It's 8pm on the first Friday of the New Year and the night is going to escalate. It’s not supposed to. If it does, it always edges that way between pre-drinks and dinner, and this time we're crossing the road from the brasserie on Marylebone Lane when words get chucked over a shoulder, something casual, like 'well, if you're up for it, we could go anyway'.
And we all know it's the 3rd January, we've all been a bit ill with one thing or another, and that's why this was supposed to be just dinner. Some have had a night out already this week, it’s meant to be enough: you’ve had your designated Big Eve of the month.
Our plans formulate regardless, over the background noise, the hum of what everyone else our age is supposed to be doing: staying in, being sensible, growing up, readying themselves, recovering, swearing off alcohol and meat and restaurant food, settling down, booking in for an early class at the gym.
And to be honest even when we've decided that yeah, we'll go out-out, there's still that moment when it could go either way. There are barriers: a friend still in his work suit. A trip to north London first, so he can get changed. I've got trainers in my bag, but these long winter sleeves won't cut it, I need a t-shirt. There are six of us, we'll need a big cab. At every stage I expect someone to say it's not worth it, let's just not bother, we'll go another time, let's call it a night, we can make another plan.
And then we're Uber XLing out to my mate's house, and he's in jeans and I've borrowed a top. A few drinks later and we're on the move again; clock edging towards 1am, heading central, buying tickets from RA
on the way back in.
It's 10 years since I last came here, and I'm glad the club's still around: being 15 minutes' walk from Kings Cross it didn't have to make way for clean bricks and nice lunch spots. It's a stalwart, a survivor of the London nightclub purge
. The queue is long, and there's a faff, one of us hasn't brought ID. And then we're all searched, and scanned, and in: chucking oversized bags and coats into the cloakroom for £2 a piece, speed walking through empty spaces and corridors, opening the door to a dark room pulsing with a familiar energy: fast music, basslines, bodies and lights.
We stay for longer than planned - we said we’d just “pop in for a bit” - guided by the names and set times taped to the wall. And it feels like it always does: like I'm just happy to be here, in the same way I used to be in another club near here long gone now. I'm not exactly back where it all started when I was nearly 17, but it's close enough.
The music is louder than the background noise from earlier, it’s the only thing ringing in my ears now: none of us are supposed to be anywhere else.