I've told this story many times before, but never set it down in writing. I thought this was the time to change that.
The story is set in my Freshers' Week. The beginning of the week was your standard, run-of-the-mill Freshers' Week - roll up, unpack, meet housemates, find the bars, etc. I'd never been that much of a drinker before Uni, but I'd got drunk now and then. "But this is Freshers' Week," I thought. "Let's really go for it.". So I did.
And for the most part, this worked out fine. I passed the days with admin stuff and exploration of my new habitat, and my evenings with socialising and drinking. I found this a satisfactory state of affairs, on the whole. Until Wednesday.
It started like any other evening: me and several of my new friends installed ourselves in Woody's, our local watering-hole. The drinking commenced, and continued. In the hour leading up to last orders, I fell into the drinker's folly: the Withnail-style "More booze!" quest. Last orders rolled around, when my new friend Maike and I agreed to get a bottle of wine and go back to my place to split it.
My memory is hazy at this point, but we went back to mine and split it. This takes us up to about midnight. From then on I have a complete blank spot, with no idea what I did until 4AM, when I found myself sitting in a thornbush with no clue how I got there. I believe I was talking to the thornbush, which proved a little one-sided.
I sat there jibbering to the bush for a little while, before deciding that it would be a good idea to leave its company. I then struggled for around 10 minutes trying to leave the bush, which was hard - thorn bushes have thorns everywhere! Who'd have thought? Finding somewhere to put my hands that didn't result in them getting pierced proved to be impossible, so in the end I just forced myself to get stabbed as I clambered out.
So I left the bush, climbed over the small barbed-wire fence in front of me, and fought my way through the small patch of trees. I was then standing in a grassy field, lit dimly by moonlight. It did not look familiar. A helpful little voice in my head was audible, saying "Turn right - that's the way home.".
I ignored this voice, and turned left.
Leaving the field via a small prickly alleyway, I found myself confronted with a road. Again, disturbingly unfamiliar. My sense of direction is generally quite good, but it seems that when inebriated it bites the dust fairly quickly. I wandered off in the direction that I thought would leave me home. I covered quite a bit of ground, it turns out. After walking for about 20 minutes, I encountered 2 older women walking their dogs. The dogs are just a guess, as I have no recollection of them, either, but unless they were as drunk as I was there's no other explanation for them to be out that early.
I fell into the drinker's folly number 2: trying to seem more sober than I am. I think I startled them, as I was only in a T shirt and trousers, and covered with bleeding scratches, so my pretence of normality was fatally flawed.
"Excuse me, ladies, could you tell me whether this is the direction back towards Park Wood?"
"Erm, that's the bit of the University, isn't it? Are you alright?"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes... I'm fine. Parkwood's not really the University - it's a little bit outside of it, I think."
"Well, love, I'm not really sure, but I think it's back the way you came."
"Hmm. I think I'll continue on the way I'm going. Thank you, though!"
Having parted company with these slightly scared women, I wandered on a little further before coming across another small path. More thorns, more stinging nettles, and so on. My sense of direction temporarily returned to me, whispered "This way!" and disappeared again. I fought my way past nettles, brambles, mud, and darkness until I found myself standing on the edge of a plowed field. Again, completely unfamiliar. I needed backup.
Fumbling in my pockets brought my mobile phone to my hands. I paged through my address book for a saviour, a saviour at 6AM: Emma! At this point I still thought she was the most fantastic woman I'd ever met (thank you, alcohol!) so rescuing me from a field some 200 miles away from her should be easy.
"Nyeugghh..." "Emma, it's dark, it's 6AM, I'm drunk, I'm standing in a field... and I'm scared!"
"Eurrgh... Can you remember how you got there?"
"Go back the way you came."
"Hmm. Nah, I think I'll keep going this way."
"Alex, go back to the road, and back the way you came."
"I think I like this way more. Bye"
You know, someone called me stubborn the other day, and I didn't believe them? Anyway, I skirted around the edge of this field, terrified I was about to get both barrels of a shotgun from an angry farmer. I came to a small plank laid across a brook, and crossed it. I wandered up through a field, and came to a main road. Later reconnaissance showed that I passed through someone's back garden, but at the time this didn't concern me.
I crossed the road, and made my way into Blean Woods. I then wandered round there for an hour and a half. I did try and get to sleep on a stile, but it was too cold and I was shivering. I also tried to call Emma again, but my phone battery had died. Eventually I made my way out of the woods, and wandered back along the road. I asked some bin men which way it was back to the University, and they looked at me as if I were something they'd just scraped off their shoes. But they pointed me in the right direction.
I also stopped into a very posh school opposite the Uni, and got someone there to point me back in the right direction. I made it back to my new house, and went for my back pocket - the home of my housekeys. Nothing.
It was now 8:30AM; somewhere in the past 8 hours I'd lost my house keys. Standing there, trying to marshall my thoughts into a solution for this latest challenge, I heard a sweet, sweet sound from the window above me: The Microsoft Windows start-up sound. My housemate was awake!
"Martin..." I stage-whispered. "Martin!" I repeated. He briefly stuck his head out, disappeared, and seconds later the door was opened and he let me in. He was an absolute star - of course, my door was locked, so he took me up to his room and offered me tea. Somehow I managed to explain what had happened, and how I was without my keys. He'd clearly been paying more attention than I had, as he knew that the admin office was already open. I thanked him and wandered off into the breach once more.
I pulled off drinker's folly #2 a little more successfully, this time, and got a housekey out of the admin office without too much trouble. I guess Uni staff see this kind of stuff all the time. I wandered back to my room, tugged off my clothes, fell into bed and passed out until 3 in the afternoon.