Forgotten 80s – The Nottingham Tweetup!

First it was Cardiff, then the rugby got in the way.
Then it was Liverpool or Manchester, but the football got in the way.
Then it was York, but a literature festival got in the way.

So it ended up being a toss-up between Bristol and Nottingham. A coin was duly tossed (by Sang, with Stuart in attendance to vouch for the result) – and Nottingham was declared the winner!

The coveted (or not) Tweetup Organiser baton was thus passed to Nottingham resident Stephen, who took up the challenge with gusto by personally visiting several potential pubs and reporting back. We eventually settled on the Cock and Hoop (which, as Jamie found to his cost, should not be Googled lightly), followed by the Bryony-recommended Loom Bar – and then on to somewhere as yet undecided.

12 March dawned bright and sunny, and the weird things started happening as soon as I left my house to walk to the tram, when on top of a bin I found a perfectly good Forever Friends jigsaw which it would have been a shame to waste. It was too late to go home again so it travelled with me in my bag for the entire weekend, though we never actually got to do it! At Piccadilly I met Bryony and Sarah (now initiated into Twitter as well as Facebook, hence this reverting to a tweetup!), and we boarded the Nottingham train and happily set off, comparing our notebooks and diaries as usual and marvelling over the extensive earring inventory that Bryony had written in one of them! She had even brought a couple of pairs with her!

It was all going really well until we got to Sheffield, when we sat there for quite a long time, and a text arrived from Jamie saying he’d been stuck outside the station for an hour and half! Fran was also reporting delay announcements in Birmingham! So I sent Jamie an ET picture to cheer him up, and we watched a crazy person tightrope walking between two towers on one of the universities, until the train finally moved on. At this point we started chatting to a lovely American history lecturer called Harley (born in 1983!), who wanted 80s music recommendations so Bryony whipped out her MP3 player! Harley said that historians would love the Secret 80s Diaries and they should be in a museum! (We invited him to join us later, but sadly he never materialised, though Jamie reckoned I’d pulled!)

Finally – FINALLY! – we arrived in Nottingham, dumped our bags (Sarah had got a ‘secret hotel’ deal at the Jurys next to our Premier Inn and hers was loads posher) and went to join the others up a secret set of steps that Bryony knew. Stephen had reserved a lovely little room at the back of the pub and was ensconced therein with Allie, Jamie, Fran, Alasdair, Sang and Stuart, and Jeff (who had earlier boasted on Twitter about farting in the direction of Old Trafford whilst going past it on the train!) soon joined us, and the Twitterati were together again!
It was lovely to be reunited, and now most of us had met a few times before there was no longer any need for ice breakers!

The conversation flowed effortlessly, to the point where at one stage there was a discussion about how our parents had referred to private parts – probably best not expanded on further – and Alasdair, Fran and I had a huge laugh about asking Matthew to come to a future tweet up in Hull, then erecting a statue of him like the Eric Morecambe one and all bowing down to it! (Alasdair: “Yes, that would really make him want to come!”) and getting him to organise a swimming gala for us! Fran said she would have to leave early to go to a house warming party for two gay vicars, and for some reason this reasonably simple explanation ended up taking ages because we were all asking loads of totally unnecessary questions (eg “So are the gay vicars a couple?”).

Still on the private parts theme, Bryony told us NEVER to Google ‘Simon le Bon in his pants’, which of course several of us immediately did, to find a photo that will be etched on my brain forever, for all the wrong reasons. Unlike the subsequent photo of Roger Taylor in no pants whatsoever, which got me more than a little flustered. Bryony meanwhile kept getting distracted by a gif of Simon with ‘come to bed eyes’ that she’d discovered earlier!
This took us neatly to the now traditional Tweet Up Quiz, this time supplied by Allie and ‘peer reviewed’ by Alan, whose work had got in the way of him coming this time.

