World travels off the back of the wildest in events, festivals, parties and bars, & the people and stories that come from them
Ive just spent a whole English summer setting up bars, smashing out drinks and generally lubricating a massive cross-section of party-goers, festival lovers, hoighty-toighties, punters, plebs and peeps on their respective journeys into fun and after much keen observation, the most wide-ranging and applicable conclusion i can come to is this: That Mojitos make your breasts grow bigger, and your skin orange.
Yes its true: The ubiquitous drink of the early noughties and onwards - ever-present and now taking over the festival circuit, any wannabe pub-cum-‘cocktail’ bar, all the most exclusive parties and events, and even your own house party - is catalyzing an odd and conspicuous metamorphosis of the human form.
There was a time when you could serve drinks without a worry of accidentally giving booze to someone under legitimate age. Nowadays though, 15 year olds are so well-endowed, that you could often be excused for thinking that you’re serving Dolly Parton and Bette Midler et al. There are girls fashioning slings out of curtains, just to cover their cleavage.
Then add to this mix, all of the men of our species out hunting for these giant orange tangerines (buffed and big-breasted too, from a consistent training regime specifically for their summer of flaunt and debauchery, before they hibernate over winter once more) and unless you’ve been drinking too many mojitos yourself, you cant help but wonder if it is actually some alien race that comes out to play when the sun arrives too. - When was the last time an equal rights campaigner put their hand up for all the orange people on planet earth anyway?
- Conversely: there are entire platoons of party-people raising rapturous fists, men and women baring their ballooning buxom breasts, descending on dancefloors and unsuspecting bartenders the world over, painted like some giant flock of Dutch sporting fans, some with shaved chests (not the women, usually), screaming in solidarity for a refreshing combination of rum, lime, mint, sugar and soda over crushed ice. Mow-jee-Tar? Fajita? - Fuck it: What’s that he’s drinking there? …..
While alcohol allegedly rids you of inhibition, it seems that millions of mojitos may well be turning people away from looking ‘normal’, and towards disguising themselves as cartoon characters, rather than beautiful humans, comfortable with who and what they are. Or: Perhaps its an insidious thing? A phenomenon unnoticed? Something that has crept up on the general public? - We do serve literally thousands of them - each - in a matter of months.
Ive done festivals where each bartender is making an average of 500 a day, parties where 3 of us have smashed out 1800 of them in 3 hours!
The summer season used to be about heading out, having a good time, letting loose, letting go, self-expression, not giving a shit, finding new adventure, new people, new loves, new ground, new life. Now its all about image, clearly: The drink makes you look cool (and causes subtle chest-growth and chameleon-skin, as my research has discovered), now you just have to be big enough and bright (orange) enough to be spotted amongst the thousands.
Keep drinking, it definitely seems to work. We all surely noticed. - Mojito sales went up. Waxing kits (for men and women), disposable razors, fake tan and shower bills all saw giant rises in cashflow, and the festival scene and party season is still well and truly alive and kicking, albeit brighter and more ‘inflated’.
All things considered, it may not be a negative phenomenon that ive just experienced. What im basically saying is, is that while the mojito still remains - steadfast, true and hardly adjusted in all its refreshing, rummy, minty glory - you’ve changed.
We all know that the financial crisis that hit the globe in 2008 is still sending everlasting shockwaves through markets and economies and populations and supplies and demands, and there are even some, who may never recover from what was for many, a crippling blow to any fiscal feasibility.
Greece hasnt left the news for months now, plummeting towards a rueful exit from the eurozone, choking on austerity measures, with a desperate axe-wielding population not far behind its politicians, and the media lurking to pounce on its newly sworn-in government.
Spain is suffering under mountains of debt, Germany is constantly being asked to bail everyone out, France: all eyes are fixed sternly on its new government also - as the rest of Europe and also the US all point fingers and seek scapegoats, and scramble desperately to save their sorry asses from ending up alongside the poor that they helped create.
So what are the rich up to in the meantime? - Apparently, most of those who lost any significant amount of cash in the GFC, are already rolling in it again. Thats a fact. Banker bonuses are still in the tens of millions of pounds (and more), and half yearly profits for some of the world’s biggest companies, still in the tens of billions: Economic turmoil? - What economic turmoil? Time for a new paradigm? - Why? - The show must go on, or something to that effect.
