November is a wily little month. As the cloak of darkness descends over early evening, we can make our excuses and wiggle out of all extra-curricular arrangements without reproach. I dare say it is the official month for flakes like me.
Everyone becomes a flake in November. Indeed, it is the only month when a text beginning, "Really sorry, but can we take a rain check?" is received with a fist pump and a resounding "YES!"
It's all too easy to cancel nocturnal adventures when there's a fire crackling in the front room. "Sorry, I'm dying"... to watch the Late Late in my pyjamas while eating chip butties.
It's nothing personal. We're animals -- we're supposed to be hibernating. Besides, we have to ready ourselves for the social whirl of December.
But alas, there are plans that are un-rain-checkable, plans that even seasoned flakes like me can't squirm our way out of.
These are the nights out that were planned well in advance. So far in advance that you can't actually recall making them. Allow me to backtrack.
I used to get a holistic massage every week or so during the summer. During one of these sessions I remarked that I would love to go to a heavy metal gig to gain, as I said, an anthropological understanding of the sub-culture. Or in simpler terms: a nosy.
The masseuse's response was to to step very calmly and very assuredly away from the massage table on which I was lying.
He took a deep breath before he began to speak in a hushed, reverential tone. "Do you want to come -- to the best trash metal band -- ever -- on the planet -- with me?" he asked unblinkingly.
"Sure," I answered, readjusting my towel and trying to keep a straight face. "When is it?"
"November 17," he replied at once. (This conversation took place in August).
"You're asking me to go to a gig that is taking place in three months?" I said incredulously. "That's a quarter of a year, you know. I don't even know what I'm doing tomorrow. Three months! I could be gay in three months."
Did I mention that the band are called Sodom? Neither did he, until the arrangement had been shook on and there was no turning back.
The night out was penned on a page in my diary that wasn't to be seen again until November. Or so I thought. God was obviously in a playful mood when an invitation to the hen night of an old, but very dear, friend arrived in my inbox. Naturally it was set for the very same day.
There are unwritten rules to flaking. You can't flake on somebody who you haven't been out with before; and you can't flake on somebody who you haven't seen in quite some time.
Besides, a 4pm pole dancing lesson with a group of women you've never met followed by a heavy metal gig in the company of someone you barely know is the ideal way to spend your weekend. Everyone knows that.
And sure the hen party was also a sleepover. Yeah! Sleepover! Roll on November 17, I thought, and on, and on, and on...
"I'll always think of you inside of my private thoughts," sang Toni Braxton, as I swiveled around the stripper's pole while trying to look elegant, athletic and disinterested at the same time.
I hadn't intended on taking this class seriously, but one of the hens, let's call her Snake Hips, had clearly been practising.
Her insanely long limbs spun around the pole with sylph-like ease. You're not the only one here who does Pilates, missy, I thought to myself. Her performance piece stirred my competitive spirit and I was soon trying to master the Firefly Spin with an almost maniacal determination.
I continued practising when the teacher called a break. While I shed blood, sweat and tears, the girls cracked open a bottle of prosecco and chatted among themselves...no doubt curious as to who the d***head (me) in the corner was.
"Oooh I get so high when I'm around you baby." purred Toni as I crashed to the ground for the 12th time. Once again, I blamed my dodgy knee, although I don't think anyone was actually listening at this point...
When the clock struck 8, I swapped the bubbles, giggles and glitter for the primordial soup of sweat, beer and testosterone. "Sodom, Sodom, Sodom," rallied the sea of black leather-wearing men, many of whom were sporting longer hair than me.
You've got to give it to metellars: their loyalty to the genre is unwavering, their enthusiasm relentless. It is a way of life from which there seems to be no turning back. I think it's fairly safe to conclude that heavy metal fans would never flake.
We positioned ourselves beside the speakers where I was aurally assaulted. I noticed some of the fans were wearing ear plugs. I mouthed to The Masseuse that I was concerned my ear drums might burst.
He didn't hear me because Sodom had kicked into a song called The Saw is the Law, or rather 'The Saw is the Laaaaaaaaaaw-euuuurggghh', according to the frontman.
Ah sure, what's a ruptured ear drum when you already have a dislocated knee and a fast dismantling identity, I thought. May as well roll with the punches at this point.
I was in good company. The crowd was convulsing to the music, their bodies seemingly controlled by the machine gun guitar riffs. Those at the front of the stage looked like the wretched trying to escape from the gates of hell.
It was primal; an introduction to Freud's id; an awakening of the inner savage. This was, in essence, a tribal gathering, and I couldn't wait to get home and put my slippers on. The Masseuse was disappointed, but frankly I couldn't have given a rat's ass.
The plan was to meet the girls in the nightclub that was adjoined to the hotel we were staying in after the gig. I can't tell you how happy I was to discover that they were already tucked up in bed eating Pringles.
And so I climbed into bed beside two women I had met but mere hours earlier. We discussed snoring; the pros and cons of sleeping in a bra and, of course, flakes. Hen parties and flakes go hand in hand.
One of the girls was of the opinion that all flakes will eventually have to pay their karmic debt. That seems accurate, I said, as I inspected my bruises and googled 'tinnitus symptoms' on my phone.
It's wonderful to meet new people and try new things, but this bizarre night out just made me really miss my friends. I'll never flake on them again.