This was a lyrics quiz, and I’m very proud to say that I knew most of them and my team won! There was a really infuriating one that foxed all of us (I had to go for a walk round the pub to try and think of it, and on my way back found Stuart doing the same, but it didn’t work for either of us!) except Fran, who was looking extremely smug! It was the Pet Shop Boys’ Domino Dancing! Another one was Perfect Skin, and someone (Stephen?) nearly put Lloyd Cole and the Communards as the earlier gay vicar conversation had led to a discussion on Richard Coles! I laughed very rudely at Jamie for not knowing where the ‘I care enough to know that I could NEVER love you’ line came from, only to then discover that I’d put down the wrong ABC song! That showed me. Anyway, my team (me, Bryony and Sarah) won some fab chocolates, which we all ate later before we left the pub!

Then we wanted to Skype Alan to cheer him up for not being able to come. We had his Skype address but he kept not answering so we all decided to ‘thunderclap’ him by tweeting ‘HELLO ALAN!’ at the same time! This did the trick and Alan duly appeared (having been in the middle of his tea earlier!), to be passed round the room and shown the hideous pictures of animals in clothes on the wall! After this, dinner was served, and it was very good, and in mine and Sarah’s cases huge (in the form of massive falafel burgers). Then we just had time for the traditional first group photo, the one where everyone is still looking respectable, though Jamie still managed to lower the tone by remarking that Jeff looked like he was sitting on a toilet. Thanks Jamie!

And so to the next port of call – literally two doors down the road to the Loom Bar. This was superb! Huge, spacious and not at all crowded, and with a massive squashy sofa into which we all sank like stones, post-food.

This was nearly my downfall – I was so full, and tired from not sleeping that well the night before, that I got really sleepy and kept lying down, and had to be hauled up by more lively people several times. There were pink cocktails (Tippled Pinks!) and more gins, but I couldn’t face more than half of one! I was awake enough though to join in a bawdy conversation about teenage fumbling and share my experiences of a public toilet in Crystal Palace, which I’m sure everyone really wanted to know (but I wasn’t the only one I might add – there were also some lurid confessions about vomiting!). Mrs. Stephen arrived to join us, in a really funky Batman dress, and so did Allie’s friend David, and both added further sparkle.

Jamie and Sarah discovered that the first drink they’d both got pissed on was Cinzano, so Jamie tried to order one from the bar for old times’ sake, but the barman didn’t know what he was talking about, so he had to make do with a Campari and grapefruit (one of Madonna’s favourites from a 1985 Smash Hits fact file!), which got passed round the whole table and was practically empty by the time it got back to Sarah! (“Where the fuck’s it gone?!”)

After a while the Liam Gallagher/Jake Bugg wannabe singer started to grate, so we decided to move on from there too and began to discuss options. Jamie had found a place online called the Cookie Club, so we decided to give that a try. After going back to the hotel so Jamie, Sang and Stuart could check in, and subsequently leaving Bryony and Allie who were knackered (but retaining David!), we set off to look for it. Stephen expertly steered us through the back roads of Nottingham until we turned a corner and beheld a street that looked like a miniature version of the main drag of San Antonio in Ibiza, i.e. frankly quite scary. We hurried past the karaoke and kebab bars and found the Cookie Club right in the middle – boarded up. Oh! What to do now?

After a bit of initial faffing (Jamie: “Are you sure it’s really shut?”) we accepted that we’d have to go with a Plan B, and headed into a relatively pleasant-looking place opposite. This had a lit up dance floor which initially looked promising, but we then realised that the DJ was a) what is widely known as a ‘hipster’ b) on an upstairs platform not easily accessible for request purposes and c) playing that sort of pretentious jazz-funk twaddle that makes people dance like chickens – and clearly wasn’t about to stop. Not really the 80s-style disco we’d been hoping for by this point…

Still, there was alcohol, so we went and got some (Jamie was delighted at the availability of Bathtub gin, less so when the barman didn’t know what it was and, having been informed that they did indeed serve it, asked him if he wanted it with coke or lemonade!). Once seated, we set about compiling a list of requests and deliberately trying to find ones that might stand a chance (eg things like Shakatak and Freeez), then Jamie embarked on a mission to locate the DJ. By this point the latter had started playing ‘Do I Do’ by Stevie Wonder (and showing us the record cover!) so we thought we might just have a chance! We watched Jamie and the hipster having an animated conversation (Sarah took some photos, one of which caught Jamie with one leg up like a catalogue man/sex god!) which also looked positive, but ultimately came to nothing as he was finishing at midnight anyway, and had asked Jamie if it was someone’s birthday as he was making a request, which Jamie later decided was just taking the piss!

