There ain’t no party like an army party

I think we’re all sometimes guilty of generalisation. Not in a Clarkson way, but if you get invited to a party on an army base with your brother who is in the forces, and his vodka loving wife, you could be forgiven for presuming it will probably be a boozy evening. Having said that, I didn’t expect to spend the evening drinking toffee vodka from a spoon whilst dressed as Sandy from Grease.

We made the trip down to Southampton last month to see my brother and his family for the first time in two and a half years. Everyone’s busy lives, the distance between us, and the fact that our parents live in Cyprus now has meant that we haven’t seen them since my nephew Jan’s christening at the end of 2014. We were really looking forward to our weekend, more so when we found out it was Ben’s summer mess ball and that we were to be guests. Chris less so when he found out it was movie themed fancy dress…

I love fancy dress. Any opportunity to get dressed up like an idiot is right up my street, though we were conscious of finances and the fact that we were going camping on the Isle of Wight straight after our weekend and couldn’t hire anything, so we decided to see what we could patch together from the fancy dress tub. After spending a fortnight trying to find a film that had leading characters in shellsuits in it so we could revisit our look from Sally’s 80s party, we admitted defeat and realised we might have to throw a bit of money at the situation. When someone suggested Sandy and Danny from Grease we thought that would be easy enough to do with what we had, i.e. we could both wear leather jackets and not have to worry about it too much. Long story short, with our makeshift outfits we realised we were going to look shit, so made a quick emergency stop at a fancy dress shop for some wigs and teamed with my sister’s shiny pants, we didn’t look half bad.

And thank God we made the effort. I’ve been to my fair share of fancy dress do’s but the effort people had made when we got to the base was unbelievable. The effort that had gone into the evening was pretty unbelievable really, and when I was handed three tokens for gin cocktails, I was already declaring it the best party I’d ever been to.

There was a man dressed as a scout walker (yes, I had to look this up), who had made his own costume with an inbuilt fan and optic full of Southern Comfort. There was a man who’d come dressed as an Oscar, in a Morph suit. I had to ask who he was too, but once I had all the answers these were the standout get ups. As for the entertainment…well the whole mess was decked out like a Hollywood set, with cardboard cut outs of famous characters that were crying out for drunken selfies. There was a casino, with free chips. A band, a gin bar in a horse box courtesy of The Little Gin Company, a laser quest which Danie and I ran squealing round later, and a Scalextric set up for teams to play each other. Food came in the form of build your own burgers, in a tent set up with every kind of burger topping and salads on one side, then ice creams and mini chocolate toppings on the other. Transport was free and door to door, whenever you fancied leaving. And to top all this off, it was £1.22 a pint. All in all there were all the right ingredients for a very entertaining night, which is what you want when you don’t know too many people – cheap booze and a dark inflatable you can run round with a laser gun.

I’d always assumed that army dos would be a bit ‘lads, lads, lads’, and this was partially confirmed when Chris started drinking out of a watering can but also not true at all. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and I think genuinely pleased to meet new people and share their experiences with them. Everyone was there to have a good time and celebrate the work they’d done over the year with their partners and friends, and we were proud to have been invited to be a part of it. We left pretty early to get back for Jan so missed out on any more potential watering can misadventures, and drinking toffee vodka out of Danie’s Mary Poppins ‘spoonful of sugar’ medicine bottle was the height of our mischievousness. All in all it was a great night made better by having the chance to spend time with Ben and his family and friends after such a long time apart.

Furthermore, it’s confirmed what I already suspected after their wedding…go to a party with soldiers and you’re going to do some drinking. And at £1.22 a pint it’d be rude not to!

Thanks to Ben, Danie, Billy, Alex and the British Army for a great night.

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