9am. On a Friday somewhere or anywhere in England, a piping-hot day good for a round of golf or any sport except perhaps skiing, five young men meet – five twenty-somethings and nothings for whom this day means everything. It’s been planned for weeks, ever since Tim heard some guys at the Golf Club talking about the idea of “doing the eighteen holes”, having a drink in each pub, the 19th being a club where they’d see who was still standing.
So here they are, our eponymous Five, at the Wetherspoons which used to be a wonderful Art Deco cinema and now shows only horror movies, for a full English breakfast and a pint of Theakston’s. They’re in the beer garden because one of them smokes and their shirts are already off.
9.30am. Let’s introduce the band who are by now on their second pint: the aforementioned Tim, an already minted estate agent who plays golf as he thinks befits his status but isn’t any good. He’s handsome, ripped, something of a ladies’ man. Andy has been his friend since they were four, went to the same school, but hasn’t done quite so well. He’s a painter and decorator, earning quite well and despite his boisterousness and ebullience he’s very quiet when it comes to buying a round. The parsimonious type, let’s say. Wilko is the hardcase with a conviction to fight and convictions under his belt. He has a roving eye but is besotted with his girlfriend Sally, who is pregnant as we speak. Dan is regrettably fat and unfortunately unemployed. An all-round gent and good friend to all is Dan, so good that they’ll all except Andy be subbing his day because his company is priceless. And finally to make up the five, we have Phil – a good sort too, wouldn’t say boo to the goose.
10am. Bellies already full, the five descend on another pub, Sizzlers, which calls itself a gastro pub on account of serving coffee and coissants and opening its doors early, but where they have to put their shirts back on to get in. Over their third pint, this time over-priced lager, they discuss where they’re at with their lives, including an in-depth exploration as to where Dan might find a job. As ludicrous ideas such as stripping are mooted and provoke laughter, it’s clear to all that these are very close friends. But naturally on this “pub golf” it’s par for the course that there are subtexts, particularly the rivalry between Tim and Wilko which could at any time rise to the surface like gas in a just-poured pint. But at this early hour and when everyone is convivial, that’s left to settle for now.
11am. The third hole as the five arrive at The Lion just as its doors are opened to the public. No gastro pub this, just a spit and sawdust boozer which Dan prefers, being something of a beer monster. He goes for a pint of Timothy Taylor’s at this juncture, while the others stay on lager, Amstel being the one of choice. They’re still laughing and joking, this time at Andy’s expense because he’s dodged his round. All good fun and banter.
Noon. The fourth hole is The Victoria Hotel that does “quality beers and food”, both of which have dubious quality. The five will have their fifth pint but skip the food, though Dan is feeling privately peckish. By 1230 they’re ready to move on, but a group of girls have finished work early and come for lunch so it might be worth their while, Tim decides, to get another round in. All eyes look to Andy, who decides he needs to break the seal and heads for the gents.
1300. Seven pints by now, which they all agree is some going. They’ve moved to the table adjacent to the girls who knocked off work early and eating food accompanied by Prosecco, which is the in-thing. Tim is already in conversation with the best-looking of the four, in his mind getting somewhere but oblivious to the fact that this will get him nowhere. At the bar he told the barman to fetch another bucket of ice for the second bottle of Prosecco that he didn’t even ask if the girls wanted. On him, he says, and they thank him politely, knowing they wouldn’t finish the second bottle as it would give off the wrong message.
1330. The girls have gone, so Andy helps himself to the Prosecco they left behind. Another round has been ordered and to be honest, they say, they don’t know how many that makes it – seven, eight, nine? There follows a discussion about who’s bought rounds and where, which leads to the inevitable daggers at Andy, whose arse turns into a walnut out of sheer terror that his round is next.
1400. The Albert’s Tap, where Wilko takes the piss out of Tim for not pulling the girls in the Victoria Hotel. Tim’s ego is bruised, but he promises that come the time they get to the club he’ll be the one with a woman on his arm. At this point the simmering tensions are visible to Dan, Andy and Phil, who roll eyes at each other as if to say “Here we go again.” What they don’t know is that four weeks ago, Tim fucked Wilko’s girlfriend Sally, and Wilko knows this but Tim doesn’t know that Wilko knows this. It’s as confusing as their minds are now becoming.
1500. Phil skips a drink in The Barrel, he feels it’s time for a breather and maybe they should think about getting something to eat. Dan agrees while Tim, Wilko and Andy prefer their sustenance to be hydraulic. At last, Andy has been forced to put his hand in his pocket and will spend the rest of the afternoon doing mental arithmetic.
1600. Dan and Phil are outside The Slug and Lettuce eating a burger, while Andy, Tim and Wilko are at the bar. The tension between Tim and Wilko is fermenting slightly, but displaced while they take the piss out of Andy for his receding hairline, probably down to the fact he’s just forked out for a round. At this stage, the word bollocks is to be heard often.
1700. Phil and Dan have rejoined the party at All Bar One, another trendy joint that Dan wouldn’t automatically go for but it’s on the course that golfer Tim mapped out. Wilko has taken his drink outside because he’s the smoker and he’s getting sick of Tim’s smarmy chat-up lines. He smokes roll-ups and would normally roll with the precision of origami, but ten pints or so takes its toll in ambidexterity.
1800. The number of watering holes they’ve darkened the doors of is by now frankly vague; only Tim is able to tell them The Wheatsheaf is number eight on his score card. Here, they have a pint of Hofmeister which is on offer, but Phil is considering going on shorts because he’s bloated with that burger. Dan isn’t bloated; if he had any money he’d be ready for chips, but would have to go hungry for now because he doesn’t want to take the piss in terms of his friends’ hospitality.
