Surprise!

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
1
26
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Trip End Mar 01, 2010


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Where I stayed
Bruegels Mansions

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Preface: Setting the scene


Once the flights back to London and Amsterdam had been organised, Duncan started sending emails out to Vic's groomsmen to see whether a stag party was a possibility. After some initial nervousness around the proximity of the proposed stag party to the wedding (3 days, but Victor was flying to Amsterdam on Monday morning at 6am) the groomsmen opted for a yay rather than a nay and so the planning wheels were put into motion amongst the group.

After some fruitless research on options for a Sunday in London, Duncan remembered Victor mentioning a club that only took place on a Sunday and was meant to be riotous. He typed in "The Church" into Google and sure enough there was a “service” scheduled for the Sunday required. The basic format of The Church is alcohol, dancing and other unspecified entertainment all between midday and 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Perfect.

Even better, the venue for 2010 had been moved from North London to the Clapham Grand, a club infamous in the annals of Hoong-Coleshill history and the scene of much revelry whilst the dynamic duo were lodging together in Clapham. The scene was set; all that was left to do was plan the details of the surprise.

Ruse number one: Vic thought he was having a quiet lunch with just his groomsmen on the Sunday before the wedding. Younger brother Vince volunteered to organise this so the groomsmen now had control of venue and activities on the Sunday.

Ruse number two: Groomsman Julian was flying into London from Canada on Sunday morning to go and try on suits with Victor before going to lunch. Julian was tasked with getting Vic to the venue before midday.

Ruse number three: Victor was expecting to meet Duncan in Amsterdam, as Duncan had told him the only flight they could get was a direct one into Holland.

All that was required then was a costume. Duncan mentioned his idea of dressing Vic as Bruce Lee and Vince got extremely excited and ordered a Bruce Lee costume off Amazon immediately. Some hasty Photoshop work was requisitioned from the skilful Major Templecrest to place Vic’s head onto Bruce Lee’s body and an order placed for some jaunty matching t-shirts for all the attendees and so all was organised and Duncan and Nadine could get on the first of many planes to London.

Chapter 1: Victor nearly blows it

The Friday before the weekend in question Victor helpfully sent out an email to what looked like everyone he knew inviting them to his Sunday lunch with the groomsmen. This was just before Duncan and Nadine were about to leave for the airport and so Duncan hurriedly penned a mail out to everyone on Victor’s email making sure they don’t turn up at the pub where he thought he was having lunch as there was in fact no reservation there and everyone would be somewhere else! It was a close call but disaster was averted and life went on.

Aside: I am currently on a small island in Thailand called Ko Jum and just stubbed my toe with excessive force on a stone on the beach. So if any of you are feeling overly jealous that I’m on a tropical island and you’re not you may be comforted to know that I’m sitting with my foot up and my toe is bleeding and I’ve lost half the nail off it. My lovely wife has however just brought me a large Singha though so all should be well plus I reckon I’ll finish this blog today whilst I’m resting my toe.

Chapter 2: Full English

After the three flights (Cambodia > Thailand, Thailand > Dubai, Dubai > London) Nadine and Duncan arrived into Gatwick at 6.45am as scheduled and jumped onto the train to Croydon. They called Rachel who had agreed to meet them at the station to take them back to Mark’s place. As it was a Sunday when they arrived, both Rachel and Mark were waiting at East Croydon and after a brief reunion at the gates the foursome jumped into the Bruegelmobile. Mark pressed a switch on the dashboard and the sleek red Honda ascended four feet into the air. He pressed another and they sped in mid-air over towards Sanderstead.

“In the 6 months you’ve been gone Croydon has installed a magnetic road system and we’re all driving hovercars now” said Mark, nonchalantly. Then Duncan realised he was writing a blog and not a sci-fi novel and dropped the fictional journey from the tale.

On arrival at the house, Rach commenced a giant fry-up and Nadine and Duncan went to go and wash off the grime that had accumulated after 20 hours of travel. After breakfast, Duncan went to go and pack for Holland, knowing that later that evening he may not be quite so capable.

