Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Hen Night

The sound of a loud wolf whistle and the neighing of a stallion followed by the honking of a horn sent a startled look across Kathryn’s face, and she dashed to the window of her apartment.

There parked outside, fifteens minutes early, was a Karma Kar. A cream-coloured Ambassador, modelled on the old British Morris Oxford, a symbol of India, decorated with flowers on the bumpers and sequins, tassels and joss sticks inside. The Indonesian driver grinning from ear to ear shouted apologies for his early arrival. Downing the dregs of our champagne glasses and grabbing our bags, we went out to investigate.

Like all the events of the evening, it was a complete surprise to Kathryn. Her bridesmaids, Louise and Carla, had organised everything. As we settled in, Sar, the driver played calming Indian music. The journey was far from calm. He drove around the posh part of London for an hour honking, whistling and neighing at passers by. Some looked incredulous, others waved and smiled turning their heads in disbelief. A lone man walking down a quiet road hearing the loud neighing of a horse behind him turned round with a look of terror on his face, which turned to laughter when he realised there wasn’t a stampeding stallion behind him.

Waving the pink feather boa, a hen present from me, out of the window, Kathryn couldn’t stop giggling. A sudden wind blew it out of her hands, and we watched as it rose floating above the vehicles to our rear. In the middle of London’s traffic Sar stopped the car and ran down the road chasing the feathers, which kept blowing further and further out of his reach. Impatient drivers honked at us as Sar ran back grinning with the rescued pink feathers wrapped around his neck.

Our stomachs ached with laughter as we pulled up at the London Hilton where we had photographs taken with the men in top hats, who were as amused as we were with the Karma Kar.

On the 29th floor, with panoramic views of London, we were joined by the other hens who had travelled from locations all over the city: Kathryn’s friends, some who I’d never met before smiling and chatting and sipping champagne.

Secretly departing hens left to decorate our next venue, a privately hired karaoke room in the West End. On the lift down a man gave Kathryn a bunch of flowers, and Joyce and I a single flower. I’m not sure if he was part of the show or just a kind stranger.

Showers of confetti, streamers and balloons greeted Kathryn on her arrival at the karaoke. Her friends had bought her tokens and gave short speeches about what Kathryn meant to them. Listening to her sing a song in Japanese, I felt so proud, and so happy that she'd invited me. How lovely her friends were. But when her song ended the scrum for the microphone from these polite professional young women left me speechless. I’ve never seen such karaoke enthusiasts, belting out everything from Madonna's Like a Virgin to The Spice Girls Wannabe, shaking maracas and tambourines or wearing crazy hats supplied by the club. I sang Norwegian Wood with Carla’s mum. Jayne, after much persuasion, sang La Bamba with Alex. After that we didn’t get a look in.

The club where we finished the night, Funk, was packed with young trendies, dancing to house music. The pink feather boa, matching silk devil horns headband and ‘bride’ wand were passed around necks and shoulders from dancer to dancer. Bodies gyrating to the beat of the DJ’s sound. Spookily the hens surprised Kathryn by holding blown up photos of Aaron in front of their faces as they danced. A singleton hen disappeared with a tall, handsome, dread locked black guy. Jayne and I, a little drunk, sat on large sofas people watching, wishing we were twenty again. A gay man, who introduced himself as ‘the only gay in the village’ admired Jayne’s waist length blond hair asking if it was extensions. She assured him it was the real thing and she’d worn it like that since the sixties.

Reminiscing about our own hen nights, mine at the Blue Lagoon, a club by the docks, full of drunken Dutch sailors, and Jayne’s at the Regency, the first club in our town to have a gambling licence, I thought what a different world Kathryn lives in.

Funk was the sort of place Jon would like, but perhaps a lot tamer than the places he knew - in his other life. A life he never shared with us. He’s always there. No matter what I do. A presence so strong, sometimes, I can feel him in the room.

Outside at 3.30am new additions to London’s transport system, rickshaws and tup-tups bustled around touting for business from clubbers spilling out onto the kerb, laughing, falling over, clinging on to each other, kissing, singing, drunk or sober.

With goodbyes, thankyous, hugs and see you at the wedding, the hen party split. Kathryn lolled in the back of the taxi, the now tatty looking feather boa around her neck. The horns and wand long disappeared with the dancers.

“I can remember everything,” she said proudly. “It’s my hen and I can remember it all.”

"See you at the wedding!" we shouted out of the window, as the taxi negotiated its way through the crowd.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

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