“I love it when a plan comes together!”

I’ve just come back from an amazing weekend. I stayed in Sheffield, so I didn’t go very far in terms of distance, but it’s been a wonderful journey nonetheless.

We were celebrating my friend Jaspal’s hen night. We’ve been friends since Fresher’s Week at university in Sheffield – eighteen years ago. It’s a big change for Jaspal. After years of living in Sheffield, she’s going to be emigrating to Canada. So it was much more than an average hen night. It was our chance to celebrate our friendship and an opportunity to bring old and new friends together.

As we live in Sheffield, my friend Kirsty (who has also known Jaspal for eighteen years) and I were helping Jaspal to organise the hen night, with a few sneaky surprises added along the way. Months ago, we discussed options such as renting a cottage in the Peak District for the weekend, but we decided to have a good, old-fashioned night out in Sheffield, culminating in dancing to Northern Soul and old indie favourites at the Leadmill, one of Sheffield’s legendary music venue.

A few years ago, we virtually lived at the Leadmill, but now we’re older, with more responsibilities and less time. It’s not that we’re getting old and boring, but we’re all trying to get our dreams off the ground. The time we spend with our friends gets more precious: the moments of laughter and lunacy mean more to us.

Organising the hen night was hard work, and Kirsty in particular put in a lot of hard work, organising a treasure hunt and a quiz, making a huge pile of muppet masks, buying pink hair extensions (in tribute to the amazing pink highlights Jaspal had in the early 2000s!)  and blowing up balloons, as well as making sure the whole thing ran smoothly! My partner made some brilliant compilation CDs to play in the restaurant and Abbi bought some highly amusing penis-shaped straws and a “willy wand”. At a hen night, no matter how classy, it’s mandatory to have penis-shaped novelty items, and omissions in this area are punishable by law.

My contribution to the hen night extravaganza was a biography of Jaspal, compiled from tributes, poems, photos and memorabilia donated by friends and relatives. It was difficult to keep it a secret from Jaspal – the tributes were so funny and moving that it was really difficult not to talk to her about them! When I met up with Jaspal a couple of weeks ago, I’d been looking at photos of her for so long that seeing her “in the flesh” was unsettling, like being in the room with a celebrity I’d been stalking! (Not that I stalk celebrities – honest! The closest I’ve come to it was talking to Mark Chadwick from the Levellers twice at Beautiful Days.)

I really enjoyed compiling the biography. It was hard work to combine it with my ridiculous work situation (only one week to go now!) but I loved the process of scanning photos, writing, designing and editing. I rediscovered my desktop publishing skills and spent many hours totally absorbed in the project. I had a great time making the front cover of the biography look like a Select magazine from the 1990s. Select was a monthly music magazine that I was totally obsessed by in my teenage years. it was irreverent, yet influential, and I cherish my battered Select collection. http://selectmagazinescans.monkeon.co.uk/

The look on Jaspal’s face when we revealed our surprises was worth all the hard work a thousand times over. It was very emotional and I was delighted that things had come together so well. I was so pleased that I’d been able to bring together contributions from so many of Jaspal’s friends and family and to tell the story of so many friendships. The muppet masks were a brilliant shock / surprise, and we all had a fantastic time terrifying young men at the Leadmill by plastering them with stickers which read things like “nice biceps” and “worst dancer”. We then headed back to our rooms at the Hilton Hotel, where we were staying too – to be part of the fun. It was a great idea and we found ourselves sharing the hotel with a WWF wrestling team. It was disconcerting to be sharing a lift with a giant (about 7ft tall) man at 3am!

There were a few headaches this morning but no major hangovers (i.e. the throwing-up, lying on the sofa all day kind of hangover). In fact, there were a few people who weren’t drinking, notably Kerry, who came along to the Leadmill, despite being due to give birth in less than a month! Kerry had her hen night in Sheffield two years ago. This morning, I woke up to find the “Mr T” wig we’d used at Kerry’s hen party on the bedside table! So there’s the A-Team reference, if you were searching for it! We had a great day floating around in the pool and sitting in the jacuzzi at the hotel.

It was lovely to hang out with such an amazing group of friends! It’s an honour to know so many talented, intelligent, feisty women. I’m sure we could all conquer the world if we put our minds to it. I really appreciated everyone’s support for my new career plan. Everyone thought that starting a business putting together biographies and tributes to people (similar to the biography I’ve compiled for Jaspal), would be a great idea. After all, lots of people want to celebrate the life of a friend or relation, but not everyone has enough time, editing or design skills to make it a reality!

Elsewhere in Sheffield, it was Record Store Day, and there were enormous crowds outside the shop, queuing to buy records, especially when the singer from the Crookes decided to hold up a bus! http://recordcollectorsheffield.co.uk/ http://www.thestar.co.uk/lifestyle/music/record-store-day-vinyl-fans-flock-to-sheffield-1-5600971

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