There's a Futurama quote for every situation and on Valentine's Day I generally go with "Aw crap, I forgot to get a girlfriend again".
Friday 13th February I was at Jongleurs in Southampton with friends from work. It had been far too long since I last had a proper night out to drink and this was the first genuine social event with my fellow graduate intake and also my first visit to Southampton (though like all cities, it was difficult to make sense of at night). The comedians were pretty amusing folks although if I'm honest I was slightly put off by the amount of mileage each one got out of teasing or in some cases outright insulting the front row of the audience. I mean, on the one hand you play to your audience and do what seems to be working, but on the other hand there were four different guys on the stage and obviously neither of them had watched the previous acts because we trod that ground four times. Is this standing operating procedure in stand-up comedy? I call it unimaginative. Afterwards I got so drunk that I began to dance - which, if you don't know me, is an eye-poppingly monocle-droppingly rare occurrence - and crashed on friend Doug's spare bed. In the morning the weather was brisk and sunny - I eschewed buses or taxis and walked back down Shirley high street which is the longest, straightest road I've seen in the urban UK, enjoying the weather. Strolled through daytime Southampton for the first time and hit the comic shop on the way to the station-- there is no comic shop in Winchester.
I got home, had my lunch and did some shopping (Sainsbury's is still a one-hour round trip from me, or was at the time) and it was still only Saturday afternoon. That afternoon, evening and night was a singles-only nodermeet at friend E's new flat in London (she'd been commuting from Newmarket up until now, a distance so insane it made me exhausted just to think about), where we drank beer, watched gory movies, spilled wine on the carpet and offered each other dates (the fruit, not the social engagement). Pancakes and The West Wing in the morning. E cooks like an indentured professional. If there is a life lesson I have learned, it is to hold on to the people who cook.
Friday 20th February I didn't go home, instead heading straight to the station to catch the train to Cambridge to collect my MA, which is what a BA metamorphoses into if you manage to spend three years and one term after graduation without dying or committing high treason. My parents turned up to take photographs of me though I don't think I look too good in the formal wear and the academic square (mortar board) I rented looked ridiculous on my head so I ended up stashing it and not wearing it for the ceremony - wasted cash. Chris, still doing his PhD at a flat mere minutes' walk from the station, put me up for Friday and Saturday night on a folding sofabed bigger than the single I'm sleeping on daily at the moment. He and his long-term girlfriend Jenny have His And Her Circumstances in anime and manga form - the latter is a better choice. I have previously watched the entire anime series and the ending is, if anything, more infuriating than that of Neon Genesis Evangelion. There is no ending. It is just as if they wanted to make a 52-episode series and ran out of money at 26 and didn't do anything about it. It's about as much fun as a punch in the stomach. On Saturday afternoon, after the ceremony (exactly the same as the BA ceremony, including the kneeling, bowing, and tugging the Praelector's finger) I and most of my friends from my year had dinner at a nice place whose name I forget and then retired to Rob's offices in King's Parade for booze and proper catching up.
I've gone off the whole "spirits" idea - I can still drink vodka provided it's mixed with something which masks its taste, but I've never been able to stand the taste of, say, gin and to be honest I prefer beer. It transpired that the apple juice was not cloudy but merely two months past its date - the cloud was mould. Eurgh.
Friday 27th February I took off work so I could head up to Nottingham to scout around cars with motoring knowledge touchstone Dave R, a friend of the family. Dave is older than my dad and retired; he knows everything and I needed the expertise, as well as his car, without which I had no way of visiting second-hand dealers by myself, either in Winchester or in Nottingham. We traced an erratic route back from the station towards the ancestral home in Gedling, visiting eight or nine different places on the way. A few possibilities arose but I eventually shook hands on a low-mileage 2003 Vauxhall Corsa after Dave gave it his approval. I stayed with the parents (who have had the whole house to themselves for months, now that my brother's at university), figured out insurance overnight (which was so expensive it, again, felt like getting punched in the stomach), and drove the car back to Winchester on Saturday.
It's a wimpy car, barely 1 litre engine, probably couldn't break 75mph with the hammer down. I was shopping for reliability and legroom, not engine size, though, and I suppose it keeps it in a lower insurance bracket. I'm a law-abiding, speed-limit-abiding driver, anyway. My main concern is my lack of confidence. Up until Saturday 28th February I simply haven't driven a car without a knowledgeable driver in the passenger seat, ever. I'm still worried about my inability to reverse park confidently. Night driving, rain driving, driving without instructions, driving without knowing exactly where I'm going - these are things I have no experience with. Parking up at work is a pain because I'm used to lining myself up with the bay markings, and the bays at work just have the smallest T-shaped paint dashes at the corners - you open your door to check and you see blank asphalt. You have to get out and walk away from the car to have any idea.
I guess experience doesn't come from just sitting indoors worrying about it, though.