I have recently returned from a business trip to Naples. “Oooo check you; Naples is it; show off!” Well yes it was a decent few days and we got to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum but Naples was not what I thought. There was quite a difference between rich and poor. On the way to the hotel we drove past a shanty/ghetto town which was only a couple of streets away from tourist hotels and shops. It was strange to see this in a country renowned for style, couture fashion houses and renaissance art.

During the trip a colleague forwarded me a short story written by a friend about his memories and life growing up with the eponymous Stone Roses. The story was fantastic and was a mirror image of my own memories and introduction to what in my opinion is one of the greatest bands ever.

I can vividly remember going into Darlington town centre, 1990, with a friend into Court Arcade just off Skinnergate. Next to Ludi’s Joke Shop; where I spent many a happy hour purchasing fart spray, plastic dog doo’s and all manor of ‘blackening’ soaps, ‘snappy’ chewing gum and foaming blood capsules; resided a record shop. Due to the intervening years since I visited there, due to age, time and intoxicating substances I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called (if anyone from Darlington can remember that would be tremendous). I visited the shop with my friend Nick; he was a school year older than me and had been impressing me with talk of a new musical revolution called ‘Madchester’. As an impressionable 13 year old I was keen to find out more and hear this new musical scene. Immediately I was drawn to the 12 inch single cover, the Jackson Pollock inspired John Squire painting stood out among the Jive Bunny, Lisa Stansfield and Milli Vanilli single covers that haunted the UK singles chart in this transitional period between 80’s synth pop to dance orientated indie baggy guitar bands. The single was ‘Made Of Stone’ and it looked and sounded as good as I had hoped. My friend purchased Inspiral Carpets – She Comes In The Fall which also looked cool with its cow inspired psychedelic design. From that moment on I was hooked, I was baggy, I was re-born…..I was slightly deluded!

My next mission was the look. Every town in the UK as this time had a jean shop of the sort I am about to describe. Ours was called ‘Just a Fiver’ and later was to be known as ‘Jean Jungle’ or it might of been the other way round. As Vic Reeves is from Darlington I like to think he used this shop as inspiration for his Shooting Stars skit “Geordie Jeans; right tight round the arse!” Inside the denim emporium were housed thousands of jeans; Levi, Lee, Wrangler all of which were far too expensive and main stream for a wannabe raver. Nearer the back lived the prize possessions I sought. ‘Joe Bloggs’ and ‘Zeus’ jeans were the weapons of choice for discerning teenage youth. The jeans were as wide at the ankle as they were at the thigh and mine were washed out pale blue. To compliment this look I also acquired a t-shirt/hoodie which had a ‘paisley’ neck design very reminiscent of Ian Brown’s Paul Smith designed ‘Money’ t-shirt. I was cool. The hair soon followed and neat shortness was replaced bowl style shaggy locks. I was really cool. Footwear then arrived in the shape of some blue Adidas Gazelles. It’s ok I know you will now be having to have a sit down due to the coolness emanating from me through the media of blog. Darlington did not know what had hit it, hanging out round Binns (department store), Guru and Dressers had not seen anything like it.

Anyway I digress, back to Naples.

After two good days of meetings we had our final meal and drinks where it’s fair to say I may have partaken in one too many dizzy waters. Retiring to my hotel room late and having to get up at 7am for a flight home the enormity of my predicament began to unfold. I was drunk, I had the beginnings of a headache, I had no water and was unsure of the protocol in drinking tap water. A brief drunken fumble (easy!) on my Ipad revealed no relevant info on whether I should or should not. I figured I could handle a hangover but not D & V so I decided not to have any water. Idiot. I packed my bag, of a fashion and retired gracefully to bedfordshire.