Over the weekend, i was privileged (?) to work at a party - a couple of them - for some high-flying Icelandic folk. And as their viking predecessors did many times in the past: boy did they rape and pillage.
Picture this: Cliveden house in Berkshire (thats Cleev-den house in Bark-shear if you want to pretend you’re actually from these parts) a stately home, first occupying its land in 1060 (not a typo), now a lavish hotel featuring period ornaments (think 500 year old knight armour from Italy - perhaps the most inept security guard that has ever watched over a bar ive worked in - and busts and paintings from similar periods and older), vast manicured gardens and marble fountains, and the whole gamut of uneducated poorly paid staff you’d expect in a place that screams ‘we’re uber-rich, and you’re not, and we’d like to point that out as often as possible!’.
Out fly around 150 vikings, joined by another 50 or so ‘locals’ featuring actors and actresses, financial controllers (the head of the banks - as it was scoffingly announced), artists and dancers, tv personalities, even Scandinavian royalty and assorted others (who they made a point of big-noting when they ‘introduced the guestlist’ to the audience) and they celebrate the 40th birthday of one of the hosts.
Its a complete self-indulgent, egocentric, semi-psychotic foray. Her ‘friends’ have made a video clip for a Rhianna track, shot on a boat somewhere, where they all lip-sync the words like they’re actually starring in the song, with any names interchanged with the birthday girl’s. Someone performs ‘Jolene’, but the name is changed to fit. There’s a bond film in the background, where every bond girl has the birthday girl’s face superimposed over the top of the actual faces. ”Oh look! Its me again!” she says as she admires herself, and sucks the praise from her friends, for the 43rd time. Its only 830pm.
Soul to Soul (not a typo) - of however do you want me, and keep on movin fame - come out to play. - Who knows how much it would have cost to fly them there. And then the dj (who they saw and liked in Miami, flown out especially for the party) blasts cheesy, poppy mashups of all the songs you’d expect, until the wee hours, as all guests, please-less and un-thank-you-ing proceed to drink themselves into an outrageous childish stupor. Thats just the first night.
On the second - the night of the wedding of the birthday girl and her then fiancee, now husband, its a similar approach. She’d probably not had enough attention and ego-feed on the first night, one can only assume. This time though, its a ‘rat pack’ themed affair.
Aston Martins (db4’s and 5’s) are packed in a ring at the huge hotel front. Its all black table-cloths and faces of Frank and Brigitte et al on tables, and any other tacky jazz-era throwbacks they can think of. Ruinart blanc de blanc on tap, and ratpack themed cocktail bartenders (us), brought in to add to the fantasy.
Post dinner (featuring creative conceptions such as a first course of caviar and a main of duck confit -so nouveau riche!) the bride and groom arrive to share their first dance, first drinks, and the first songs are cued in by some production manager, as the something-or-other big band swings into its first rendition. That’s amore. Or is it?
They play three tracks, and then Dean Martin is introduced to the stage to perform 3 or 4 songs with the band. Yes (digest that for a second), Dean (fucking) Martin…
His performance - no doubt worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to the hosts - is lacklustre, semi-soulless at best. He makes awkward, cliché, whatever-era jokes between songs, banterless, and which the majority of the Icelanders dont understand, and then leaves the stage to muted applause. Well worth the money/Not bad for a drunk.
As the guests file in and fill up the Cliveden’s library room, there’s nothing left to do for them but quaff the drinks we prepare for them, and start rudely making fools of themselves as they degenerate into the form of pigs and philistines, slurping tens of thousands of pounds of handcrafted concoctions, before becoming leering and rude and impatient. - Or just more so, depending on which way you look at it.
In one last hurrah that screams class and heroism all at once, the groom is last seen wearing only his waistcoat and trousers (no shoes, shirt, jacket or tie) bouncing around the dancefloor in childish fits more childish than his own 9 year old son, snatching drinks from people at the bar, before attempting to climb an inner wall of the building, slipping, falling through a conservatory, and being taken to hospital, leaving a trail of blood dripping from the glass dome, down to the hotel’s reception. And no, that was not some wild fantasy of mine, it actually happened.
