I know. It was my own fault. I have only myself to blame. But the evening started out so innocently. In fact, it was practically cultural…
Billed as, “From the Baltics to the Danube: the finest traditional drinks from more than 10 countries, with authentic food, dance and more!”, the vodka party seemed the perfect way to pass a few tranquil hours in the company of friends. And since I’d declared myself too snuffly even to go to the gym, of course I’d take it easy and be tucked up in bed by 11 o’clock.
(There’s no point in raising your eyebrows. I really did think that. I did.)
Starting with a civilised recce of the stalls, I tried to work out the wisest way to use my tokens: Hungarian pálinka, Russian honey pepper vodka or Finnish Salmiakki?
In retrospect, the tone of the evening was set by my first choice: the Polish ‘mad dog’ – a fine blend of vodka, tabasco and raspberry syrup. Encouraged by the tipsy bartender, my girlfriend and I raised our glasses and downed the contents in the traditional way. De-licious!
With just one sniff of the barmaid’s apron, the atmosphere had become distinctly merry. Giggling, we looked around for next choice: bargain basement Romanian vodka? Lithuanian brandy?
Another shot or two later, and things were becoming rather raucous.
Since none of us is particularly well-known for their ability to hoover hard liquor, I suppose it was inevitable: not halfway into the evening, our normally mild-mannered gang had erupted into cackling laughter and extensive back-slapping. An hour later and we were weaving our way to the local nightclub, ready to groove with the best of them.
And that’s where I met unsuitable man #4.
Unhindered by my slightly impaired co-ordination, I was cutting a dash on the dancefloor when a vision of loveliness came smiling towards me. I watched his lips move as he spoke to me, but with the music pounding in my ears, he might as well have been speaking in tongues.
So I was still gazing at him with vague incomprehension when he leaned forwards and kissed me. Surprised, but undeterred, I decided to go with the flow.
After a few minutes, he disappeared and I carried on dancing.
Now, I’m not the sort of girl who would ordinarily snog a man she’s just met – my mother taught me better than that – but in the benevolent haze so generously bestowed by the Baltic’s finest, it would have seemed churlish to refuse.
When he came back again, I was polite enough to ask his name. But I never got to find out any more than that about Jez, because he started kissing me again.
The third time he came back, something told me to ask him his age.
Beaming at me with the face of an angel, he said proudly, “I’m twenty.” I had to recover my eyebrows from the back of my head. He looked young, but not that young.
“Jez,” I said. “I’m thirty-five!”
The delightful Jez shrugged his shoulders. And kissed me again.
I ask you, what’s a girl supposed to do?
When he returned for the last time, phone in hand, to ask for my number, I hesitated. Then I gave him my number, with the last two digits reversed.
Dear Jez, it was fun – and I can’t deny it was an ego-boost too. But let’s not do it again.