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COLIN CAMPBELL: A tumultuous night as ‘Mad Friday’ grips city centre

By Colin Campbell

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Young people with glasses of champagne at Christmas party.
Young people with glasses of champagne at Christmas party.

A couple of miles away from me tomorrow’s traditional “Mad Friday” will overwhelm the city centre and generate a raucously inebriated din so loud and boisterous that the sound of it may roll across the Ness and rattle my back window.

Whatever your opinion of booze and excess, Mad Friday froths and fizzes with both. Many normally sane and sober people will drink more – maybe a lot more – than they would on any other day of the year and some who are distinctly partial to imbibing the Devil’s Buttermilk are liable to end up in a sorry state.

In the city centre by midnight valiant street pastors will have their work cut in lending assistance to those who are excessively tired and emotional. The police will be on patrol keeping an edgy eye on proceedings. And of course very many people packed into overflowing bars and clubs will just be having a great time.

It is a landmark day in the calendar and for better or for worse – no doubt on Saturday morning very much for worse – many people will just let go and enjoy it.

Serious hangovers, along with a generous measure of regret and recriminations, are as integral to the experience as overpriced cocktails and bleary-eyed bonding with a colleague you don’t speak to all year, but they’re tomorrow’s concern, and this Friday, maybe only once in the entire year, you live for today.

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Been there, done that, most older people will say as, like me, they settle down for a quiet and sober night in front of the telly.

Those nights which tended to spiral downward into a drunken, spinning haze – and no one surpassed an insatiably thirsty mix of journalists and printers when it came to quaffing oceans of booze on the staff day out before Christmas – were memorable, to the extent that you couldn’t remember much about them.

But these days I almost wonder how we survived the colossal intake of alcohol. There were no recommended “weekly limits” back then and no health warnings that anyone much listened to. Drink made you feel good, and the more of it you had, the better you felt. So it was more, more, more, even if you collapsed in a heap.

Some of today’s revellers will imbibe like lapsed-for-a-day teetotallers compared with the antics of their recklessly partying, no limits parents and grandparents back in the day. But in your 60s and beyond, your tolerance for alcohol plummets. A glass or two that would once have been an opening appetiser now makes you mellow, or dizzy. And more acutely the hangover deterrent effect changes from being merely uncomfortable and nauseous as it once was to becoming hideously ghastly and skin crawlingly extreme.

I’m genuinely scared of hangovers now, as are many others of my vintage. Even if for some reason you want to get blitzed you cannot through terror of the extreme suffering that would follow. Health experts will be delighted to hear that in your 60s and beyond a severe hangover is so awful that you feel you literally have drunk poison. So wildly excessive celebrations must belong to the past.

But there was a more youthful time which can still be remembered with a large measure of fondness. Now if I’m feeling a shade left out this Friday I’ll just open my back window at midnight and listen for that echo of frenzied celebration, which I once enjoyed to the fullest extent, rolling towards me across the river.

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