Still, the lack of good tunes was partially compensated by some men in front of us who decided to start doing what Stuart later described as ‘homoerotic dancing’, ie lots of groin thrusting and writhing round pillars, all the time with massive grins on their faces and looking a bit like an 80s Europop group (like Modern Talking) – Stuart said later that he’d initially thought they were trying to impress some women, but it was just their mates who were sprawled in armchairs!

So midnight rolled around, and the place shut, not that’d we’d been planning to stay any longer anyway, and there we were still on the hunt for an 80s bar. Stephen, Mrs. Stephen and David all left us at this point, but Stephen said there was a bar called The Approach that we might try, so we set off to find it and hoping it wasn’t like the Yates’s Wine Lodge that we passed on the way…….
…….It was. Possibly worse.

We squeezed inside past the bouncers and our ears were assailed by the very worst kind of shouty hip-hop, the sort that makes you want to emulate your parents and sigh, “Why can’t they sing and not shout?” Worse still, everyone else in the bar seemed to be hugely enjoying it, even the ones who looked older than us, and there was much twerking and “HUH”-ing going on. But there we were, with no alternative, so we procured drinks and tried to make the best of it. This involved Jamie, Sarah and I attempting some silly dancing to the music (at one point Jamie nearly bashed a woman behind with his bum when trying out a twerk!). Jeff, Sang and Stuart passed on the dancing and observed us and everyone else with inscrutable expressions, taking it all in.

The upside of this type of place is that there is always some excellent people-watching to be had, and this was no exception. Besides the obligatory shaven-headed, beshirted men and hen parties, there was a group of women behind us who looked like they were in their 60s or 70s, one dressed as Wonder Woman and the other two in some kind of low-cut uniforms that made them look like German policewomen. They were even wearing leather caps, and were showing far more of their cleavages than was necessary at that age! The Wonder Woman one was showing a fair bit of her midriff too.

In addition, there was the usual plethora of people wearing things that they really shouldn’t have been – particularly one large woman whose size and attire gave her an almost Divine-esque look. Later, when I braved the toilets, there was a woman standing in front of the mirror applying what looked like her fiftieth layer of make-up, and who clearly had never heard of the term ‘less is more’.

Then the music moved on a bit, firstly with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, which for me was a slight improvement, but Sarah’s disgusted face was a picture (“I HATE EMINEM!”), and then, to our delight, a bit of 80s! Sadly, this was just after Jeff had gone, so he missed this and the ensuing shenanigans! The 80s Hour was more like a Quarter Hour really, but we were treated to Nu Shooz, Jocelyn Brown and Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”, and some very excited dancing took place. It moved on as quickly as it had come though and a bit of 90s took its place, some of which again I’d never heard of, but one dance threw me and a chap behind together, and he took my hands and solemnly waved my arms up and down with his for the duration of the song, whilst everyone else chortled in the background!

Then the pinnacle of the evening arrived – House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Much jumping ensued (me with memories of the bouncy dance floor at the Ritz, but being 20 years older and having no bounce under my feet this time, it was quite a lot more tiring than I recalled). It was at this point that an old man hove into view in the middle of our group, jumping wildly and performing some fiendishly fancy footwork which was quite admirable until he started panting heavily and clutching his chest. We were about to panic when he grabbed my hand and put it on the same spot, so he wasn’t really about to have a heart attack! He was clearly a regular in the place and continued his performance with some hearty twerking with a woman who looked young enough to be his daughter but who wasn’t phased. Just as I was thinking that things couldn’t get any funnier, I looked at the old guy again and realised that he was now sticking his finger through his flies and waving it about, pretending it was a willy. I just collapsed laughing, even though I knew that this was wrong on so many levels!