1830. In the Union there are signs that the night-time trade is on its way. The evening is kind of revving up with the first Friday night roistering males arriving. Tim knows the females won’t be far behind, bus-loads of them from all over, hen nights mostly. He says by 8pm they’ll be really getting going, but Wilko reckons he’s dreaming as usual. Tim tells him he’s not a dreamer he’s a romantic. Wilko feels inwardly sick as he pictures Tim at it with his girlfriend Sally. The others roll their eyes again and Phil tells them to cool it, the beer is beginning to talk.
1900. Tim was right, the women are arriving and in The Talisman he’s got his eye on a blonde with short skirt, nice legs and big tits.
1930. How many pubs is that? Nobody seems to know.
2000. Tim would like to have a bash at the couple of girls he saw in The Talisman. They’ve followed the five to The Angel so that’s a good sign in his book. Wilko reckons it’s a co-incidence, which doesn’t stop Tim introducing himself to the girls.
2030. At The Queen’s Head they’re having a bit of a laugh at Tim’s expense because he got blown out. But the irrepressible Tim counters that the girls told him they were going to The Wonky Club after last orders, a sure sign they’ll be up for it. On his score card it says Pacino’s but he thinks he’ll change his choice of club. Wilko reckons he’s breaking the rules and he’s a turncoat, a subtext lost on the others.
In a pub called The Orchard which used to have an orchard that’s now been built on, the five have no idea what time it is, even Tim. Phil’s been on shorts for the last couple of hours but is still struggling to keep up with the pace. Dan’s now starving and says so but nobody takes the bait. Andy’s gone quiet because he knows it’s his round next. And Tim’s beginning to get on Wilko’s tits.
By the time they get to The Glass and Bottle none of them knows it’s ten o’clock, just one hour to go before they chance their arm at Pacino’s where none of them are members. The Glass and Bottle is full, packed to the rim with twenty-something and nothings of all shapes, sizes and degrees of drunkenness. This place doubles as a club, it thinks, because it has a dance-floor and a late licence and someone stood behind a mixing desk nodding incessantly to his tunes with one hand over his ear. Phil’s secretly ready to get a taxi home because he’s got a headache, Dan’s saying he favours a curry over a nightclub, Andy’s counting the cost of that round and complaining it’s always his turn when they get to expensive places, Tim’s spotted the girls he hit on earlier and Wilko’s in the toilet, pissing fiercely and thinking Tim deserves a smack in the mouth for what he did to him.
On the steps of Pacino’s it’s largely a dogfight and Andy worries they’re not going to get in because the bouncers have already turned one lad away for wearing sandals. Tim tells him it’ll be a doddle as long as they let him do the talking. Wilko calls him a gobshite. Dan’s resigned to going hungry and Phil’s been talked out of getting an early taxi home. His head is still banging.
By midnight the lads have made it past the bouncers and Andy’s saying this had better be good if they’re charging a tenner to get in. Tim’s telling them he told them they’d get in if he did the talking. Wilko calls him a gobshite again and this time Tim bites back and asks what’s his problem. Wilko’s about to answer but Phil stands between them and says one of the bouncers is eyeballing them so cool it. Dan’s not there at this moment, he’s in the toilets where the burger he ate too fast is coming back up.
1am. To Phil’s relief, Tim’s left Wilko alone at the bar, nursing his drink and resentment, and gone to dance with one of the girls. He thinks he’s getting somewhere and isn’t, but he’s prepared to put in the work. Andy’s trying his luck with a blonde who asks him to buy her a shot because they’re on offer at five for a fiver. Andy backs off because no girl’s worth that much. Dan’s out of the toilets now, feeling much better and on the dance floor. He’s the fattest of the five but can throw shapes, and to Tim’s chagrin he’s already got a harem of dancers dancing around him and their clutch-bags.
1.30am Wilko’s pissed-off because the bouncers won’t let him out for a smoke. Tensions are brewing and Phil ushers him away. Meanwhile Tim’s heading out with one of the girls and throws them a look, the look which says he’s scored and in half an hour he’ll be in her pants.
What follows is something of a melee and to cut a long story short, Wilko calls Tim a smug bastard and takes a swing, Tim hits him back and Phil and Andy move in to try and break it up but the bouncers get there first and it’s chaos as it all comes tumbling out about Tim fucking Wilko’s girlfriend which is news to Phil and Andy but lost amid the brawl. Tim and Wilko are scrapping underneath the bouncers who’ve radioed for reinforcements and as Phil tries to tell them it’s something and nothing no need for coming in mob-handed he gets a smack in the jaw which knocks him out and an ambulance is called as Tim and Wilko are forcibly removed from the premises… Dan is nowhere to be seen.
The following morning, Sally asks Wilko if he had a nice time and he reluctantly tells her he had it out with Tim and she says it was a mistake and she thought they’d been through this and agreed that nothing more would be said, and he’s definitely the father of the baby she’s carrying, how many more times? But Wilko argues he couldn’t help it, it’s been festering and every time he looked at Tim he just wanted to smack him in the mouth and he’d been winding him up all day. Tim goes for a round of golf to get it all out of his system, vowing to never speak to Wilko again, that’s the last time he’ll organise an all-dayer with that wanker. Phil wakes up in hospital full of drugs and disbelief. Andy’s at home counting the change that fell out of his jeans on the bedroom floor and wondering how much he spent last night. And Dan, the fattest and luckiest of the five, wakes up in bed with two of the girls he danced with.
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