Last weekend was one I've been looking forward to since I arrived back in the UK. I headed off to Stratford Upon Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare for a golfing weekend and FA Cup Final cocktails with some very good friends of mine - Rich, Les, Tom and Paddy. Collectively we were known as the House of Kwong after a nameplate on the house we used to share in Oxfordshire after University.
It's something of a tradition for us to take off for FA Cup Final weekend for golf and gottles of geer. All are memorable and fun, a chance to catch up with the guys, talk nonsense for a few hours and have some convivial drinks in great company. We've been to Nottingham, Norwich, Bath and several other places but one of the more outstanding adventures we had was 13 years ago on this very weekend in 1993, we had a similar weekend on the Isle of Man which we went to, to play in a Football tournament. I chronicled the various events, and it was eventful, and let you download the full report 'Manx Tales' for your delectation.
I've also got The Great Gatsby on my mind. Not so much the book as Baz Luhrman's new adaptation starring Leo DiCaprio as the eponymous Gatsby. I've been looking forward to it since it was announced several years ago and now it's here, accompanied by a blisteringly good soundtrack. the themes and ideas of the greatest American novel come flooding back. Particularly one - The idea that you can't repeat the past. Or can you?
We're all older, heavier, more weathered and experienced but have we fundamentally changed? If so, how?
The golf itself was tremendous fun at a club outside of the main town. Rich, the most diligent golfer in our group and previous winner of the Kwong Championship came to the fore but the battle for second was tight between the rest of us. I was glad to get through 18 holes in one piece, not having played for at least two years but a glorious birdie followed by two pars set nervous pulses racing until normal service was resumed and the only participants worried about my form on the course were the ducks.
We went back into town on the evening, taking care to note all the various authentic Shakespeare tie-ins including his genuine boyhood coach terminal and gift shop and immediately sought to recapture the evenings of youth in the company of various cocktail pitchers, bottles of foreign lager and something of a Kwong trademark, a round of BMW's. Rod Stewart's tipple of choice, a Bailey's, Malibu and Whisky, as lethal as it is luscious. The night ended in a surprisingly sparse Chicago Rock Cafe before we sloped back to the hotel.
I first began to doubt the veracity of my theory on the past when I woke up to paraphrase The Blackadder - feeling as if my head had a Frenchman living in it. Two schoolboy errors of not drinking sufficient water before turning in and not taking paracetamol to head off the runaway hangover express that was heading your way.
We went back out at lunchtime to eat and take in the first football match of the day. I had conspicuously bought a new shirt for the event, specifically similar to a blue and white Hawaiian number I used to rock in the early 2000's, an effort to create a kind of like a sartorial time machine to see if the act of recapturing your dress could recapture your thoughts and feelings of a particular time and place. This one was holed fatally when my good friend Paddy complimented me on my 'Alfie Moon' shirt.
More football and frolics followed including a solid hour of power which involved drinking five bottles of blue WKD within the allotted time frame, another theme-drink of lost early middle-age. A great cup final followed by a really nice Indian meal before we made our way back to the hotel definitely feeling older if not wiser.
So what did we discover in our 48 hours on the banks of the Avon? That for all the silk shirts and pink suits on Long Island, the past is a feeling, not a place, and definitely not one that can be reached by conventional means. And would you want to repeat it at all? Notorious party animal Keith Richards thinks his own reputation is somewhat overblown and admits that he rarely drinks/smokes more than one accelerant as you cannot create the initial buzz and rush so it is a waste of time, money and energy doing what so many others do and trying.
I did realise, surrounded by some of my closest friends and fellows I've shared many drinks, meals, nights, insults, ideas, heartbreaks, setbacks and victories with, that the past is not fixed, it's evolving and exists only to bring you to the most important time in your life. Right now. Your ultimate duty is to make the most of this time and surround yourself with the very best and most important people, ideas, goals and dreams right now. This time will be past soon enough, and while you might not remain Young and Beautiful for long, your memories and friendships will, if you give them half a chance.