April 4th 2008. Ladies Day, Aintree.
Home of the greatest steeplechase in the world.
And a trainee psychologists' paradise.
I was looking and feeling more lethal than a great white shark - a jet-black suit, maroon shirt topped with an ice-blue, pencil-thin tie. Brand-new BASE LONDON shoes on, not a scuff or scar on the black leather to be seen. The kind of outfit I could happily go into the final oven wearing.
The weather was pleasant, sunny but not too warm. A godsend when you're kitted out in your best gear for 5 or so hours, on your feet all day, necking over-priced booze like it's 24 hours until Armageddon and last orders at the bar.
Normally, such events weren't my scene. It was all too forced and false for my liking. Young lads with cheap NEXT suits and shoes on, hastily procured just hours before the event, strutting about the place like Tony FOCKIN Montana, snarling and curling their fists like they had a real point to prove. But just what was the point, exactly?
I just buzzed off their collective demeanour, their shallow, clueless, soulless, balless attitudes.
You have a cheap suit on. And a shitty vision of life and how the world works. No doubt you'll either get yourself some action off a random slag in the Mood Indigo bar tonight or an arrest sheet. Possibly both.
Me? I was above such stupidity. I just wanted to have a good time.
I'd met up with a few old mates - Edgy, Mad Mark, Leigh, Zippy. We had already sunk a few pints before entering the racecourse, mindful of the fact that the price of entry and alcohol would be hurtful to check your bank balance over the morning after.
After a trawl around several bars packed with an assortment of screeching middle-aged should-know-better women crudely plastered in fake tan, we eventually got to the race venue. We were individually patted down by the stone-faced security men at the entrance, who looked bored to tears.
The place itself was heaving, masses and masses of people, some already drunk, wobbling about the course perimeter comically. The bars dotted around the track-side were heaving, doing a roaring trade. We all chipped in to buy a crate of lager. It would save having to wait to get served for ages. It was a ridiculous amount - around £40 if I recall, when you could go to the supermarket down the road and get the same number of cans for under a ten-spot.
That's the real reason they were searching people, I reckoned. Not to weed out terrorists - they just wanted to ensure no one was bringing their own booze in, so that you would be forced to pay over the odds.
Mark placed our bets on for us - I was useless at gambling anyway, so I just let him put my horses down for me. I had no passion for it to be honest, but the other lads just lapped it up.
I was more interested in the women knocking around the course. There were some spectacular ones, that was for sure. Naturally beautiful, not too much make up on and tastefully dolled up for the day. It was hard to stay focused on the actual races, just looking about.
Bunches of lads like ourselves wandered about, competing over the attention of these choice females. There were occasional flare up..."Yer lookin' at me fookin bird? Yer was wasn't yer ya CUNT!!!"
Then predictably an all-too-brief fight would kick off, to a soundtrack of ear-splitting female shrieks and low, tribal male grunts.
But no-one really got hurt. It was funny to me, they all seemed to get in their own way as they swung their arms wildly about like human windmills, doing more damage to their own self-esteem than to their opponents. Even the big guys who looked handy in a scrap were useless, their tight suits and drunkenness inhibiting their fighting prowess. Security men would then show up within seconds to stop these sideshows, racing in like Terminators, garish black Kenwood jackets on, brows perspiring. It was ridiculous.
Although the prize of a beautiful woman was worth fighting over, even if you were wasted.
And there was the flip side of that particular coin of course. The vulgar, trashy stuck-up bitches who looked and sounded rougher than sandpaper. The females that made you wince in embarrassment, the kind that blindly play to the stereotype tune. I wondered what people from outside the city would make of Liverpool after encountering such individuals. The impression would not be a good one, that was certain.
The day flew past, and we weren't even drunk. Pretty astounding considering that everyone else around us seemed to be totally hammered. Mark had struck lucky on the final race for just over £200, and had bought a bottle of champagne to share with us. The bets he had placed for me had been abysmal drop outs. But I hadn't bet that much anyway - £20 tops - so I didn't mind so much.....
"Shuurrupp lad....where does this bird come into it then?" growled Dean, impatiently shifting about in his seat.
"Just about to get there, Deano....Trust me..."
I took a deep breath: