I had one of those moments last night. Hopefully other bloggers will recognise it. You know when you catch yourself in a moment? A rare moment of clarity when everything seems to make sense. You suddenly see it all so clearly.
And, of course, I wanted to put it down on paper while it was still fresh my in my mind. Except I couldn't. So this is almost a day later and hopefully my hazy head will recall enough and my tired limbs might just find enough energy to key it in.
As I mentioned I was on a stag do this weekend. It was superb. Organised expertly and in the relative civilisation of Keswick. Behaviour was as bawdy as it should be, but never crossed the line. In short our actions were befitting of a group of respectable thirtysomething males.
We kicked off with a fantastic quad bike session, followed by a meal and a pub then a club. I must admit I was struggling that night. Afternoon boozing has never agreed with me and a persistent headache meant I resorted to paracetamol to get me through.
The second day we attempted to clear the cobwebs with a short walk through the lovely countryside before retiring to a lakeside bar. Actually it was more of a tea room but in true Withnail and I fashion we managed to get the drinks in.
A couple more pints followed, then a curry and we had a quick rest at the house before going back out to the club.
It was that night that the moment of clarity arrived. I got that feeling that you get after a wedding. It's a kind of melancholia but in a positive sense. The feeling of "we've lost another good one, but the lad's happy, so we're happy", and you collectively inwardly digest the thoughts while smoking cigars in his honour.
There was a genuine end of an era feeling. All the trips we've made to night clubs all came back to me. All the brilliant times when, although we'd drunk too much, it was really life we were high on. All the times when, as much as we would have loved to catch a lady's eye, it was also pretty good to be a little group of blokes singing along to something funky and grinning like idiots.
I've called these times DGM's before (dopey grin moments). Last night was more of a LWNBTSA . Or in full, "life will never be the same again". And that is how it felt. A watershed, an end of an era. But, amongst all the nostalgia for the good times, it also felt right. Like we are all ready to do our own thing. We will always be there for each other but we also have the need to build our own lives and seek our own destinies.
Last night was also the first time when the enormity of what I am undertaking with VSO started to hit me. I felt, all of sudden, two years was such a long time and South Africa such a long way away. I never doubted my desire to do the job and to complete my stint, but there was a feeling of "wow". "This is big, and it isn't going to be easy."
But those feelings were viewed against the wider picture of what was happening in all our lives. In our own ways we were all making our choices and setting off on our journeys. The boozing and the clubbing was fantastic. But it was also hard work and there was a definite realisation that maybe our time had passed.
In a thoughtful moment, stood clutching a pint on a balcony overlooking the dance floor, I watched the bright young things. Earlier I had found myself unkindly thinking of them as small town airheads going wild on alcopops and crap tunes.
Later, as my thoughts cleared, it felt more like they were just the next generation and we were passing the baton on. Our time has been and gone. There will be more wild nights, more stags, more drunken behaviour. I have no doubt of that. But they will be the exception rather than the rule. And that's the way it should be.
So, in a couple of weeks single mate becomes married mate. The couple will be fine. Two lovely people who seem very happy with each other. I wish them all the luck in the world but I know they won't need it.
Then a few months after that I set off on my own, non-metaphorical, journey. Both journeys have the capacity to change us for ever. Both will mean that LWNBTSA and that is how life should be. Always changing, always evolving, always throwing up fresh challenges.
It was a brilliant stag, enjoyed in the company of a brilliant set of lads.
The wedding is going to be a blinder.
Love, light and peace,
I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.