squinting eyes for our mini bus home.
All aboard we head south over the Thames and back to our spiritual home of the William Camden pub in Bexleyheath for round two of the Christmas bonanza.
More booze, shouting, Mr Porky's finest scratchings and even the chance to act out some of our heroes antics on the pub dart board - SO dangerous.
At this time I decide I'm invincible and hone in on a group of younger lads in the corner who I've never met before.
"I bet you everything in my pockets that I can do a handstand...... on this chair"
They look on in sympathy/envy at their role model of an elder generation.
I empty my pockets onto the table, iPhone, money, house keys, darts ticket, and proceed to grip the arms of the chair.
Now I've never done a handstand in my life, so why I thought I could do one after a morning of drinking I'll never know, let alone ON a fucking chair!
Of course, it was the booze that made me all of a sudden capable of anything, and to my amazement (and everyone else's) I execute the perfect handstand on the arms of the chair, load my pockets again, shout at the poor younguns and parade into the main bar area to demonstrate this new skill to my weary friends.
"Lads, watch this....."
Bollocks, no arms on this chair, but there's no going back now, and it could still work. I grab the upright back of the chair and lean forward, shaking slightly as I begin to lift my legs, friends backing away I get to a decent height before I have a moment of clarity and realise that this won't work.
All of my weight is now on the back of the chair and its going only one way. Suddenly, physics take over and like a tree in a forest, I come unceremoniously and very noisily crashing down onto the nearby table, sending drinks, fag boxes and phones flying in all directions.
This hasn't gone unnoticed by the horrified bar staff and I get a stern dressing down, but amazingly not thrown out - Christmas spirit at its best.
My ear badly bruised and my ego more so, we decide to leave, agreeing to go back to someones house to carry on drinking, because thats what we all need - right?
Seven of us end up in the kitchen of Brad's parent's place, they're away for the x-mas break and theres a bottle of Limoncello on the side which is begging to be drunk. This type of drink can only be drunk in a drinking game.
With rules made up we set about playing, and playing badly, I think it only lasted about half an hour before we had our first looser. The fore fit was horrific and not one of my proudest moments I have to admit.
Brad's little brother (who was away with the family) had received a puppy staff for Christmas (and for life), and the poor thing was in the kitchen, in a cage, with a bunch of drunken reprobates, one of which was about to play 'biscuit in the bum' for his rubbishness.
Trousers and pants down and kneeling on all fours, a crunchy roll shape biscuit with a delicious meaty centre was wedged into Rich's bum cheeks, laughing uncontrollably and with camera phones filming, it was down to Brad to release the pup, already slobbering and wagging his tail at the prospect of an unexpected treat, one last deep breath for all and the pin was lifted on the door of the cage.... I won't go into detail but it was so bloody funny like you wouldn't believe.
The next hour or so is a bit of a blur, but I know the house I was in is in walking distance from where I was living at the time, so why I decided to get in cab with three others and go completely the opposite direction I'll never know, but once I realised what I'd done, I got the well known watery mouth syndrome which means only one thing - pukey time, "STOP THE FUCKING CAR"..... I jump out and puke and wander off into the night, which was now early morning.
Stumbling around I come to a door that looks familiar - knock knock..... knock knock, "who's that?" came the voice from inside..... "its Sheers", "what the fuck do you want?".....
"I haven't got a clue where I am mate"...
The door opens and a friendly, if a little angry face welcomes me into his front room, Evsy baby calls a cab, chucks me in it and sends me home.
A night to forget, remember and the forget again.
And that is why I now ride cyclocross.
There are some utter twats out there, and I used to be one of them, I wasn't clever, but I was, and still am ViCiOUS till I die, I'm ViCiOUS till I die, I know I am I'm sure I am I'm ViCiOUS till I die....
Peace out knobbers