I don’t get out much, these days. Working long hours, small children… you know the score.
In fact, the last ‘local’ I had was the Duke of Wellington in Norton which closed down and was converted into a house about, ooh… 10 years ago.
But on Saturday I rolled back the years and returned to my old stomping ground for a night out with ‘the lads’.
It knew I was in for a good time because, as I drove to my parents’ house to cadge a lift, I flicked on the radio to listen to some music – something a dedicated news and sport listener like me would never normally do.
And the first song I heard?
The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy…
‘Guess who just got back today,
Those wild-eyed boys who have been away,
Haven’t changed, haven’t much to say…’
Genius. Game on, I thought.
There was a time when every Christmas I would lead a group of my school and college mates on a pub crawl around Newcastle.
We chose ’Castle, of course, because bitter experience had taught us that Hanley was rougher and we were much more likely to get into a scuffle there with boozed-up boneheads.
In an age when weekends away in Dublin are the norm, I suppose our Christmas dos would now seem fairly tame.
But, to us, it was the highlight of the year.
In those days Ritzy was the nightclub of choice – a place where we could shoe-gaze the night away to The Smiths, The Stone Roses, James and The Levellers et al.
But long before we hit the dancefloor our evenings would begin with a rendezvous at The Old Brown Jug.
And so it was to that fine establishment that 10 of us returned on Saturday.
Three of the original gang couldn’t make it (shame on you), but I was still pleased with the turnout – given the fact that getting some of the boys out for the night is like pulling teeth these days.
I was delighted to see that the wooden-floored Jug hadn’t changed much – except that the clientele looked a lot older than I remembered.
Then I glanced around at my chums. What a motley crew. Grey hair, no hair, spectacles and more than enough nominated drivers.
Then there was yours truly weighing two stone more than I had the last time I propped up that bar and sporting my ridiculous panto beard.
Suddenly I felt very old.
Happily, the time flew because despite the receding hair lines and sensible clothing these boys are still my heroes. After all, they wrote the soundtrack to my youth.
So I just sat back, relaxed and let the conversations wash over me.
Five bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale later and, against my better judgment, we wandered up into the town centre.
Unless I’m mistaken very little has changed since I last enjoyed a festive pub crawl round ’Castle.
It’s still more civilised than the city centre – even if some of the girls should, by rights, be dead from hypothermia given the amount of bare flesh on display on a cold December evening.
In my head, of course, I’m still twenty-odd and I take some convincing that I’m the same age as everyone else reliving their youth in ’80s bar Reflex.
But even the strains of Deacon Blue’s unforgettable Real Gone Kid weren’t enough to convince us to stick around for more than one pint.
And so it was that we made our way back to the Jug and it’s welcoming real fire for the dying embers of the evening.
Although I disgraced myself and proved yet again that I simply cannot take my ale, everyone stayed until the bitter end and we all agreed to stop being such a bunch of wet blankets and meet up again next year.
I’m delighted, because I’m nothing if not a sentimental old sod and I get an enormous buzz out of reuniting my old friends.
As the saying goes… there comes a point in your life when you realise who really matters, who never did, and who always will.