The night started in a room, bare floorboards and freshly painted walls. The smell of Dulux filled the air as we swigged from a bottle of Polish brandy. Lucas was the provider, a tall and brutal traveler on the way to drug abuse and a broken liver. As the bottle circulated we came to an American duo, their names escape me. Eighteen years old and on holiday for spring break, they left with no misconceptions of alcohol abuse in England. Next came Fred, a Welsh squaddie who I shared an immediate and temporary friendship with. We'll come to that another day. Finally the bottle approached me and I took a swig, the dark sugary liquid burning its way down my throat. I took another for good measure.
Next stop, the basement. First place of refuge for the experienced traveler, a bottle of red in my hand, I descend to the painted confines of the hang out. Two chapters in to my novel and Frangelina appears. Nobody knows her real name, as she fluctuates frequently between Elina and Fran. A six month veteran of the Greenwich branch, Frangelina is yet to play a vital role in my life.
The red has gone, disappeared as quickly as it came, despite the trek up to the bar to acquire a bottle opener. We are now greater in number, Frangelina, myself, the two Swedes named Filip and Philip, Welsh Fred and Julian the crazy Belgian. On a former occasion, Julian informed me of the time he'd seen a young teen stabbed for his iPod. The cheap black wicker table is now covered in glass, the red bottle stands as a centrepiece around which a shrine to alcohol has been built. Vodka from lands far and wide surrounds the red, followed by the tin can shanties of Budweiser and Carling, a lemonade skyscraper topped with yellow and a selection of token Cokes. The time is ten o'clock, time for a journey to the off-license.
The night is young.