A more fitting finale to the evening would only have been the dj playing ‘we are the champions’, as the crowd sung it to themselves into mirrors that were handed out by their hosts.
All is well in the land of the rich, pretentious, absurd and greedy. While some struggle under mountains of debt (or just plain struggle under mountains of, say malnutrition) lavish parties are being thrown in secret rooms, disguised by semi-philanthropic endeavours that brutes are only too quick to boast about, in a world where the GFC actually means Great Fountains of Cash. The show must go on.
a poor photo of Dean doing his thing.
Awe-inspiring displays of intellect from the city’s ‘elite’, certain to cement your faith in those who hold the balance of power in today’s society.
Some of what im about to write may be hard to believe. Experiencing it myself, i mostly cant believe it either. And im there. I suppose people do stupid things all the time, but i suppose also, that i get to see the largest cross-section of society doing these stupid things, whilst in the largest cross-section of different states of mind and being, owing to the largest selection of that which can affect. Still, thats surely no excuse. Especially for the sober ones.
Im not talking about a ‘large cross-section’ anyway. Im talking about a tiny one. Its hard to believe that some of these people are actually worth the money they’re being paid. Absurdly large salaries aside, i wouldnt pay these people a cent/penny/dime. - And I’m the one who is usually accused of being on ‘minimum wage’. Yeah right.
So i hold up two drinks to the guest. He’s ordered a vodka and tonic, and a straight vodka on the rocks. He asks me which one is which. I hold them up higher in his direct line of vision. One is a short, stout glass, the other a tall bubbly one. - Have a guess, i tell him.
He kind of screws up his face in a sort of how the fuck am i supposed to work that out buddy kind of way! So i give him a moment - more to make him feel like a complete twat, rather than to offer more time to get to the bottom of this tricky analysis. But he still cant work it out. So i drop them on the bar and turn to serve my next guests. Perhaps this would explain their decidedly poor manners too: Ignorance.
I once served a group of guests at a very ‘upmarket’ venue, who continuously ordered drinks, and dished them to their clique from the bar, without evening hinting at offering to pay. So i intrude, and i ask them can i set up a tab for you? - Just to remind them that although they think the world revolves around them, it doesnt. - Perhaps im a little out of line with that sentiment, who cares.
The lady ive addressed tells me that she hasnt actually had any drinks, which is true. All im asking though, is that someone gives me a card, so i can reference it alongside the account that im going to set up - im not actually taking any money from her. Im sure most people are familiar with this concept, but i humour her ignorance by explaining what i mean. She turns away, confused.
… Then she turns back, and actually tells me she’s confused, and i imagine that she ought best to have thrown in some ditsy college-girl laugh at the end of her declaration to emphasise how dumb she sounded, but i dont think she can actually laugh, because botox renders her face immovable, and prozac has rid her of any true emotion.
My only response to her ‘im confused’ is a very dry and abrasive ‘yes. you are. clearly’… Its moments like this that make you wonder what these people talk about. And then it makes you realise why you only hear them talking about work - because its the only thing that makes them feel even remotely intelligent - its actually the only thing that they know.
It makes it hard to understand why us mere plebs have our lives in the hands of these apparently ‘educated’ elite, or why they are left with their hands gripping the wheels that control our earth, because some piece of paper says they deserve to. Whatever happened to natural selection? Do they own that as well? Dont tell me they patented Darwin’s theory of evolution too.
To some, they may seem rich and powerful, and you’d probably be right. But that really is about it. Try striking up a conversation with one of these folk, and you’ll literally get stares like they’re either wondering where did that sound come from? Or why the fuck is this guy talking to me? Then there’s those who simply doing know what to say if the answer doesnt include the words ‘fiscal policy’, ‘ftse 500’ or ‘quarterly statement’.
I actually had one regular at said ‘upmarket venue’, who i thought might be up for a bit of banter after id seen him there 4 or 5 shifts in a row, so i asked him: How’s everything today mate?, and he looked at me, like he couldnt quite focus on the shape that made the noise he heard, squinted a little bit, took his drink and turned about to continue fingering his blackberry. Engaging. I suppose i just look like a hooligan to him anyway.