Vince called him around 10am. “Hey Duncan I appear to have woken up a little later than planned due to some partying last night so not entirely sure what I should be doing now. I also found out what time Vic’s appointment with the tailor was – it’s midday”. “That’s a shame” replied Duncan, “that’s exactly when we need him at The Church”. “Have you talked to Julian yet?” asked Vince. “Nope, not sure I saved his number into my phone” replied Duncan. “Isn’t he staying with one of your mates?” asked Vince. “Oh yes” said Duncan in realisation, “he’s staying with Geoff in Chiswick, I’ll give Geoff a call and let you know what’s going on”.

“Hey buddy” came the dulcet tones of Geoff as Duncan called him. “Hey mate” said Duncan, “is Julian staying with you? We need to check how he’s going to get Vic over to Clapham as apparently Vic has an appointment at midday to pick up the suits”. “Yep he’s just on his way over” replied Geoff, “I’ll pass the phone over when he gets here in about 5 minutes”. “I was thinking we somehow get Julian to take him over to the suit shop earlier so we can get him to Clapham in time” said Duncan. “Well you might want to check the shop times first” suggested Geoff, “I think it might not be open until late on a Sunday”. “Good plan” concurred Duncan and jumped onto the internet to find the Austin Reed website.

“Damn looks like the shop only opens at midday which would be why Vic scheduled the appointment for midday with Julian” Duncan cursed to no-one in particular. His phone rang.

“Hey Duncan” came a Canadian voice over the phone “how’s it going?”. “Not so bad mate” replied Duncan to Julian (the groomsman flying over from Canada who had arrived in Heathrow not much later than Duncan had landed in Gatwick) “but it looks like we may have some issues with the timing for getting Vic to Clapham as Austin Reed is only open from midday to 6pm, you may have to go a little later than planned”. “No problem” replied Julian, “I can always just blow the secret a bit earlier to get him over to Clapham if he gets belligerent”. “OK sounds good” said Duncan, “we just need to make sure we remember to get you into London to get your suit before 6pm”.

Duncan called Vince to relay this plan to him and everything was on track again, although now it was 9am and Duncan wanted to get to Clapham for 11am.

“Well this is the best breakfast we’ve had in six months” said Duncan as he chomped through his eggs, bacon, beans and mushrooms. “We’ve had some good fry-ups but nothing authentic until now”. Nadine nodded her agreement. Rachel spent breakfast updating the pair on everything that had happened since they left; not much in general but Rachel now had a whole bunch of students for her music tuition business which was only just starting when Nadine and Duncan left the UK.

“Right I’d better go” said Duncan standing up. “I’ll come with you” said Nadine, “I need to pick up some things from Geoff’s place where we left them”. They then all departed, heading back toward the station. Duncan got onto the fast train and arrived at Clapham Junction a little earlier than he had anticipated. He looked at his watch, 10.30am, another hour and a half before The Church opened. He wandered into Neros and took a seat at the window. There were couple of burly looking chaps sitting down to a croissant and coffee who were both wearing t-shirts with “Church Warden” inscribed across the shoulders. Duncan briefly entertained the notion of befriending the pair but recalled prior experiences with bouncers and decided instead to give Geoff a call to see how far away he was.

Chapter 3: One coffee and seven beers please

As he sat at the window, more and more people in strange costumes appeared from the station. There were Tellytubbies, pirates, smurfs and a whole host of other strange costumes. Presumably these people were also heading towards The Church.

Geoff, Grant and Sean arrived almost simultaneously and they all grabbed a coffee and caught up over what had been happening in Duncan’s absence, although both Geoff and Grant had been in Melbourne for Duncan’s birthday so most of the updates came from Sean.

