What happens at the button factory...

Ah, the noble art of the hen or stag do.

I say ‘do’, but of course we all know that doesn’t mean ‘party’ now so much as ‘do… you want to spend £800 on four days making small talk with the bride’s auntie over a set of inflatable genitals?’ 

My boyfriend having just returned from a stag weekend that saw him abseil down a cliff, climb back up it, fish for three hours and burn half the skin off his forehead while I’ve been signed up for bridesmaid duties twice in the same month, I’ve suddenly realised that it all starts now. We are teetering on the precipice of Wedding Falls, waiting to jump in and be dragged along for the next decade by a current of hilarious costumes and Mr & Mrs games.

Right now, it’s all enthusiastic whooping and looking at impractical cottage lets in the Quantocks – by the time the last friend makes it up the aisle/jetty/path to a fairy-lit yurt, we will be seasoned pros, able to whip together a bespoke weekend of personalised bonding with one hand while the other snaps up the third cheapest item on the gift list. Either that or we’ll be weary, bankrupt husks of people who need hip replacements from repeatedly doing the Macarena drunk.

While we wait to see which is true, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a few original ideas with which to wow the stags and hens in YOUR life…

Five things to do on a stag or hen party

1.   Take a tour of a biscuit factory! Explain that it’s a special occasion and they might let you stick your faces in the vat where the custard cream filling is made.

2.   Go on a silent retreat at a convent or monastery. This has the combined benefits of de-stressing the bethrothed, ensuring you don’t have to talk to their awful cousin from Kidderminster, and making any “what happens on the stag/hen stays on the stag/hen!” rules both guaranteed and completely pointless. 

3.   Volunteer at a city farm! Your stag might SAY he wants to go paintballing in Slovenia, but you can see in his eyes that what he really wants is to feed a baby goat with a bottle.

4.   Get a private medical check-up! Mediterranean minibreaks are all very nice, but deep down wouldn’t you all rather splurge on finding out if your family history of diabetes has caught up with you yet? Then you can all go to dinner and order cholesterol-appropriate meals to celebrate.

5.   Pretend to have arranged a top-secret surprise celebration that is SO top-secret and SUCH a surprise it doesn’t actually happen until 2025! At which point your wedded friend will either be a) divorced, b) so exhausted from years of childcare and dinner parties and weekend trips to Ikea that even a night in Oceana having party blowers tooted in their face will seem like heaven, or c) not really your friend anymore. Result.

Things my mother has taught me


On how to shop:

A gal needs two great shopping companions; fate and destiny. When dithering over a purchase, put it to the back of the rail and walk away. Then come back in a few hours (exact time is proportional to how much or little you are dithering), and if said item is still there in your size, it is meant to be. You must buy it or spend the rest of your life weeping gently in front of your wardrobe.

However, if it has gone then it clearly wasn’t The One and you must move on, free from resentment, full of purse and happy in the knowledge that someone else now has the problem of trying to match shoes to such a tricky hem length.

Also, nothing can ever be bought unless you can first name at least three items already in your wardrobe that it could be worn with. This has saved me from a fate worse than jeggings on more than one occasion.

On how to contribute to society:

Always vote. Vote because of the suffragettes, and vote because so many other people in the world can’t. Vote even if you are uncertain or unbothered, because otherwise only those with absolute views will be represented – which isn’t representative at all.

On household maintenance:

Dust adds character. And, to borrow from Quentin Crisp, after four years it doesn’t get any worse.

On ageing:

Even numbers sound older than odd numbers, to the extent that bigger odd numbers sound younger than smaller even numbers. So, 27 somehow sounds younger than 26, and 73 is preferable to 72.  

Also, you know you are getting old when the Blue Peter presenters start to look young.

On holidays:

The perfect way to spend the first night of any holiday is eating fish and chips, sitting on a harbour wall, dangling one’s legs towards the sea. The fish and chips can be swapped for pasties or ice cream if necessary; it is the dangling that matters the most.

On mealtimes:

Any time that could commonly have ’12’ in its name is a feasible lunchtime. Meaning 11:35am, AKA “25 to 12”, is a perfectly respectable time to eat a sandwich.

On music:

Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone is the best song ever written. This has been presented simply as fact since I was about eight, and I’ve never found cause to question it.

On marital bliss:

The smaller and cheaper the wedding, the longer the marriage will be. Probably. Britney’s Las Vegas one notwithstanding.

On life:

Things really do happen for a reason. Even if you can’t see it now, or in a month, or in a year, you will eventually look back and realise it was all for the best. In the meantime, have a cup of tea. Or some wine.

And one from my Granny...

On the first day at a new school or new job:

Just find out where the toilets are, and how to get out. The rest can wait.