Perhaps im being a bit biased here though? I did mention that im privvy (?) to the ‘largest cross-section of society doing stupid things’, so i guess ill have to write again soon and tell you about some of the rest of what ive seen. For now though: The future is in good hands…
the worst smelling toilets ive ever inhaled, and other things to get you off your head …
the toilets at our bar at the regatta. pure class
The Henley Royal Regatta (its official name) is hosted once-yearly, on the Thames River at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, Northwest of London. According to its website, the Henley Royal Regatta is ‘undoubtedly the best known regatta in the world and is both one of the highlights of the summer sporting calendar and the social season’. How lovely.
- In surroundings of picturesque riverside scenes by a pretty little village, on a long clean stretch of the Thames river, visitors come to enjoy the racing and the festivities that come along with this five-day event. Landowners by the riverside rent out their much sought after land for tens of thousands of pounds (and more), where clubs and bars and brands and sponsors then host and entertain the thousands that flock to Henley each year.
A quick look at the website, or a quick visit to the regatta itself, and you’d not be unwise in assuming that this is all a bit posh: Cream trousers, blue blazers, hats and fascinators, cravats and three piece suits - ladies and gents on a day out in their finest clothes and their flashiest jewellery (heels or boat shoes the only reasonable choice of footwear, and nothing too ostentatious or over-the-top for a day outdoors on sodden grass), a giant chunk of London’s ‘poshest’, ‘finest’ people, and all their peers and partners, associates and like-minded kind from around the place, and over the world.
- Quintessentially British, like Pimms cups and draught lager and all the threatening weather.
Typically, you would say, there is an air and atmosphere not unlike any other race-meeting (you know what this is like, or at least have an idea), and the crowd makes impersonal nods to each other, a tacit acknowledgement that ‘yes, you are our kind/we are the elite’. They deserve their place in whatever-this-is, as they dive headlong into their giant pool of delusion and pomp.
the sloane sport of rowing: where a torso with a very aggressive attitude screams at a bunch of men as they pull a boat upstream
But really: here’s what happened when i was there. - Sure, you could say that this ‘view’ is skewed by pessimism, by prejudice (assuming you’ve already noticed my tone?), or by some distaste brought about by years of witnessing such grotesque people, and you’d probably be right. But these are just facts - things i saw happen, things my co-workers experienced.
Maybe you’ll see yourself in my descriptions? Maybe you’ll just dismiss them as the jealous ranting of someone on ‘minimum wage’ in which case: you’ll see yourself in my descriptions. Perhaps im focusing on one demographic a little too much, unfairly so, neglecting those who come and are articulate, intelligent, intellectual, interesting, eclectically educated - and you’d be right. I suppose its hard to ignore what is a vast majority…
In any case, its endlessly entertaining how people pretend how posh they are at these events, like its some form of bigotry granted to them because they’ve paid an absurd amount for their education for example (lets not get this confused with people who are actually, broadly ‘educated’), or their bank account suggests ‘success’, or simply because they can afford to be at Henley (entrance is free, everything else is West-London priced).
One of my favourite moments of the week came when two ladies who were being particularly rude, accused me of being ‘all antipodean’, when i was rude back to them (little did they know i was simply speaking their language).
Clearly, Australians (such as myself) and New Zealanders (all of us ‘Antipodeans’) are an uneducated backwards bunch, that anyone at Henley is well within their right to pigeonhole or generalise over because: they’re at Henley. These two ladies though, were in fact: antipodean (something they had admitted to me through the course of their weird attempt at conversation).
Anyway. I suppose they forgot where they were originally from, owing to the regatta, and the amount of cream and salmon-pink, and silly hats and unreasonable heels surrounding them, and clearly above the status of the ‘mere pleb’, which i no doubt was. - Amusing, to say the least.
Not amusing in the slightest, is the infrequency with which people use basic manners at such events. - The words please and thankyou, seem to be banned from such circles. If you thought that manners were the hallmarks of proper, decent parenting, you’d probably be right.
Clearly, these people largely lack such an upbringing (daddy had to work, mummy had to spend daddy’s money?), and were instead taught to be impatient, disconnected, presumptuous and dismissive. ”What are they fucken paying you” remarked a drunken, blazered middle-aged man, attempting to belittle me because he refused to pay the advertised price for a drink, and I refused to let him take it. It was only 10pm. An appropriate time to be belligerently drunk.