Other invitees drifted in towards the midday deadline, including big Victor himself – the challenge of keeping him away until all attendees were there proved to be too much effort and so Julian brought him into Nero whilst just a few of the lads were there. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t look that shocked to see Duncan there (Duncan had nearly given himself away on numerous occasions about the whole plan) but did look a little concerned as he espied the t-shirts the fellows were wearing (see photos). Everyone embraced the cheeky chap and they pulled their t-shirts on ready for some debauchery. Unfortunately due to Vince’s experiences the previous night he was running a little late and it was he holding the Bruce Lee costume for Vic. Happily he turned up just as Duncan was about to shepherd everyone across the road to the Grand and they sent Vic into the toilet to get his glad rags on. He emerged after what seemed like a rather long time but the wait was worth it as Bruce Lee sauntered across the floor in Neros. Duncan relieved Vic of all his wordly belongings, stuffing his wallet and phone into his pocket (more on this later).

They were shortly the full complement of 14 (Duncan, Vince, Julian, Geoff, Mark, Tom, Rupesh, Paul, Grant, Sean, Stef, Heron, Xav, Mike) and headed across the road for some entertainment.

Needless to say, the time in The Church was as entertaining as promised, mainly consisting of the group being told off for constantly picking up Vic and carrying him around the dance floor (see photos) but also some drinking and dancing was accomplished. Duncan sneaked out at one point to explain what was happening to Ya-Ching, who had called Vic’s phone that Duncan was babysitting. She sounded happy there was a party going on for Vic but also a little wary that he may not make his flight the next day. Duncan assured her there was no risk there as he was taking the same flight as Victor and was planning to stay sober for the evening. Although he was holding a can of beer and it was barely past midday. Ah well.

Chapter 4: Sunday lunch

Around about 3.30pm the group left The Church and headed down to the Fox and Hounds for a Sunday lunch. This was completed without further complication until Victor turned to Julian.

“Weren’t you meant to be picking up your suit today?” he asked innocently. Julian looked a little confused, having just been drinking either a pint of beer, or some champagne, or both. “Oops” remarked Duncan, looking at his watch. “Well it’s 5pm we’ve still got an hour to get Julian into town before Austin Reed closes”. They manoeuvred Julian out of the pub and into a taxi outside, thrusting some pounds at the taxi driver and asking him to wait until Julian had his suit before coming back.

Julian reappeared an hour later clutching a suit bag. Victor looked relieved.

As promised, the evening ended at 7pm for Victor and Duncan dragged him off to Croydon so that he could pick up his bag for Amsterdam en route to Vic’s house. Duncan had previously changed his flights to Holland so that he was flying at the same time as Vic, just in case Vic wasn’t able to get himself to the airport on time and was now planning to stay at Vic’s house before going to Gatwick together the next morning.

Whilst Duncan and Victor had been off on Sunday in The Church, Nadine had been attending a girly reunion that Rachel had coordinated, ending up in Little Bay restaurant in Croydon. It was this affair that Victor and Duncan turned up to before going to pick up Duncan’s luggage for Holland.

“Hehe I lost Vic’s phone” said Duncan to Nadine, giggling. Vic was also giggling next to him. Nadine got angry with the pair. “So what have you done to try and find it?” she demanded. “Er” started Duncan. Rachel called Vic’s phone, a plan that somehow hadn’t occurred to either Duncan or Victor, and reached the taxi driver who had dropped them in Croydon; clearly the phone had dropped out of Duncan’s pocket in the cab. The taxi was now in Balham it would appear but the driver would bring the phone back out to Croydon for the taxi fare. Simple. As it turned out, Ya Ching had also called the phone and had got the taxi driver on the other end…

Duncan and Victor meanwhile were both sleeping at the table in the restaurant whilst the girls conversed around them and wrote messages of good luck on Victor’s back in permanent marker (Major Templecrest may yet be court-martialled for her part in this).

Anyhoo, Duncan and Victor escaped largely unscathed and headed back towards Redhill where Vic lives with his older brothers, Duncan complete with luggage for Holland. Somehow they managed to book a taxi for 5am the next morning and went upstairs to sleep off the partying.

The next morning, both Nadine and Alex woke Duncan and Victor up, clearly nobody had expected the dynamic duo to get to the airport on time… They both got the airport in time for their flights and parted ways as Vic crawled down cheap street to Easyjet and Duncan clambered into the luxury cocoon of leather that is BA.
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