I awoke at 7am. Over my right eye I had what felt like a nail sticking in it, on closer inspection I was nail clear but but not pain free. Had I banged my head? Concussion? Skull fracture? As I came round I remembered; oh yeah, hangover. I got out of bed stumbled into the bathroom and surveyed the figure before me in the mirror. My hair was a 360 degree matt of points. The paleness of my skin and bags under my eyes only helped to highlight the redness of my pupils. I was in trouble. I took some headache tablets and fairly quickly brought them back up. How could I re-hydrate myself with no water to drink – easy; long shower and my body would fulfill this obligation through osmosis. Didn’t work. I was beginning to get the fear. Right come on get it together, stages: Stage One – leave room and check out, Stage Two – Bus to Airport, Stage Three – Check In at Airport, Stage Four – Fly, Stage Five – Drive 4 hrs home……the fear increased.

Stage One, Two and Three went as well as could be expected. I had some sick, sweated, panicked and doubted my own ability to cope but I made it to boarding. I had begun to feel better and had at least managed to drink a Powerade and converse with some work colleagues. The flight would be ok, I would sleep and I would be back home before I knew it. Things were looking up and I began to regain control, I even inspected a gentleman’s outfitters in Naples Airport full of tweed, brogues and waistcoats. I boarded the plane and strapped myself in and readied for the exhilaration of take-off.

The engines roared and strained and we thundered down the runway and left Italy behind. As we climbed I felt something twinge in my stomach and then again. I repositioned myself in the seat and tried to get on with the more important business of completing a decent round on Tiger Woods Golf. At around 25,000 ft and 15mins into the flight, I suddenly felt very unwell. I calmly got out of my seat and walked to the back of the plane to the toilet. I spent the next 10mins talking to God and feeling very sorry for myself. I came out of the toilet and came face to face with a cabin crew member called Lee.

“Are you feeling unwell?” asked Lee sympathetically.

“Yes.” I murmured.

“Have you been sick?”

“Yes.”

“Is it a hangover?”

“Yes.” I whimpered, looking forlorn and helpless like a worm on the pavement, “Is it ok if I stand here for a bit?”

Lee said it was fine and he handed me a bottle of water with strict instructions to take small sips. Very soon standing became an issue so a squatted down, then sat on the floor, then kind of slumped in the corner. Then I discovered there was a flip down seat used by the cabin crew and so I flipped and sat. Sitting then became an issue and a quick visit back to the toilet ensured I got rid of any excess water I had managed to keep on board in the last 5 mins.

Word quickly spread through my work colleagues that I was in a slightly bad way. One by one they came to see me offering me advice and telling me I didn’t look good. My chameleon impression went down very well with the transition between white and green being almost instantaneous. Things were bad. With 1.5 hours of flying still to go I began to get the fear badly. I needed to get out, I could not cope with this feeling any longer it was without any doubt the worst hangover I could remember. EasyJet Lee reassured me that hangovers were indeed much worse on a plane due to the altitude and cabin pressure and he assured me that I would never do it again. More helpful advice. The next hour passed slowly. Trips to the toilet and back kept me entertained, as entertaining as that can be. I thought about worse things I could be doing like a 24hr X-Factor Marathon or pulling my own toe nails off with pliers.

Lee had given up with the water and was nursing me better with Ginger Ale, smiles and ‘campness’. On one occasion he returned from a drinks run asking if I wanted a “Greasy bacon sandwich?!?”. I reached out and tapped Lee on the wrist and said, “Oh Lee I think we both know that’s not a good idea!” The campness was catching I didn’t have long! This led me to think about whether hangovers can cause campness? Results to follow…

The last 30mins passed uneventfully, I could see the end and had in fact began to feel normal. We landed and with the seatbelt light off I got up to get my bag. I walked again to the back of the plane to debark and Lee was stood offering his regards and farewell wishes. I approached Lee and he put out his hand. I bypassed his hand and gave him a hug. Lee was my knight in orange armour, my Florence Nightingale, my EasyJet ‘Chatty Man’ and I was very grateful he had got me home!

The lesson to be learnt here boys and girls is not to fly with a hangover. It is an horrific, fear inducing, tear jerking, body twerking experience (for the record there was no twerking between myself and Lee on the flight). It really is not worth it and two days after I am still recovering. Big thanks to Lee and EasyJet and I am sorry for taking up your precious cabin space with my languid and pitiful form.

Keep it unreal

Ben

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