- “5 pounds an hour? Six?”.. I laughed… And then got security to escort him out, as i graphically outlined what would happen to his throat if i saw him again. I could have counted the P’s and Q’s on one hand. For the whole week. Even if i were a fish.
If you compare this to say, Burning Man (which most Henley-folk would describe as a bunch of unwashed, dirty-lefty-types, in need of an education and a job, running around on LSD in the desert somewhere), you could bury Henley in manners. -And not just under Burning Man - under any festival. Trust me, I know.
Nothing is safe. Blame it on alcohol, sure, but is that anything other than a pathetic excuse? - Why ruin it for everyone else? Ive drunk alcohol for years, and know plenty of people who have, and not once did they think it was appropriate to shit outside of the toilet; Or to piss on the floor by the urinal; Or throw their empty cup or finished beer anywhere they saw fit (say, two yards away onto the ground, for example).
Nor did they think it acceptable to throw their empty bottle of champagne into the river by which they were sitting; Or their empty crisp packet, sandwich wrap, broken chair, inside-out umbrella. Yes, i saw it all.
By the end of the week, this pristine stretch of the Thames was awash with the debris and detritus from what could only be described (by a subjective viewer - think a visitor from another planet) as the mess of a bunch of selfish, inconsiderate, badly behaved, drunk, drugged-up pigs in posh clothes and frilly fancy bars, pretending the whole world is foolish, while making fools of themselves.
The river’s land was much the same (trashed) - except you’d find expensive partnerless high-heeled shoes, abandoned coats, patties of vomit and then more human excrement.
In some circles, Henley’s largest demographic are named ‘Sloanes’, something which Wikipedia describes as ‘a stereotype in the UK of young, upper class or upper-middle-class women or men, who share distinctive and common lifestyle traits’ who come from places ‘famed for the wealth of residents and frequenters’ (Chelsea, South Kensington etc).
The descriptions become more amusing when they outline ‘Sloanes’ as sharing ‘a belief in the values of upper class and upper middle-class culture, confidence in themselves and their given places in the world, a fondness for life in the countryside, country sports in particular, philistinism and anti-intellectualism’. You cant help but think that you really are missing out. Or probably not - (the first ‘Official Sloane Ranger Handbook’ - a real book - was actually subtitled ‘A guide to what really matters in life’, no kidding. Look it up if you doubt it, get educated - im buying a copy).
Free thinkers are indeed dangerous. And so they all look the same, dress the same, have the same haircuts and attitudes, and get together to behave as badly as they deserve to (thats a joke), in the comfort of their loving flock.
- I do believe there is a man with a blue blazer and cream pants and (tan) boat shoes who pats everyone on the back when they leave, adjusting his monocle as he congratulates them for their antics, plum in mouth: “well done old boy/well done old girl”.
But who really cares anyway? - Land-owners get a huge injection of cash into their bank accounts; the brands, a massive viewing audience consuming their products en masse; there’s even some sport to partake in. And the older attendees get to blame the youth of today (rather than say, a book they wrote when these said youth were growing up?) for all of the disgraceful behaviour throughout.
So let us end with a few sterling quotes from those who are old enough to know better, to help epitomise just what being a ‘Sloane’ is all about…
Sloanes being.. Sloanes
These were actual ‘lines’ used on some of the female waitresses, as reported to me, by them:
“I want to see where you bleed from” …
“Im going to fuck you up the arse” Leering - this one courtesy of an older woman, who then proceeded to dry hump the waitress, before her daughter suggested:
“Mummy, put the girl down” …
“I want to stretch you with my big fat cock” …
Classic, to say the least.
The only explanation i can suggest for such ridiculous profanity, probably owes a lot to the fact that usually there are subordinates (say, from their office) who would fall for such lines, in return for a piece of their ‘pie’..
In any case, it suffices to say that these people should consult their gilt-edged mirrors, and take a long hard look at themselves. And don’t say you weren’t warned.
(photos to come)
I recently did a party in the countryside in Oxfordshire, that was nothing short of wild rapturous joy for all-comers..
the secret, rarely-practised key to having a good time.
Sometimes, everything just works. You apply the same formula, install it with the same team, run it like you always do, and the guests come along, the final piece in the puzzle, and fit perfectly into the gaps they’re meant to fit into. Its amicable, pleasurable. - Every single person is happy: Rapturous even.
