Café Sol in Clapham was an old haunt of mine when I used to work in the area. In fact it was a Friday night mainstay for about a quarter of the company. A Tex-Mex restaurant by day and evening, the tables vanished as it got later and it became a lively and crowded late-night cheesy dancing hovel.
Among Café Sol’s unique selling points was the fact they only had one CD of music, which was played till late, every night without fail. I replicated the soundtrack at home, downloading the tracks and putting them in order. In fact I probably should stick it on while writing this …… OK done.
Some excerpts from this reliable-as-clockwork and random-as-fuck playlist include:
Sugar Baby Love – The Rubettes
Reach – S Club 7
Build Me Up Buttercup – The Temptations
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Andy Williams
Whole Again – Atomic Kitten
I think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany
Toxic – Britney Spears
Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
ABBAMania – 90s medley by Steps, Billie Piper, Cleopatra, B*Witched and others
Hey Mickey – Toni Basil
World Of Our Own – Westlife
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
and the evening always ended with…
New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
at which point the lights would go up and everyone would be kicked out.
The order of the songs never changed, and the songs never changed, in the two years I was going there. I still to this day cannot hear one of these songs without hearing the opening bars of the next song in the sequence at the end. Café Sol was open till 2am on Fridays and it was inevitably where we all ended up after post-work drinks. By the time the final song came on, everyone would be shit-faced, kicking their legs to the lyrics and spilling drinks over each other. Then it was time to go to the kebab shop and get the nightbus. We were creatures of habit.
Incidentally, is it just me that assumed the song Hey Mickey was about anal sex? “So come on and give it to me anyway you can. Anyway you wanna do it, I’ll take it like a man.” Anyway…
My drink of choice in Café Sol was the Blue Shark.
A lethal mix of neat tequila, gin or vodka (it was random and I fucking hate gin) and Blue Curaçao, it wasn’t just heavily alcoholic and disgusting, it was also extremely messy and very difficult to keep in the glass in a dancing venue.
Many of the drunkest nights I ever had were fuelled by several hours of gayly sipping this filthy cocktail, whilst dancing to the usual Café Sol shitpop.
On one such evening, I’d had the inexplicable fucking stupidity to wear a new and rather expensive white shirt, which of course by the end of the night was a mostly blue shirt. I had gotten extremely drunk – bizarre given how much of the alcohol was actually on rather than in my body. I’d decided to walk home to try to sober up, and also in case there was some blue vomit on the way which might soil the nightbus. I lived about a 45 minute walk from Café Sol, in Tooting.
I got three quarters of the way home – it’s basically one long straight road – and had very little recollection of the journey but decided to try to find a shortcut for the remainder. Planning out a new route in my cocktail-addled head, based entirely on “where places must surely be” in relation to my current position and my flat, I set of on a detour bound to save me precious minutes.
Thirty precious minutes later I had no fucking clue where I was. Yes, I had managed to get lost in the very vicinity of the flat I’d spent years living in. Where I had imagined handy side streets and wily shortcuts, I instead had found dead ends, gates and fences, and cunningly wound roads which would take me massively off track.
I tried to get my bearings by looking for familiar street names, but I couldn’t focus on anything – my vision was so blurry. I must have wandered round for about an hour. It started to get light, and finally in the distance I saw the blurry movements of a main road. I headed there, to find I was about 2 minutes further towards home than I had been before I took the shortcut. I stuck to the main road, and went home my normal way.
It was about 5am when I arrived, my head still thumping from the tacky music and the Blue Sharks, my vision all fuzzy, and my shirt looking like a street artist had painted a piece on it called “Clapham Sky On A Clear Day”. I immediately rushed to the bathroom – not to vomit, I took care of that about 60 metres along Balham High Road – but to take out my weary contact lenses.
I was fairly new to contacts, and one of the downsides was how they dried out if I left them in too long. They’d been in nearly 24 hours so I prepared for a struggle taking them out.
For about 20 minutes I scraped and scraped my right eye trying to get a purchase on the first lens. I squirted solution in my eye, was blinking like a nervous rapist, but still couldn’t quite get it. It was stubborn.
By now my eye was red raw, so I switched to the left one. Stubborn also, but after a few rinses it started tearing off my eyeball. As it came off my vision went completely blurry. It was then that it dawned on me. There had been no contact lens in my right eye the whole time. It must have fallen out.
Suddenly I started to realise why I’d found it so easy to get lost and so difficult to read the street signs…
I collapsed into bed, tossing my new white shirt onto my mounting pile of ruined blue-stained clothes.
I woke up Saturday afternoon almost completely unable to move. Oh what the fuck now. I literally had to drag myself out of bed by holding onto furniture and pulling. There were some strange dark shaped blotches on my, er, finely chiselled torso. Looked like I had bruised my ribs. But how?
Much of the journey home was a complete unknown to me, but clearly I had sustained an impact of some kind, which had bruised my ribs and been hard enough to knock out one of my contact lenses. I don’t know for sure, but just for the purposes of irony I like to think it might have been the nightbus…
I was in pain for some weeks but it cleared up in time for the summer. Working in an office at the edge of Clapham Common meant summer sporting shenanigans during our lunchbreaks and after work. I was finally fit and able to take part. My colleagues had arranged some Frisbee on the common one evening – surely a sport that even the likes of me could participate in without being humiliated.
Back in those days I was much fitter, and used to run round Clapham Common twice each lunchtime, it’s about 5 miles or something in total. One time I even ran round three times. This was unwise, but necessary as just as I was about to break off and head back to the office a very cute summer jogging honey appeared behind me. Misplaced and foolish masculine pride meant I didn’t want to quit and collapse in a heap on the grass in front of her, so I kept going. She was also faster than me. So whereas my own speed had been dwindling on the second circuit, now I was on the third I was forced to keep ahead of this fresh young thing as she ran what was probably going to be a single sprint around the park. Thankfully it was just one circuit and as she left I headed back to work, barely able to breathe or feel my legs. I fainted in the bathroom at work while getting changed…
Anyway I was all set for Frisbee and sure to excel at this most manly of sport. I expected many of the company’s female staff to be cheering me on as I romped to victory. Sadly I wasn’t quite as good as I expected, which I thoroughly and wholeheartedly blamed on inconsistent wind speed and direction, but I was doing OK given my recent injury.
I saw a chance to shine when I had a clear opportunity to make a quite ambitious jump and catch the Frisbee, and no doubt win some points for my team. To be honest I don’t even know if there were points. Or teams. I was just trying to catch stuff in the hope I’d get to throw it again then it wouldn’t be my problem.
I made a running jump for the soaring Frisbee and managed to snatch it in mid-air. Unfortunately a colleague was also going for the same catch, albeit with a slightly different technique. Where I had leapt, he had just charged and his muscular frame, specifically the shoulder he was charging with, smashed right into my weedy fragile accident-waiting-to-happen chest. I still kept hold of the Frisbee as I fell – seemingly in two separate pieces – to the ground. It would be over an hour before I stood up again.
The ribs that had been bruised during the evening of Blue Sharking, local orienteering and eyeball-scraping were now thoroughly fractured. I would go on to spend the next couple of months hobbling around, dragging my limp broken body from place to place and occasionally vomiting blood.
My nights of dancing to Michael Jackson, Toni Basil and Frank Sinatra in Café Sol had to be put on hold, and I was less likely to be singing Hey Mickey as I was to be begging “slip me a mickey for the pain”.
It did of course serve me with an interesting double-edged anecdote when future dates would ask me if I did any sports, only for me to regale them with the story of my great sporting injury, caused by playing Frisbee in the park…