By this time it was about 1.30 and laughing at everyone had started to wear a bit thin and we were tired, so Sang and Stuart led a motion for the door, and the rest of us followed. Annoyingly, as soon as we were out of the door the DJ started playing “Thinking of You” by Sister Sledge, so we all started dancing to it in the street!

The high point being “Jump Around”, now we turn to the low point of the evening. After the Sister Sledge dance and a photo in the street, we were just setting off back to our hotels when I noticed that someone had left their handbag on a window sill, so wondered if it was lost and went up to see if there was anything in it. There was. It was full of sick, which was spilling out onto the sill! And you know when you see something just so gut-wrenching that you start retching and can’t stop…. I was desperately trying to breathe and make it go away, but to no avail. I had to sit down in a doorway and throw up. I was so embarrassed that people would think that it was another drunken vomit that I started explaining as soon as I got up! Then my nose started bleeding too! Everyone was most concerned, Sarah went into nurse mode and made sure I was all right, then we realised we had lost Jamie, and it turned out that he can’t bear sick and had rushed off up the street! Even worse, there was another pile of it by the bus stop that nearly made me start again!

I was ok when we started walking though, and Stuart, who has an amazing sense of direction, successfully guided us back in the right direction until we reached the street where we’d started. We were about to go down the set of secret steps that led to our hotels, when suddenly a bloke appeared running down the other side of the road looking agitated, saw us and shouted something that sounded exactly like, “Don’t shoot me, you advanced twats!” He can’t really have said ‘advanced’, but it sounded so funny that we all cracked up, which made him even crosser, and he shouted again, “Are you laughing at me? Are you laughing at me because I’m black?” We hastily reassured him that we weren’t, forced ourselves to stop laughing and then realised that he had gone down the very set of stairs that we wanted to use, so didn’t dare follow him and went the long way round! Once he was out of sight, we couldn’t stop laughing about it (Ali G!) and decided that we were definitely going to get the hashtag #advancedtwats into the next day’s show! The walk back to the hotels continued to be funny when Jamie tripped up twice in the street, but he pooh-poohed my suggestion that we were now equal by insisting that if you didn’t fall flat on your face, it didn’t count!

So we went to our hotel, and Sarah to hers, and the last thing I heard of Sang, Stuart and Jamie was a massive crash in the lift, followed by a gale of laughter, as they sailed up to the fourth floor and I rejoined Bryony on floor 1. She was awake and I told her all about the dreadful club, the old man and the sick, and she was quite amazed! Anyway, after all that we finally got to sleep…
…and woke again far too soon. But at least I wasn’t hungover, just a bit jaded. We met up in the lobby and set off to find the agreed breakfast venue, a Wetherspoons by the waterfront. It took a bit of finding (we had to ask some fishermen!) but finally we found it, and so did Jeff who’d been staying somewhere else. Had a good laugh about last night (as usual a running commentary plus photos had been tweeted by several of us, so Jeff was already appraised of the old man/sick bag stories!). Stuart had taken a photo of the handbag, but kindly refrained from showing us it until we’ve finished eating!

The funniest thing, apart from that, was when Jeff (who was catching a later train than the rest of us) said he was going shopping, mainly to record shops, and Bryony said excitedly, “Ooh, do you like craft shops?” and there was this pause while Jeff looked like he was really trying to be polite, then he said, “No!” It doesn’t sound funny now, but it really was then!

Anyway, trains (or the M42 in Sang and Stuart’s case) were calling, so we all took our leave of each other and agreed that the next one would be in Liverpool and we’d sort out a date in June or July! Bryony, Sarah and I got the train home together, they helped me make notes (literally on the back of an envelope!) about the weekend, and we had a great laugh and agreed that it had been absolutely FAB!

And so passed the Nottingham tweetup, with much fun, frolics and laughter as usual. So what will happen in Liverpool?

Stay tuned to find out…