We did a fucking outrageous party not so long ago, that epitomised this idea and proved – once and for all – that money and creativity can go together to form one beautifully harmonious celebration, free from wank and wankers (in stark contrast to the vast many occasions when a rich client and their rich guests have been nothing but vacuous, jaded, small-minded, egocentric and cultureless – another story perhaps?)
So anyway: out we went to the Oxfordshire countryside, where the host of the party lived, and where we would help him in celebrating his 50th birthday on a property the size of most London boroughs.
Through a small valley formed by the property’s green, rolling hills, there were a few dozen tents, lined up like racing yachts, their white sails flapping in the gentle breeze, under a radiant June sun and blue sky. Here, would be where guests would stay for the night, and as we drove up the easement leading to the main production area, and the centres of the party itself, already in awe of the guest accom, we knew we were arriving to be involved in something monumental.
A soundcheck is done, we set up the bars, mix, taste, remix, batch and prep a smorgasbord of bespoke cocktails and their ingredients. The beer is cooling, the champagne is on ice, the bars are dressed and ready. The clock ticks towards the arrival of around 120 guests – a number that was simply dwarfed by the vastness of the production itself.
the view from the bar’s back of house looking down the main driveway. Main tent and guest accommodation on right.
Night begins to fall, and with everything in readiness, we are driven to another side of the property to eat dinner as a crew. The sheer size of the place dictates the fact that walking to the cabin where we were to eat was simply out of the question. Voracious appetites are satiated by the hearty cooking of two kindly ladies. The guests are soon to arrive. There’s not much else to do but deliver.
And it went a little something like this: A dinner is prepared by a team of expert chefs in a commercial kitchen that is set up temporarily on the owner’s property. Each course is served by various teams of ‘waiters/waitresses’ who are actually burlesque or breakdancers or other performers, masquerading as service staff, who break into dance-routine and choreographed manoeuvres as they deliver a sumptuous, multi-course, sitdown meal for all of the guests.
A small team of bartenders arrive at the circus-tent-like dining room to serve espresso martinis as desserts, before the guests are then ushered by a team of flipping, cartwheeling, hopping, skipping and jumping performers, towards the main area where the afterparty rave will take place. It took the pied piper of Hamelin to a much much greater level.
By this stage, the whole scope of the party is nothing short of outrageous, mindblowing.
When they arrive at the ‘rave’ all comers are led through a room where they can acquire (some sort of free purchase deal) various luminous accessories such as sunglasses, jackets, glowsticks, lollipops, wristbands and other rave-like paraphernalia, to help them get in the mood to… rave. Might I remind you that this is a 50th birthday celebration? …
Needless to say, riding a wave of hedonistic joy and outrageousness, the guests plummeted joyfully into a daze of peace, love, happiness and bliss that saw a wave of calm and content spread over everything, like a proper plague of pure pleasure, welcomed by all, including us.
and rave they did
complete with lasers
Whatever you might assume, there wasn’t one untoward request; there wasn’t one unhappy guest; there wasn’t one person that complained or thought it odd when they went to enter a portaloo and found that it only led to nothing but a secret room on the other side, filled with yet more adventure. Maybe it was due to the fact that there was so much space around to pee in nature…
Strippers danced on poles behind the bartenders, born-again hippies, back for one night only of debauchery, wearing sunglasses shaped like stars, danced before us, waving fingers over bleary, drunk and ecstatic eyes, as the likes of the latest and greatest indie-pop bands performed set after set for all enthralled.
This is a true story. An actual birthday party, at someone’s actual house. – We could’ve been mistaken for thinking we were at some secret boutique festival. I got so drunk as I worked, that even my own behaviour was deemed beyond belief…
And as the after-rave after-party began, we welcomed the guests with White Russians in old-school 1 pint milk bottles. Lebowski would have been proud. Dude…
the drunk-food van
I woke up: From their vast pleasure, came our vast pleasure. It wasn’t pretentiousness, it wasn’t some insane, egotistical display of money, or success, or power or might, or ‘look what we did!’ – It was just a good old time, revolving around a good old(ing) person. – Or whatever that is. It was real, and it was unreal, but all in all, they were just human, being human, engaging, embracing, existing. Alive.